I’m Fine

A couple of weeks ago the Mental Health Foundation launched a campaign called ‘I’m Fine.’ Posters are appearing in key sites in London, particularly on public transport. This was prompted by their research findings that on average we will say that little phrase 14 times a week, though only 19% of us actually mean it. To accompany their campaign they have produced this short video:

A stereotypical view of our reserved British nature would suggest that we say this to avoid opening up, and because we don’t really think that the person who has just asked how we are actually wants or expects an honest answer: 59% said that they expected the answer to be a lie. And if they got the truth, would they know how to deal with it anyway? 44% of the survey sample said they had received an answer they weren’t expecting to the question, and were surprised at being taken out of the comfort zone of ‘regular’ social intercourse.

We are famed for our reserve, but this isn’t just a British thing: if you listen closely there are a couple of distinctly American accents in the video. The point behind the MHF’s campaign isn’t that we lie to each other out of shyness, or a belief that we don’t really think that others want to know how we feel. In many cases, this unwillingness to open up is hiding a mental health problem about which we feel unable to talk. There is still a stigma around talking about mental health and the campaign is aiming to help remove that. There has been much research that has shown how we bottle up our thoughts and feelings rather than seek help, and this survey reinforces that – and also the usual perception that men are worse than women when it comes to talking about mental health issues.

To find out more about the campaign you can go here. Please do, as the site contains a wealth of useful information and tips on how to support someone in need of help – or on how to seek help for yourself if you need it. At this time of year it is very easy to get wrapped up in all the paraphernalia and excitement of Christmas without realising that there may be people we know and care about who aren’t feeling the joy. So, if you ask someone how they are, make sure that you mean it – and be prepared for an answer that may be more than a simple ‘I’m fine.’ I know from my own experience how easy it can be to kid others with that reply – and in doing so I was kidding myself. It doesn’t just have to be a casual greeting – and deserves to be much more than this. It’s worth doing that little bit extra to ensure that they – and you – really are ‘fine.’ As the survey showed, 4 times in 5 that answer isn’t really true.

A Few Tips On Life

I’ve recently been invited to become a guest contributor by the good people on a blog called Make It Ultra. This is a great place to go to if you’re in need of some inspiration and I recommend it to you – and not just for my posts there! This is the second post they have done with me, and hopefully there will be more. They have featured it today in their top five recent posts, so hopefully I’ll be asked back again sometime!

This is what they posted for me:

A Few Tips On Life

I’m a little bit older than other contributors here, and while that doesn’t bestow on me any extra wisdom it does mean that I’ve experienced more years of life and what it can throw at us. Life is a series of phases: school, college, university, relationships, job changes, and then retirement. But just because parts of our life are ending this doesn’t have to be negative. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Recognize the good things in every life stage, and try to hold onto them.
Often, as in education and work, this can mean the people you have as friends. If you move on, you don’t have to leave them behind. So keep what is good – for you. You must recognise what works for you. Who do you value in your life? Would you miss them if they were no longer there? Would your life be poorer without them? Answer ’yes’ to these and you’ll know who to stay in touch with, and who were the ones who you can part with. It sounds harsh – but it’s realistic. We don’t have unlimited time, and we need to use it wisely.

2. Let the past go
You will be wasting energy if you try to recreate something which has gone, that existed in another part of your life. As we get older, we move out of education into work, and it is likely that we will have several job changes. You may well get a lot of fun from your job, but don’t expect that to be the same if you move on. You’ve changed your circumstances for a reason, so be positive and find the good in your new situation: embrace that change and make as much as you can out of it. A new job, new friends, maybe a new location – these can be very exciting. Remember Don Henley, in The Boys Of Summer? – “A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back.” Grasp what you have, not what your mind is telling you that you used to have!

3. Look ahead
Plan for your future. What you are doing now is part of your whole life plan, so do you know how it fits into that? Do you have a plan for where you want to be? That can mean job or personal ambitions, and it can be a huge benefit to us to have a sense of where we are going, of how we want our little place in the world to be. We all need a sense of purpose – it can keep us grounded and can help us when times get hard. If we know that we have goals to achieve we are better placed to overcome the obstacles that life can put in our way.

4. As you move through life, the ‘R’ word approaches: Retirement. Think of retirement as an opportunity to do new things in your life.
When we are younger, this can be something we dread. “We’ll be old! Our useful life will be over! We’ll be a burden!” Be honest, have you ever thought something like that? I guess your retirement could be like that: if you choose it to be. I retired three years ago and it doesn’t feel like that to me, honest! I started blogging in my final year at work, and am still going strong with it. I’m going to more live sporting and music events than I ever could while work got in the way. I can visit galleries and museums. I can see family and friends whenever I want to. Or I can spend my days at home with my books, music and movies. I’m even thinking of learning to play guitar, and to develop apps, though both of these are ideas at this stage! It doesn’t sound that bad, does it? It’s a beginning, not an end! In fact, it’s just the next phase in our life.

5. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
I said earlier that we should plan ahead. I know the old saying that if you want to make God laugh you should tell Him your plans. Things don’t always turn out the way we expected or planned. In my case, this meant getting divorced six years before I retired. I hadn’t been expecting at that point in my life to be making a new home for myself, and embarking on a changed relationship with my daughters, who I no longer lived with. But I – and they – worked our way through this. My life is now very different from the one I had been expecting and aiming for. But that isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t a failure. It just proved the point for me that we need to be flexible and need to adapt to being hit by the unexpected.

Life is for living. Don’t waste it!

And if you’d like to see this on the Make It Ultra site you can find it here.