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I keep thinking that Hannah and I should be liveblogging our emotional calendars this Thanksgiving. But that seems excessive. And I’m pretty sure that won’t allow us to be truly mindful, as Hannah suggests. So instead, here’s to a happy, joyful, and reflective Thanksgiving from DTU!


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Exciting news! Sarah Hampson of The Globe and Mail has written about her emotional calendar and the book that inspired this blog, The Emotional Calendar, by Dr. John Sharp. You can read the article here.

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This just in from my favorite science blog: “snot is mostly comprised of mucous secreted by the inflamed tissues of the nose, and dead neutrophils that swarmed in kamikazi-style to gobble up whatever bacteria or virus they could find.”

Sad but true: in the past seven days the temperature has dropped from an appalling seventy degrees to an equally appalling thirty-two. With the temperature drop has come a corresponding drop in physical well-being. I spent the whole weekend sneezing (although it didn’t keep me from loving Halloween) and Anna’s voice has been reduced to a croak. Flu season has begun.

Cold & flu season is exciting because it’s an opportunity to talk about the immune system, which I studied for The Emotional Calendar and which is actually really neat. Kevin – an immunologist, science blogger, and (full disclosure) friend – explains it better than I ever could here: it’s all T-Cells and Macrophages and suicide cells and other cool stuff.

But it’s hard to get excited about immunology when it’s 3 am, your head hurts, and you can’t breathe through your nose. November is the ugliest phase of fall. The leaves are off the trees, the sky is gray, it’s cold out, and everyone is sick. October may be a good month to channel Love Story – in November it’s all about fleeces, the world’s ugliest sweater. And of course there is the heavy anticipation of impending doom – by which I mean the rapid approach of the holiday the season.

November is a good month to stay inside and focus on something small and cozy. Like cellular biology, perhaps?

Weather: cold and cloudy. 43 degrees.

Hannah: cold and cloudy but no longer sneezing, thank you. 5 out of 10 on the “I’m so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale.
Anna: 7. She already voted and two people want to be her roommate!

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A good friend of mine is on a mission to recalibrate our emotional scale.

Let’s call him T. T would be the first to say that he has a depressive personality. His psychologist once suggested that he make a chart of his moods. (That’s where I got the idea for the mood chart on this blog, actually). On T.’s chart, the x axis represented feeling okay. His mood line never went above that line.

So for T., feeling “okay” is a really good thing. When T. is okay, he’s not devastatingly unhappy. He’s not even mildly depressed. In a nice feedback loop, the pleasure from feeling “okay” is almost enough to nudge his mood over that x axis.

Here is a dialogue that drives T. crazy:

Friend in the street: “Hey, T. , how ya’ doin’?”

T.: “Okay.”

Friend in the street: “Just okay?”

T. says: what’s wrong with being okay? Most people are “okay” most of the time!

I bring this up because I think my emotional expectations are a little out of whack. On this blog, 5 is average. Less than average is 3 or 4. Super Over-The-Top Happy is 7 or 8.

And yet, when I was feeling lonely I gave myself a 7. When I was feeling stressed and overcommitted, I gave myself a 6. And that’s not fair. It puts too much pressure on my daily life. In a not-so-nice feedback loop, it makes me feel badly about myself every time I’m not jumping for joy. When I look at life that way, I risk feeling badly about myself all the time.

So today I’m going to give myself a 7 because I am feeling really good. After a week of seasonal dissonance (seventy degrees and sunny in mid October! It’s just not right!) everything’s finally back in place. It’s Friday. I’m going to watch vampire films with live organ accompaniment tonight. It’s cloudy and windy and the leaves are turning colors and there’s no better weather for Halloween.

Weather: gray and windy and a bit chilly. Possibility of ghost sightings in late afternoon. Or zombies.


Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the ““so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “Jumping for Joy” scale.

Anna: 7 – She’s given up on stressing about roommates. And she’s happy it’s Friday.

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