Sunday, 1 December 2019

Start the day with a cortisol rush

Most mornings I wake into a state of anxious alertness and instantly begin to ruminate about the day ahead. I go out like a light at night, but back on as if the same switch has been flipped in the morning.

I’ve tried to narrow down the root causes of this unease over the years, initially blaming my poor ‘sleep health’. But I go to bed and wake at pretty much the same time each day. I don’t need an alarm clock so don’t suffer from the jolt of a rude awakening. I stopped drinking alcohol. I tried cutting out caffeine. I eat reasonably healthily. I get some exercise. These factors have all helped me sleep well but I still wake with a racing heart and head.

Friday, 1 November 2019

The Psychology of DIY

I spent most of my 20s working for an electrical contractor on construction sites on the mainland. Building things that would likely outlast me was a satisfying job, and I get a feeling of permanence when I drive through Glasgow seeing the lights on in people’s homes knowing I fitted the fuse boards that power them over 20 years ago. I miss being 'on the tools’ but I still take pleasure in renovation projects and DIY.

In terms of psychology, DIY is a surprisingly complex subject. Whilst many people unwillingly undertake projects just because it’s cheaper, there are many positive and often subconscious reasons why we’re driven to it. Doing DIY increases mental physical and mental wellbeing, and life satisfaction, but only if you start what you finish (and don’t physically injure yourself in the process).

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Decision Fatigue

Ever felt unable to decide what to have for dinner after a long day? That’ll be Decision Fatigue at work, the gradual deterioration of decision-making skills over your day meaning a simple and usually pleasurable choice can end up feeling complex and tiring.

The more decisions we make in succession, the weaker our ability to make rational choices becomes. Decisions use brainpower and we have a finite amount available each day. Decisions that involve lots of variables or have significant consequences can be noticeably tiring, but even small decisions chip away at our reserves.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Zeigarnik Effect - finish your tasks to clear your head

Have you ever been bugged by an incomplete or interrupted task that keeps popping into your thoughts? Or felt the need to keep reading a book you’ve nearly finished, or tune in to the next episode of a TV program that finished on a cliffhanger?

If so, you’ve experienced the 'Zeigarnik Effect’, a phenomenon first reported in the 1920s by Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. She noted that restaurant waiters seemed to have an uncanny ability to remember complex orders whilst the food is being prepared and served, but couldn’t recall anything about the order once the diners had paid. She theorised that they kept the information in their short term memory and unconsciously erased it when it was no longer useful, never having made it as far as their long term memory.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

100 Word Philosophy - condense your thoughts into a nugget of wisdom

I have a ‘100-word philosophy’ statement that I read every day. It’s a collection of short phrases that remind me what is important and keeps me focussed when I get caught up in day-to-day trivialities. I suppose it’s a kind of personal mission statement, but that sounds a bit too slick and corporate. Even philosophy sounds a bit grand. It’s really just a list of reminders and self-instructions that I’ve refined over the years that together sum up my core values.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Changing minds - a brain like a meat computer running buggy software

How can we have opinions that are contrary to facts, and why is it so hard to change our minds once opinions have taken hold?

Basically, humans can’t think straight. We jump to initial conclusions based on gut instinct and incomplete information. Often we don’t really know why we hold an opinion other than it ‘feels right’.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Sitting in silence - We haven’t evolved to deal with noise

I spend a lot of time sitting in silence looking at my kitchen wall. I love it. Not the wall, the silence. It’s relaxing and clarifying, and it gives me the opportunity to contemplate the big stuff.

After years living in Glasgow with noisy neighbours, Orange Marches, shouty football fans and constant traffic, and playing in bands, working with power tools, clubbing, pubbing and perpetually listening to loud music, I’d had enough commotion. I’ve since learned to treasure silence. At home in Hoswick, apart from conversation with visitors, playing an instrument or ‘actively’ listening to music, my life is quiet.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Auntie Sheena, Jedi Master

Back: Sheena Leask, Peggy Campbell (auntie Sheena's friend 'from sooth'),
Sunniva Henry (my mam)
Front: me, Karen Peterson (my sister)
My first cinema visit was the zenith of an arduous expedition made in 1983 by a small and intrepid gang of adventurers from Shetland. The group comprised great Auntie Sheena (Leask), my mother, sister and I, at that time a 7-year-old boy who had never left the islands.

Auntie Sheena was very much the expedition leader, a formidable woman with experience of the ‘outside world’, and possessing the strict wisdom of a Jedi Master.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Punctuate the day with an info full-stop

I used to struggle to switch off at nights. When I should have been closing down my brain I was indulging it with new information. Our brains are always hungry for info and stimulus, and mine doesn’t seem to want to taper off into slumber. One idea for a google search would lead to another, one news story would lead to another, one page of a book would lead to another - the information available to us is limitless. And as for the tyranny of the endless scroll of social media….

Many folk find reading a book, watching the TV or listening to the radio in bed to be relaxing and helps them wind down. I often find the opposite. It gives me more to think about.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Netiquette, and don’t feel that you need to have an opinion on everything

Debate and opinion seems to me to have become particularly polarised recently, notably on social media, and with endless controversial subjects to fall out over (Trump, Brexit, Up Helly-Aa… anyone?)

Conspiracy theories, fake news, alternative facts, online abuse and a lack of basic etiquette all lead to a hostile climate where civilised balanced debate is being squeezed to the periphery. People adopt a position and shout across the middle ground at their opponents.