Fasting 16:8 for steadier mood

As soon as I started taking prescription medications I started eating from early morning to late evening with hardly any breaks. It was something like a 8:16 diet, with at best only going 8 hours overnight without eating and sometimes eating at unearthly hours like 2am, 3am, 4am. This was not good for my body shape or my risk for diabetes.

It was not until several years after taking my last prescription medications that I felt able to tackle this excessive eating. Initially with later breakfast, then gradually further decreasing my eating window.

The outcome is that I am now averaging just under 8 hours between first food and last food and so on average going more than 16 hours per night with no food or calorific drinks.

It has taken effort and discipline, resisting early and late eating and making a note of first and last food times, to be able to share my progress graphically:

Intermittent fasting for improving mood and brain health

How might this help with stabilizing mood and improving health?

  1. Developing discipline would seem to be a good thing.
  2. Possibly the main benefit comes from being able to avoid almost all junk food, as having planned meal-times makes it easier to eat planned foods.

Am I going to stick with this?

  1. Yes
  2. Christmas time could prove tricky although I am certainly not going to get upset if I stray a little
  3. I am not planning to push this further such as 17 hours without food in each 24 although I believe I have proved that is within my grasp
  4. I may experiment with the occasional longer fast as that is said to be very good for health

I hope that by sharing this I am demonstrating just something that is possible as we leave extremes of mood behind us.


A simple thought on sleep that I’ve found helpful

Sleep seems to be a lot more about quality than most people seem to think…. and a lot less about quantity than most people seem to think.

I am happiest sleeping anything over 4 hours while ‘med-free’ and waking ready to tackle whatever I most need to tackle.

Are you someone who can do well on only a few hours sleep, while recognizing there is a minimum for you when choices have to be made to ensure you get that minimum hours per 24 hours?

Three dimensional movement – #notjustbipolar – including a great video from Lisa Huck

What is 3D movement all about?

Whether or not we believe we have a mood disorder, depression, bipolar or any kind of disorder, the way our lives ‘pan out’ will depend so much on how we choose to look after our bodies. In some ways, ‘When we look after our body, then our; brain, mind, emotions, feelings and so on can all heal and we can make great progress with what we most want to be doing.’

I found the 15 minute video below on Dr Mercola’s site this morning and I am sharing this freely and as widely as possible.

In the video, Lisa Huck delivers amazing/useful information with a great combination of audio and visual.

If you are sitting, I suggest you stand, if you can, and move as you watch and listen to Lisa Huck of ThriveFNL.

Lisa explains things about our bones and muscles that I believe need to be taught in every school. It matches so well how I have been thinking just that I do not have the training and skills demonstrated by Lisa Huck… Fifteen minutes of brilliance:

Healing – Monica Cassani @BeyondMeds #beyondmeds

I just listened to Monica Cassini being interviewed on the radio. I am keen to share what she says.

Listen here to: Beyond Meds-Alternative to Psychiatry by The Wellness Journey

Monica Cassini

Beyond Meds Blog

Monica says a bit about how she needed to learn to live without psychiatric drugs. However, it is the other things Monica says about her recovery that I am hoping you will be able to listen to and think through.

Monica talks about  sorting out digestive problems (IBS), avoiding foods we are intolerant to, which for many is grains and especially wheat gluten, yoga and doing things like dancing when we have the energy to do so.

For me, Monica’s story is a familiar one. This is what I see in just about everyone who has been through the psychiatric system and is now well. It is recognizing our health (and moods) are dependent on good gut health and activity, such as walking, yoga or similar.

Neither Monica nor I are saying that is everything, it is just that digestion and movement are so often under-estimated by professionals and so often not seen as so important by ourselves when we are at our lowest.

Listen here to: Beyond Meds-Alternative to Psychiatry by The Wellness Journey


Five Keys to Mood – Adapted from Mood Mapping by Dr Liz Miller

We can do well in life and avoid disorders by paying attention to our five keys to mood and well-being:

  • SURROUNDINGS – Do we have a good enough home in a good enough neighbourhood and do we get outdoors?
  • HEALTH – Are we eating the right things that allow us to be active, sleep well and think clearly?
  • AUTONOMY – Do we have purpose in our lives and are we achieving some of what we want to be doing?
  • RELATIONSHIPS – Who are we supporting and who supports us?
  • EDUCATION – What do we know and what can we share?

We get over disorders by:

  • spending time in SURROUNDINGS that suit us
  • looking after our physical HEALTH
  • keeping HOPES alive and being able to ‘do our thing’ including being creative or productive
  • paying attention to our RELATIONSHIPS
  • continuing to LEARN and adapting to a changing world

Possibly you have only been paying attention to some of these keys to mood and well-being? This is okay because many people get by focusing just the things they feel are key for them.

What we believe is that sometimes it is necessary to re-look at the FIVE KEYS TO MOOD as part of restoring BALANCE to our lives.

Mood Mapping – Dr Liz Miller – About the Mood Map grid

Dr Liz Miller’s book, Mood Mapping – Plot Your Way to Emotional Health, has two main themes:

    1. The Mood Map grid
    2. The Five Keys to Mood

The Mood Map grid is a simple, visual way to understand and record the way you feel.

It can be used to explain why some of us can be convinced we are ‘bipolar’ and how many of us are coming to realise we never were that ‘bipolar’ at all.

If you want to understand your moods or think your bipolar diagnosis may not be right then the Mood Map grid is the place to start in understanding what is going on with your feelings and moods and how to live a life without being so ‘bipolar’.

Marian Moore says, “Mood can change in an instant or gradually over time. Some people are ‘morning people’, others more nocturnal. Some days are better than others. Mapping your mood helps you see when you are at your best, your worst, and even when it might be better just to stay at home!”

Mood Mapping allows us to increase our self-awareness by allowing us to know more about how we feel and gives insights into why we do the things we do. It develops our observing-self, enabling us to see moods or emotions for what they are, and not being caught up and overwhelmed by them.

Why map our moods?

Stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression have always been difficult to quantify and many people find it difficult to say which of these they are experiencing. Yet without measuring these, it can be difficult to know whether things are changing much at all.

Music may help you feel better, but how much better? Is quiet meditation more effective for you? Can this effectiveness be measured and described to others? Which foods improve your mood? Without an effective way of measuring mood it is difficult to know what is affecting your mood most.

By knowing and being able to accurately describe our moods we can become better at helping ourselves and finding the help we need when we need it.

Mood Map grid

Mood Map grid

The Mood Map grid as originally developed by Dr Liz Miller:

Mood is said to have two main components:

ENERGY – shown as up and down on the map

POSITIVITY – Essentially how you feel, shown as left and right on the map

The two axes divide the map into four quarters which describe the four basic moods;

  1. Tired (which can include good reflective moods as well as normal exhaustion and abnormal depressive states)
  2. Anxiety
  3. Action
  4. Calm

Moods affect not just how a person feels but also how they behave

For example, a small child runs towards a busy road;

–       a person who is very TIRED may think “How awful, that child may die, I wish I could do something”

–       a person who is already in a mood of high ANXIETY may panic and scream.

–       a person in the ACTION mood – runs to the child and whisks them away from danger.

–       a person who is CALM can think how to avert the danger without unnecessarily alarming people.

In this example the positive moods of ACTION and CALM seem great. The reality is that there are no good or bad moods. There is a time and a place for every type of mood. As we learn from Mood Mapping, it is the ability to change to the mood we need at any particular moment that allows us to be healthiest and work well with those around us.

A Scientific Perspective

Mood most likely comes from the deepest part of the brain, where the sympathetic (flight and fight) and parasympathetic (housekeeping) part of our nervous system join. Thus when we wake up, we immediately become aware of how we feel, and then the rest of the brain can gradually work out why we feel that way, and what we are to do next.

Mood Mapping is a simple technique that is easy to learn and easy to teach.

The first step is to plot your mood at this moment by estimating how much energy you have and putting a mark on the vertical axis.

Plotting on mood map

Plotting on mood map

Then estimate how good or positive they feel and plot that on the horizontal axis. The Mood point is where vertical and horizontal marks on the graph cross.

The Mood Point can be labelled with the time and perhaps a quick note why you feel the way you do. If you feel this is not the right mood for you at this time then maybe think what you have done in the past that has helped you get the mood you want now.

Plot another point later, to see if your choice has been effective.


Thanks to Marian and Liz for allowing me to adapt their article from

This is just the start of Mood Mapping. Next article: The Five Keys to Mood

MILLER, LIZ Dr., (2009), Mood Mapping: Plot your way to emotional health and happiness, pub. London, Rodale

Feelings, energy and thinking – its normal, not #bipolar

feelings and energy and thinking

Emotions can be considered to be a mix of our feelings, our energy and our thinking.

Perhaps almost everything now called ‘mental illness’ may really be ’emotional distress’.

Calling it something different does not solve our problems. It is just that when we recognize our troubles are to with emotions rather than being an illness or a specific disorder, then we can help ourselves and help those we care for by gaining a better understanding of emotions.


What are we recovering from? #bipolar #anxiety #grief

Full recovery?

People have always recovered from mood disorders. We get anxious then get less anxious. We feel exhausted, then after a rest feel energetic again.

Is it fair to talk of ‘full recovery’? Does anyone ever fully recover? Maybe it all depends on what we believe we are recovering from?

For thousands of years it was considered normal for moods to vary throughout each day. During the 20th century a new idea formed that any more than small changes in mood were a sign of illness. By 1980 this idea allowed the new diagnosis/label of bipolar disorder. Gradually the meaning of bipolar has expanded such that only those whose moods hardly change at all can be sure of not being described as bipolar.

If we step back from the idea of most of us having mood disorder and think about what caused our moods to appear disordered, then by tackling the causes we can expect to recover. If, in our minds, we can very nearly eliminate the original cause then we can very nearly eliminate its effects on our moods.

For example, after a relative died I saw a psychiatrist. I had never met him before. After our 50 minute meeting he wrote to my GP to say that in his opinion I was suffering a mood disorder and in his opinion I was a catatonic schizophrenic. I got over my relative dying (I just have a little cry now and then) but getting over a label like catatonic schizophrenic takes a lot longer. It is a shame the psychiatrist was not able to simply write that I was grieving.

Full recovery used to be defined as being able to get back to what you used to do. Theses days I wonder if it is more about being able to move on to what you want and need to be doing.

Bipolar Disorder Shortens Another Life #bipolardisorder

Bipolar trainer – could this be the world’s most dangerous profession?

Tomorrow I am going to another friend’s funeral. The weather forecast is not great 4’C with light rain. I have shed a few tears today and no doubt will shed a few more tomorrow.

Various reports suggest that being labelled with a mental illness will shorten our lives by 15 to 20 years. In Andrew’s case it would seem to have been a lot more than 20 years. Is speaking out against the mental illness system also a factor in shortening our lives?

Time to move on #foodandmood #anxietynotbipolar

When things get too painful it is time to make changes

From my time on psychiatric drugs I have suffered from bad abdominal pains.

It took a long time and a change of GP to have these pains taken seriously. It seems that most GP’s simply see us as ‘complex incurable mental illness patients, who should not be wasting resources that can be better used on those who are considered to be sane. (Is this unfair on the UK National Health Service?)

My new GP helped me in proving the pains were largely caused by too much wheat gluten/dairy produce/chicken eggs/onion. This combined with too much stress!

Better food choices helped but I was still working too much work and still saying ‘Yes’ to every opportunity that came along.

I was up most of last night with severe abdominal pain. I simply failed to read a food label. Now I know I need to make changes or I’ll end up in front of a psychiatrist again. The thought of more psychiatric treatment is frightening after a decade of relative wellness.

I am going to see a nutritionist privately.  I am grateful for the help from the NHS (three appointments with a dietician and an endoscopy) while realising this is about the limit, for a disabling but non-life-threatening condition.

I am thinking now about how pain can help us to move on. Without ‘listening’ to our pains we would just keep doing the same things and get more and more unwell.

I am left wondering how many others have developed food intolerances after taking psychiatric drugs?

Please share your thoughts on how often there seems to be a link between drugs and long term digestive troubles.

Thank you

Caring and love from a better understanding

…first walk a mile in their shoes

My intention was to be writing about Mood Mapping. Instead I have found myself as a full-time carer for a very special friend. She is in hospital suffering from total exhaustion. This new role has given me a new insight into the pain relatives face when dealing with a system that just does not seem to care.

I feel I have been inadequate. I am fortunate in knowing more about the mental illness system than most supporters but this just creates more frustration as the routes for helping that are supposed to be there, are not. The reality is that we cannot rely on professionals to solve our friends’ troubles.

One way I have been able to be supportive has been to stay at my friend’s house looking after pets and doing what I can to help those she was supporting. By essentially putting myself in the exact place in society occupied by my friend my appreciation for what keeps her well and what distresses her has grown beyond anything any professional staying in a hospital setting is ever going to know.

A lot of people need and want help from my friend, but these people have been unable to give the loving support she used to have from her father… OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not got much idea what love is… it is just that this experience has shown me that it is a key in helping us stay well.

Emotions are made of… #moodmapping #bipolarrecovery

Emotions are made of…

As a stress adviser I found this diagram to be useful showing emotions to have three components:

emotional health


The arrows are there to show how:

  • The way we feel can affect our energy and our thinking.
  • Our energy can affect the way we feel and the way we think.
  • Thoughts can affect our energy levels and our feelings.

I was told I had a mental illness. ‘Mental’ being to do with thinking, it made sense to me that if I could improve my thinking that would sort out my problems. In fact, improving the way I was thinking did help me to recover.  I wrote about this my first book, Stop Paddling/Start Sailing. Readers have told me how much it has helped them.

The reality is, thinking alone does not provide lasting recovery or build resilience. If your feelings and energy levels are kind of out of control then simply reading Stop Paddling/Start Sailing is unlikely to do much towards a full and long lasting recovery.

Eventually, I was amazed and delighted to discovered I was not mentally ill. I was not even ill. I had a mood problem and for this  I needed to understand that FEELINGS and ENERGY are the components mood. Knowing more about how to feel differently and have more control of energy levels turns out to be an excellent place to start recovering from being labelled with bipolar disorder.

Next time… Looking at Feelings and Energy to provide a balanced approach to having moods that are good for you and those you live with.

Bipolar Recovery Bite-size – Mood Mapping #moodmapping

Two years ago I was writing ‘Bipolar Recovery Bite-size’.  This was to explain how I and others had come to understand what had happened to us and so recovered from the diagnosis. The reason for ‘bite-size’ was that emotional disturbances can make it difficult to read long articles – The challenge became one of sharing this important information in small chunks/bites.

I have started updating all the bipolar recovery bites and over the next few weeks hope to share the new versions here at Rethinking Bipolar

1.What are emotions made of?

Fourteen years ago as a patient on an acute psychiatric ward I was told I had an emotional disorder that would need to be treated with medication for the rest of my life. I was given a label, “Manic depressive”. There was no explanation of emotions, what was causing the disorder or what I could do other than take tablets.

I wonder how different the next few years of my life would have been if the psychiatrist had been able to explain to me something about emotions.

Perhaps he thought I was too ill to understand or perhaps he did not know how to explain?

We all have an idea what emotions are and yet we all seem to explain emotions in different ways. Emotions mean different things to different people.

 Before reading bite 2 , “Emotions Are Made Of…”, how would you describe emotion? 

Bipolar recovery – a professional appearance can help

Regardless of diagnosis professionalism makes us effective

As we start to recover from years of disorder and medication, it is easy to get very enthusiastic and to start to write and write. People diagnosed with bipolar and not on too much medication are often prolific writers. Before the bipolar diagnosis was created in 1980, eccentric or energetic or free-thinking people would tend to write more than the ‘average’ person who would be going to work,  bringing up children, decorating, gardening, playing sports…

As the diagnosis has increased in popularity the ease of creating articles and publishing happens to have also become easier and relatively cheaper.

There is a hazard here. A lot of us are ‘fired up’ with enthusiasm for change and this can lead to quantity-rather-than-quality. Quantity is great and hundreds of articles are now published every day as we share what we have been through, what we have discovered and how urgently change is needed to stop more people dying needlessly from the bipolar disorder diagnosis. However, if we are to be effective quality is essential.

Two thoughts on improving quality of articles written by ex-bipolar people:

1. Who is checking what we write before publication? Editors are hard to find. I mainly get feedback from friends after publication. This is not ideal. New readers see mistakes and this does not help to build trust. Sometimes something as simple as a word word put in twice can distract enough that the main message gets ignored.

2. Appearance is sometimes as important as the words. Colourful, bright, enthusiastic can be good, but overall it is a professional look that is usually needed if we are going to communicate with the professionals who have influence.

One change I have made today is to pay Word-press to remove the irrelevant adverts that were being posted here.  A strange thing to need to do, but I believe well worth it as readers will be able to give their full attention to what is being said.

I am looking for volunteers – if you spot errors in my posts or pages anywhere on the internet please  let me know. I need an improving reputation if I am to persuade doctors and psychiatrists to start rethinking bipolar and seeing the very emotional people behind the diagnosis.

If you are working on eliminating bipolar or recovery, I may be able to return the favour and review articles for you.

When we do not feel like smiling

Sometimes we do not feel like smiling.

forcing a smile

Forcing a smile

Have you ever been too anxious or too depressed to be able to smile.

Forcing ourselves to smile several times a day reduces anxiety and depression.

Leaving a pen between your teeth is said to be more effective than antidepressants. It is a lot cheaper and no horrible side-effects!

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