A Ray of Sunshine

It has never been hard to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine, PG Wodehouse once wrote. And today, as the Scottish Parliament debates the merits of approaching Westminster regarding another Independence referendum and just under half of the MSPs grumble about the Scottish Government manufacturing grievances, maybe it’s time to change the stereotype?

"Is it no, aye?"
(A) A Scotsman, (B) a ray of sunshine, (C) the mighty Kingsley, or (D) all of the above?

[For more sugar, spice, and nice things, check out the Apoplexy Tiny Letter]

After all, the Scottish football team actually won a World Cup Qualifying match this week.

Now admittedly, this miracle came to pass after 88 minutes of thud and blunder and lumpen hoofing.

Only joking, Big Man
(A) Scotland captain Scott Brown, (B) Paw Brown, (C) a ray of sunshine, or (D) well, just (A), actually

And the winning goal was scored by a substitute who had been booed onto the pitch. So it was all quite Scottish, notwithstanding the surprising scoreline. And to be fair, if you were in an arena and someone called Chris Martin wandered into the performance space, wouldn’t you boo, too?

We salute you, Scotland's own Alan McGee
“Radiohead for bedwetters”

A Scotland fan called Callum Strang was definitely of that mind, and tweeted the following:


But it all turned out for the best, for once. Y’see? For once. That gloomy outlook is tattooed on the Scottish psyche. In the aftermath of the win, the prevailing view seemed to be

Aw naw. Now they’re just gonnae draw out the suffering.

Friend of the Scots John Cleese put it best when he said

I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.


Is it any wonder we don’t always look on the bright side of life? And is this maybe why Scots are susceptible to heart attacks, strokes, and other brain injuries?

Mebbe. I can't hear you over the sound of my arteries cracking
Aye, that’s probably it

Aye, maybe it is. The New York Times reported this week that A Haggis Supper Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health. The article kicked off with a list of thoughts that are the hallmarks of what are called “cockeyed optimists”.

  • Look on the sunny side of life.
  • Turn your face toward the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you.
  • Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
  • See the glass as half-full, not half-empty.

It’s enough to gie ye the dry boke, so it is.

And a bit of Johnny Lee Miller action for Mrs Stroke Bloke
“I’ll give ye a half full glass in the puss, ya bass.”

Or maybe not. When Mrs Stroke Bloke would walk into the stroke ward during my recovery, and I’d stopped yelling about where my F€¢k1NG ORANGE JUICE was, she would always ask how I was doing. And I would say,

Feeling pretty positive. Pretty upbeat.

Of course I was. Mrs Stroke Bloke had just walked in.

But we’ve always ascribed some part of my recovery to that attitude.

I'm a Dons fan, and yer both gits
True Scotsmen

Of course, if you have the same reaction to that list of thoughts as a sentient human being, this might all sound a bit far-fetched. But the NYT article talks about a woman, a practicing internist, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 27 years ago, and after fifteen years of treatment has been in remission now for 12 years.

Fostering positive emotions helped make my life the best it could be, Dr. Harpham said. They made the tough times easier, even though they didn’t make any difference in my cancer cells.

But maybe there’s even more to it than that.

They've got your Happy Happy Joy Joy right here!
There’s more?!

A study at Northwestern University developed a set of eight skills to help foster positive emotions and found that people with new diagnoses of H.I.V. infection who practiced these skills carried a lower load of the virus, were more likely to take their medication correctly, and were less likely to need antidepressants to help them cope with their illness.

Similar studies seem to show similar benefits for people dealing with type-2 diabetes and other illnesses, even if the language in the article is framed more cagily than its tone. And even if the benefits aren’t physiological – and they seem to be – who wouldn’t want to feel happier, calmer, and more satisfied in the midst of a health crisis? And at any time?

Stiff upper lip, my arse
Say, in the midst of Brexit?

Well, here are the eight skills. Participants were encouraged to learn at least three of the eight skills and practice one or more each day.

  1. Recognize a positive event each day.
  2. Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.
  3. Start a daily gratitude journal.
  4. List a personal strength and note how you used it.
  5. Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
  6. Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.
  7. Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.
  8. Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

Oh. An one more thing…

You're a coco loco, mate
Living la vida loca
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4 thoughts on “A Ray of Sunshine

  1. Can I add a number 9? Which for me was stop using twitter. I love the tweety box but even my formidable emotional barriers and armor clad even temper crumbled under the onslaught of pols, journos, Econ, and miscellany which was my follow list. So cold turkey.

    Because your mental state is indeed all you have. But there’s levels of challenge you expose it to voluntarily. And the tweety box for now was too much constant beating.

    I suppose I could just follow you and @rate_dogs.

    Anyway good read. As you know I love sunny aphorisms. Let’s write a song full of them!

    1. I’m glad you and Marcelo are chipping in this evening. I think I’m down to my last scraps of sunny positivism, otherwise. The song of this type that is bobbing around on the top of my gotta-do-that awareness is Fortune Cookies. Looking forward to that one…

      Until I get a weekend when I can trim and prune the Tweetie box and curate some new lists, my reading on there is a little *too* narrow. But as I go to the BBC Radio iPlayer this evening, I find Bryan Burnett – god love him – doing his Get It On music show on Radio Scotland. The only news radio on the state broadcaster is from the singularly and deliberately ill-informed Tony Livesy and Anna Foster on 5 Live. Long story short – Twitter is kind of vital right now. Like, imagine if your country was taken hostage by a bunch of racist, nationalist (not that kind) maniacs who were going to follow their own crazy ideas without a thought for much of the populace. Imagine that. Now imagine that, and your state broadcaster is calling *you* divisive and a racist.

      So. Sunny aphorisms.

  2. So when Scotland finally becomes an independent nation, the unofficial national anthem will be… Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Or maybe… Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3. Oh wait – both written by Englishmen. Never mind…

    p.s. I just found out that Eric Idle is from County Durham, which isn’t too far south of the border. Just sayin’….

    1. I’m glad you and Paul are chipping in this evening. I think I’m down to my last scraps of sunny positivism, otherwise.

      I’d take a Dury-penned anthem? Rhythm Stick? Like, that’s a three-goal start.

      It’s not universally loved, but I like Flower of Scotland. At least when it’s done by a proper pipe band. It can be a bit rubbish at away games, though. Having said that, it may well fall away after independence. Then, I’d like Burns’s A Man’s a Man For a’That.

      I mean, obviously it should really be this. Although with my last sparks of humour, this would be nice. Or the way things are going, maybe I can get Paul to do a three-minute aural representation of the full run of Threads.

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