Mood Nudges: The Science Bit

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bookcoverI’d like to give a massive thanks to everyone who attended my workshop on ‘Mood Nudges’ as part of Manchester Girl Geeks (MGG) event for Geek Mental Help Week.

I’ve written about the workshop in more detail on the MGG website, where we used exercises from Jon Cousins’ Nudge Your Way to Happiness: The 30 Day Workbook for a Happier You to generate simple mood-boosting ideas.

You can read more about what we did in the workshop here.

The Science Bit

At the end of the workshop I alluded to some recent research Jon that suggested the Mood Nudges 30 day programme made a real difference to those who completed the workbook.

Jon has given me a sneak preview of the findings which are outlined below:

We set out to understand whether using the book Nudge Your Way To Happiness can help people who are clinically depressed.

If we measured their depression with a test that doctors use, before and after working their way through the book (which
takes 30 days) would we see a difference?

The test we used, called the PHQ-9 – the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire) – produces a score between 0 and 27, with 0 meaning no depression, and 27 representing the most severe depression possible.

The score range is divided into five bands that, apart from the highest division, are drawn at five-point intervals.

Healthcare professionals use the PHQ-9 to help decide, in part, what treatment – such as antidepressants or psychotherapy / counselling might best help a patient.

They also ask patients to complete the test as one way of determining whether or not a chosen treatment is working.

When the PHQ-9 is used to measure progress, the rule of thumb is that a reduction in score of 5 points or more over a period of 4-6 weeks means the current treatment regime is working, and should therefore be continued.

We asked 51 people to use the book for 30 days, completing the PHQ-9 before they started, and again when they’d finished.

The participants were a randomly chosen subset of readers of the Moodnudges blog who weren’t pre-selected on the basis of being depressed, so the sample included a range of individuals from those who had only the most minimal depression to others who were experiencing moderately severe depression.

The results, which can be seen in graph form, show two important findings:1. Across the board, the average reduction in PHQ-9 score over 30 days was 5.3, suggesting that using Nudge Your Way to Happiness can be as clinically effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy.

2. The greatest reductions in score were seen in those who were most depressed to start with. On average these participants’ scores fell from a level definitely placing them in the Moderately Severe category to one at the very lowest end of the Moderate division: only a whisker away from being labelled Mild.

Future work could involve working with a larger sample, and structuring the study as a randomized controlled trial. But these early results do seem promising.

Resources

Find out what we did at the Mood Nudges workshop for Geek Mental Help Week hosted by Manchester Girl Geeks.

Mood Nudges website and daily blog: http://moodnudges.com/

Moodscope (free and paid options): https://www.moodscope.com/

Geek Mental Help website

Geek Mental Help on Twitter

Thanks to Mark Brown aka @markoneinfour and my brother Ellis for helping me develop the workshop format.

Last minute New Year’s resolutions

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Enjoying the ball pool during with Girl Geeks in Manchester Science Week

It’s the last day of January and I still haven’t committed my New Year’s resolutions to digital pen and paper. I’ve needed to mull them over, organise them and let them settle.

I am not telling myself that I have to do all of these things. The list will also serve as a reference for longer-term aspirations.

Write more

This doesn’t just mean on my blog, but in my personal journals. Taking time to reflect on events and share my experience in a way I find comfortable.

Put pen to paper

Remembering that in an age where we can send a sentiment in a few seconds by text or messaging, the effort put into sending your thoughts through a physical medium speaks volumes.

Nail nutrition

I have been working hard for some time to find a healthy balance in what I eat an drink and continue to be guided in this. Today I made my first green juice.

Hit the gym (more)

Something I do already, but need to establish some firm habits. Went to my first Pilates class in an age this morning. It was tough but exhilarating.

Exercise elsewhere

I got a FitBit. It tracks lots of things like heart rate and sleep, but also very tangible and motivating things like daily number of steps and flights of stairs climbed. I’d like to walk at least 6,000 steps even on the most sedentary day.

Monitor my moods

I haven’t done this for quite some time and it will be interesting to see how the Mood Meter data fits in with what the FitBit captures in terms of wellbeing.

Reset my daily reminders

I use iCal to set mini prompts for me each day to make sure I maintain balance in life. These change from time to time so I need to get rid of any reminders that just aren’t relevant any more.

Develop my own ‘colour my week’ calendar

I’ve been experimenting in Google Calendar with a way of colour coding activities depending on how demanding they are so I can get balance across the week. A definite work in progress.

Read actual physical books

Instead of / as well as the many online articles and ebooks I dip into. I love the feeling of having a book in my hands

Speak more

Pick up the phone more often and meet friends in person. It’s too easy to rely on the convenience of email and messaging to make contact.

Put on an event

Happily I have achieved this already. I put on a ‘Meet the Bloggers’ event as part of Manchester Girl Geeks last weekend with six fabulous speakers. The room was packed the other volunteers, and folks at MadLab, made it a great and popular session.

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Me (front), with the Meet the Bloggers line-up. From left to right -Gill Kieran, Claire Gowler, Rosie Campbell, Natalie-Claire, Clare Sudbury and Sophie.

The event stimulated a lot of conversations between the bloggers and guests which carried on into social media after we’d wrapped up for the day.

I was particularly delighted when one of the attendees, Chrissy, wrote about how the panel discussion given the confidence to promote her own blog Making It Mindful.

My Week In Happy: Why I interviewed Helen Arney

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Well, “Why wouldn’t you want to interview Helen Arney?”, you might ask?

Helen Arney (Photo: Vera de Kok)

Of course she is super-smart, funny and chic, that’s undeniable. Which is why, when I was booking my tickets for Festival of the Spoken Nerd at The Lowry, I was struck by the fact that she did not have a Wikipedia page dedicated to her.

Almost a year before the gig, I’d been to a Wiki Edit workshop run for Manchester Girl Geeks by Wikimedia UK.

From this experience I learned two things:

  1. Editing Wikipedia is really pretty easy
  2. More than 80% of Wikipedia editors are male (according to some research)

What did I do with this knowledge? Pretty much nothing until I noticed that Helen Arney didn’t have a Wikipedia page.

Then I remembered something.

Fellow Manchester Girl Geek Karen Pudner (@kpudner) had created a Wikipedia page for code-breaker Joan Clarke, who worked alongside Alan Turing on the Enigma Project at Bletchley Park.

Karen started the Wikipedia page in 2013 having attended a previous Manchester Girl Geeks Wiki Edit Day.

This was the year before Joan’s contribution to the team at Bletchley Park was recognised in The Imitation Game. Since then the page has been added to and edited by dozens of other users.

If another girl geek could write a woman into Wikipedia then maybe I could give it a shot?

I was so excited by the prospect that it was with some abandon that I launched into writing my first lines of words on Wikipedia.

So I’ve made a start on Helen Arney’s page, which is currently a described as a ‘Singer stub’. If you would like to add an edit of your own I’d be extremely happy.

So, why did you interview Helen Arney?

As well as her obvious fabness (see above), I thought it would be lovely to have something that I had written to be linked to from the Wikipedia page. And reciprocal linked (of course!).

You can read what Helen had to say on physics, funnyness and frocks right here.

My Week In Happy: BarCamp bits and pieces

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I was lucky enough to attend the first day of BarCamp Manchester 2015. Having been to the previous year’s event at SpacePortX, I expected great things. I wasn’t disappointed.

The venue was AutoTrader, the same place we used for Manchester Girl Geeks’ Mini BarCamp (aka BraCamp) back in May.

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Massive thumbs up to @GirlGeekUpNorth and her fabulous team for putting on the best event of this type that I’ve ever attended.

I’d like to pick out a few highlights from Day 1. With it being an ‘unconference’ format where speakers are giving talks in a number of rooms at the same time, it feels important to say that there was lots of brilliant presentations / discussions I didn’t make it to. Check out the @BarCampMCR Twitter feed for a fuller picture.

If you haven’t heard of a BarCamp before @teknoteacher does a good job of explaining how it all works (film shot by @ColetteWeston).

Interactive fiction

This was a strong theme at this year’s events with @GirlGeekUpNorth demo-ing “The Dark Room” an interactive video-based adventure game built by linking YouTube videos together. This is fiendishly difficult to complete. You have been warned!

Elsewhere, @teknoteacher was giving a very quick tutorial on using storytelling software Twine to teach people who are new to coding how to create their own text-based adventures.

Crosswords

A great little session by @stecks @aPaulTaylor and@Andrew_Taylor running through the most common types of clues for cryptic crosswords and how to identify them. I haven’t done a crossword for ages and this really rekindled my interest in them.

Coding

Computer programming is always a popular area at BarCamp, and a lively debate was provoked by @RosieCampbell‘s talk on stereotypes applied to coders. This branched into a fierce discussion on whether computing should be taught as part of the curriculum.

Living in a van

So, @tdobson and @czmj2 live in a van. They both have full-time jobs, so how have they managed? A great story about how they’ve made it work for them. Cue lots of questions re parking, sanitation and wireless connectivity!

Music

Next to @erinmaochu‘s ‘Crowdsourcing a recycled Manchester robot orchestra’, a project which will be part of the line-up for Manchester’s stint as European City of Science in 2016. It was great to witness the potential for collaboration erupting in the room as several people, including @matthewshotton, excitedly shared their own experiences with robotics and music.

There’s lots of great geeky, science and tech events going on in and around Manchester (and in fact the whole of the NW). You can find out more at:

My Summer of Love

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Yes, I have been very quiet of late. After moving into my new fab home I wanted some time just to be in, settle and feel like it was home. Now I have grounded myself and regrouped I have a new set of priorities, the uppermost being my own wellbeing.

Silence hasn’t meant an absence of happiness. Over the last few months there have been some truly happy moments which I am grateful for. So this post will be a little update on what happened in my summer of (self) love.

IMG_2054Yoga in the sunshine

If you’ve read my blog you might know that I had a blissful time stretching in the Spanish sun last September.

I liked it so much I decided join Nicole and the team for another break – a women-only wellbeing ‘retreat’ just down the road in Calpe.

Along with the yoga and Pilates, we benefitted from access to a nutritionist, life coach and personal trainer.

For a holiday that was billed as a ‘detox’ we ate really well. Our fabulous chef Jason prepared fresh meals for us every day as well as a morning smoothie and his own recipe granola bars.

Above all, it was the people who made the break the joyful experience it was. Women of all ages sharing their wellbeing wisdom, supporting each other and learning together.

Manchester International Festival

adam_buxtonWe are truly blessed in Manchester to have such a diversity of events going on in and around the city.

Manchester International Festival, which runs in alternate years, always brings a cunningly curated line-up to the city.

This year I had the pleasure to see perfomances by comedy god Adam Buxton (pictured) and quirky Icelandic songstress Bjork, as well as taking in the excellent Tree of Codes dance production – an explosion of colour, movement, mirrors and magic.

Girl Geek Dinners @10

bake-offThe parent organisation of Manchester Girl Geeks, Girl Geek Dinners, has been going for a decade. Massive respect to Sarah Lamb who founded Girl Geek Dinners – there are now ‘chapters’ in over 20 countries worldwide.

Manchester Girls Geeks joined in the birthday celebration with their own distinctive brand of girl geekery.

This included Raspberry Pi polaroid-style photography (props to @MiniGirlGeek & @elsie_m_) and tech swag pass-the-parcel (thanks to @angieokchan for packaging). Congrats to @GillKiernan for her ‘Pi’ cake which won the bake-off and very deservingly.

At the time of writing there are just a few tickets left for the next Manchester Girl Geeks event on Sunday 20th September, when materials scientist Dr Suze Kundu will be running a hands-on session.

My Week In Happy: Life gets in the way (in a good way)

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IMG_1022Hello! I think this is the longest time I’ve left between blog entries  since I relaunched the Cheeruplove.com in August.

However, this does not mean I’ve been short of things to be happy about.

First up, here’s a write-up I did of the show and tell tea party hosted by Manchester Girl Geeks on Sunday 25th January.

Some great talks on everything from code-breakers to music makers, plus Katie demos her new robot…

Thing two. Thank you to everyone who kindly commented on ‘Can smart cities be kind cities’ – I have many more thoughts on this and will certainly be revisiting this theme very soon.

Thing three. I’m working hard ahead of Safer Internet Day on Tuesday 10th February. More of that next week.

Once that done I’m pledging to myself that it will be business as usual for ‘My Week In Happy’. Onwards and upwards!

My Week In Happy: A White Christmas and 25 reasons to be cheerful in 2015

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In her fab blog, my friend Lynsey White explains how she uses gratitude lists to help her stay positive – actively searching for three things each day that she feels thankful for.

So, taking a leaf out of Lynsey’s book, I’ve collected my thoughts and put together a list of things I’m grateful for that will sustain me into 2015 and beyond.

To get me in the mood for writing this list I’ve taken inspiration from the cosy cheer offered by Lynsey’s daughter Lucy Lou White in her very own vlog series.

And, with a nod to punk legend Ian Dury, I’m dubbing these my ‘reasons to be cheerful’.

25 reasons to be cheerful in 2015

  1. Cheeruplove.com
  2. My loving family
  3. Fantastic friends – old and new
  4. Brilliant and talented colleagues
  5. Work I truly believe in
  6. My wonderful mentees
  7. Wearing beautiful, colourful clothes
  8. Birthdays / any other reasons to celebrate
  9. Cooking delicious and healthy food
  10. Trying out new places to eat
  11. Pokusevski’s deli – my second home
  12. Developing compassion for everyone
  13. A wonderful yoga holiday in Spain (hopefully another in 2015)
  14. Rocking circuits on a Sunday morning
  15. A strong immune system (touching wood)
  16. Great arts scene in Salford and Manchester
  17. Mindfulness exercises
  18. Northern soul dancing
  19. Relaxing and remembering to laugh
  20. 90s dance classics with Robin on Saturday
  21. Being a part of Manchester Girl Geeks
  22. Becoming a Google City Expert
  23. Lovely neighbours
  24. A beautiful, light and airy apartment
  25. Knowing my cat Cosmo lived a happy life