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Daylight Saving Time? 3 Reasons to think again

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Twice a year, the United Kingdom goes through an utterly pointless ritual. The country is not alone, 70 other nations, also follow this ritual. In the small hours the last Sunday in October, we put the clocks back one hour. And, reverse the routine on the last Sunday of March. Fiddling with the clocks does not save time and makes a significant impact on society. So, here are three reasons to reconsider Daylight Saving Time (DST).

Reason 1: Changing the clocks is messy

The European Commission proposes to end seasonal changes by 2021. If ratified, member states will decide for themselves whether to opt-in. Here in the UK, there is as yet no sign of the UK Government making a response to the proposal. Even though the UK is likely to have left the European Union by then, the project will prompt a response from the UK Government.

I am old enough to remember when the UK decided not to change the clocks at all. From the Autumn of 1968, the clocks stayed on British Summer Time for an experimental period that ended in 1971. An hour was sliced from the mornings and returned to us at the end of that day. In the winter period, that is significant. It meant I went to school in the dark, but it also determined that it did not get dark in December until 5 pm. Effectively the summers stayed as they had always been; the main effect was to shift an hour of winter daylight from the morning to evening. I heartily approved of keeping the clock fixed through the year; it makes sense.

Back then, in the dark ages, the public made a mixed response. The further north one is, the more significant the impact. For example, in the far north, the Scottish Orkney Islands sunrise on the Winter Solstice is 09:05 and sunset is 15:16. I suspect that the UK Government will hesitate to conform to adopt the European proposal to dispense with seasonal clock changes for fear of provoking the Scotts independence claim.

It is an inescapable astronomical fact that the further north one is and the further south one is, seasonal clock changes gradually lessen their impact. The most significant effect in the Northern Hemisphere is between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer; similarly for the Southern Hemisphere. For a full list of who does what and when click here.

Reason 2: Changing the clocks affects mental health

Shifting an hour of daylight may seem like a small matter. But, there is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that it makes a decisive impact on mental health. I am one of those for whom the shifting hour is likely to plunge me into a hearty bout of winter depression. At first, when the clocks change, nothing much happens to me. The only exception is that I can feel that I am suffering a mild form of jet-lag for a few days.

Then as Christmas approaches, I start to tumble out of control into my very own black hole. I show all the classic signs of depression, sleep disturbances, low mood, loss of emotional energy and worst of all, my self-talk becomes black and accusatory. Black accusatory self-talk erodes my self-worth, and I sink further into the hole. Before long, I can’t sleep at night, and can’t stay awake in the day.

Fortunately, I have harnessed several defence mechanisms. The first of these is an obvious choice. When the sun shines; get out and walk. The second line of defence concerns shining a very bright light into my ears. Yes, you read it right!

Research from the University of Oulu, Finland in 2007, suggested that when the ears receive trans-cranial light, the brain uses the light in the same way as when full-spectrum lighting enters the brain through the eyes. Published in 2018, researcher Antti Flyktman, submitted his doctoral dissertation that verified the original research and extended our understanding of the processes to include evidence that light shone through the skull, albeit in mice, provides beneficial stimulation. At a future date, it may be possible to subject our heads to light treatment and receive the benefits enjoyed by in-ear applications.

Based on the research, I purchased a “Valkee” light-pod. I place ear-pieces into my ears, in the same way as ear-pieces for audio, and apply a preset light treatment from the iPod-shaped unit. The procedure takes only twelve minutes.

Since I first started using the treatment, I have been less depressed during the winter months than the awful depression that I experienced before I used the remedy. There are many detractors about the use of light in this way, but I can say that I feel that I have had fewer symptoms than when I have not used it. There is no doubt in my mind that changing the clocks plays a part in the winter blues.

Reason 3: Changing the clocks increases road deaths

The most vociferous proponents of abolishing DST come from road safety organisations. Over the years, a substantial body of data demonstrates that fewer lives are lost in accidents when the evening is lighter than when the clocks go back each autumn.

When the evenings are lighter, there are fewer deaths caused by road traffic accidents. According to the British organisation, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), following the 1968-1971 UK experiment with all year round BST, roads were safer. Fewer deaths, (-11.32%) occurred in the two weeks following the change of clocks to BST and an increase of (+18.83%) deaths in the two weeks after the return to GMT.

More recent research suggests that all year round BST in the UK could save an estimated 30 lives.

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When a friend is not a friend

This post addresses the changing meaning of friends and how I interpret friendship as my life has changed. At the turn of the century, keeping in contact with friends came down to see them face-to-face, phone calls, email, or, regular mail.

A silent revolution began in 2004 when Facebook launched. Facebook went world-wide in 2006. YouTube started in 2005, Twitter in 2006, and the tools to use them came with the iPhone in 2007, and Android in 2008. What’s App followed in 2009 and Instagram in 2010.

The advent of Android completed the foundations of the social media revolution. With these introductions, our concept of a friend started to change. Participation in friendship before 2004 was likely to be face-to-face and after 2008 less so. Since 2008 a new kind of friend has emerged.

Friends who were acquaintances are now friends. The ease with which we could now add friends ushered in a more open and immediate sharing of one’s life. From a users point of view, it soon became fashionable to have as many friends as one could collect. We now count our Facebook friends, almost as a badge of importance.

With an unprecedented level of access to our lives, Facebook and marketeers soon exploited the abundant harvest of personal data we unknowingly gave up. We may think that we are the customers of Facebook, but nothing could be further from the truth. Facebook’s customers are data harvesters and the marketeers who reap from our posts.

With our lives exposed, we now consider it the norm to live this way. Native webbers find it hard to understand what life would be like without phones or tablets. The easiest way to make a Millennial depressed is to take their phone away for a week. Now tell them to write or call their friends. Expect a tantrum.

But conversely, having an exposed life can cause pressures. The young feel that they have to keep messaging or posting, and if they don’t, then they think that they ought to. Similarly, some are dangerously exposed to conform.

I am defining a friend here as someone I see face-to-face at least some of the time. Yes, my time-tested friends will have access to social media and this is a superb way of supplementing our relationship. The critical point here is that such contact is supplementary to person-to-person time together. I want to look into their eyes, see their gestures, smell their presence and feel their touch, all denied by social media friends.

My troubled recent past caused me to think deeply about who my friends were. Were they those that listed on Facebook? Or, were they those that I had a face-to-face relationship?

In 2017, I experienced deep depression. You can find out more about that time in my post on Retirement recalibration. During that year, I decided to have a Facebook cull to resolve my inner conflict. I had become troubled, and my real need was for real friends. I was dismayed that I listed over 200 people with whom I may once have had a connection as my friends.

My retirement caused me to examine much of my life, and I no longer had any reason to continue listing these folk. If I retained a friend, then I would choose those who are meaningful.

Since I did not know what “meaningful” looked like in retirement, I started with a select group who I would make a special effort to see from time to time. I noticed something else; that some had stared out as work colleagues, but in a few cases, we had transitioned to become personal friends somewhere along the way. A friend who can transition with you and you with them is a friend of great value.

Pruning, reduced numbers to about 50 names, the chosen few. The trimmed 150 or so belonged to somewhere in the past. Each one was a worthy friend in another life. It might seem rather ruthless, but I was hungry for a new kind of meaning in my friendships.

For me, it represented progress and formed a part of the emerging clarity I was seeking for my life. And, I am not suggesting that those who did not make the final cut were terrible people; actually, they are good people with much to offer.

These matters are very personal. I had to face an uncomfortable truth, that because of my abrupt changes through my burn-out and breakdown; I could no longer sustain satellite people in my life without guilt.

Once I had made the cull, I wrote a post on Facebook to say that those who remained were my chosen ones. I was surprised at how many people responded positively, and I received some encouraging responses. These responses made me feel that I had done the right thing. What the process achieved was to create my standard selection criteria – a set of filters through which I examined who I was and what I wanted in a friendship.

To diagnose if a friend was a true friend or a Facebook friend, I asked questions of myself “What do they contribute to me?” and “What do I give to them?” More importantly, I asked my self if I wanted to have these friends in my life.

Of course, this analysis probably says more about me than it does about my friends. I fear my ENTJ worldview is poking through my edited veneer.

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The Value of Time Tested Friends

Recently, I have been considering the value of time-tested friends. As I have grown older, my need for secure and lasting friendship has also increased. While I have a large number of acquaintances, I crave for my inner circle of closest friends. Somehow, I need friends to complete me. I want to spend time with them, though I may not necessarily see them on a daily or weekly basis.

In this post, I write about the character of the relationship I have with my long-lasting friends. At the end of this post, I offer a seven-point checklist detailing the main characteristics that are important to me. As my thoughts unfold, I hope that you will identify the components that you consider essential for your friendships and that you will be encouraged by what you find. I invite you to share your insights via the comments.

In our lives, there is a natural turnover of friends with each passing decade. In a decade, we may turn over multiple friends. As an experiment, I spent a few moments recalling those who were in my life, ten years ago, and ask “Where are they now?” Those who have retreated from my circle of friends tell me that one or both of us have changed. 

In my case, having a stress breakdown, becoming depressed and leaving my work made a significant impact on my ability to maintain my friendships. One or both of us has found it impossible to sustain what we had. Losing people from our experience of life is natural, if painful at times.

Keeping long-term friends is also natural, and I call these friends “sticky friends”. These sticky friends, once made, stay with us long-term. We share a resilience that enables us to build a loyal and robust relationship together. In a 2015 article, How relationships help us to age well, published by The British Psychological Society, authors Laura Soulsby and Kate Bennett consider the substantial evidence that relationships help us to age well.

What I am interested to learn about what creates and sustains friendships. So, how do we keep connected for the long haul? And what are the threats? 

In 2016, The Guardian newspaper published a thought-provoking article, “Do people start losing friends at a certain age?” The piece, curated by Sarah Marsh, begins with the idea that after the age of 25, we begin to see a decline in our friendship count as life changes around us.

A change of status, such as a relocation or illness, or a drastic upheaval, such as acquiring sudden wealth or committing a serious crime is frequently the main reason for the severance. Yes, I did have a friend who committed murder, but that is for another post, maybe. Significant sudden change rarely leaves our world untouched, and when it does, we must expect collateral damage.

At one time, I felt that I should have as many friends as possible. These friends were people I knew from our shared experience, perhaps through work or some other kinship circle. Some I saw regularly; others less so. For instance, I might see someone at an annual conference or when travelling. Friends I made in this way were easy to relate to, and with whom there was common ground. 

The common ground might be a shared history; for example, my school friends. I left school nearly fifty years ago, so there are not many left now. I wrote about losing a friend in a previous post, How Life Transitions Affect Us. Those that remain assume a higher value. 

Or, the shared experience might be a family connection. I’m proud to be part of a natural family that has stayed in touch with each other. My twelve cousins meet together once or twice a year, in what I call our tribal gathering. Our genes bond us.

Whatever the circumstances, bonding experiences will chime with our values and deepest needs. It is from these experiences that our sincerest friendships arise. Some of those with whom we share meaningful moments will become time-tested friends. Sticky friends emerge from what is shared.

My illness and eventual retirement caused me to think deeply about my friends. I wrote about my journey to peace after retirement, in my post, Retirement re-calibration. At the end of 2017, I asked myself searching questions about the nature of my relationship with my friends. 

Conversely, I suspect that the same queries arose about me. Was I toxic? Did they want to be near me with so many issues? Of course, most of my time-tested friends just hung in there, not knowing whether I would emerge from the ‘dark night of the soul’ or not. Change tests relationships. 

In a 2017 article published by Psychology Today, Temma Ehrenfeld writes about the health benefits of friends in our older years. Ehrenfeld postulates that local friends trump distant family in meeting our friend needs. Interesting.

To round off this post, here are seven characteristics that have shaped my understanding of our sticky friends:

  1. Sticky friends have travelled with me on the long road to today;
  2. Sticky friends are small in number;
  3. Sticky friends are mainly contemporaries;
  4. Sticky friends offer reciprocation, as I do;
  5. Sticky friends are low maintenance;
  6. Sticky friends can withstand long silences;
  7. Sticky friends stand by me, to encourage and support, in all weathers.

In my next post, I write about the importance of face time and how social media is no substitute for time together, though it adds a useful dimension to keeping in touch.

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How Life Transitions Affect Us

Transitions may be traumatic. Throughout our lives, we are likely to navigate any number of them. Some transitions are welcome; others are not. Our difficulties arise because of the complications we encounter, and our reaction to them. Some of my changes were easy, others traumatic, and this post discusses how we might respond to them.

Disruptions, even good ones, are natural. Whether we are starting a new job or a new relationship, expect changes. Adjustments are typical for each of us. How we handle them and how we manage ourselves in them will test us. We will find out a great deal about ourselves.

Changes impose some uncertainty into a situation. As we transition from one phase of life to another, we may feel vulnerable to any number of the uncertainties that emerge. Our difficulty arises from the space between where we start and where we finish the transition. That in-between space is often fuzzy to us, particularly at the time. But it is in that space where we will weather our storms. Psychologist, Stephen Covey, correctly identified four fundamental factors that will determine our response in any given situation. In his book, First Things First, he lists, (i) Self-awareness, (ii) Conscience, (iii) Independent will, (iv) Creative imagination as areas of our inner life that will play a large part in how we respond to life’s challenges.

Neither the starting point nor the finishing point may be apparent to us at the time. But, when we look back after the event, we see that period in our lives more clearly. A growing understanding of ourselves will help us to learn and can be an investment for the future as will the application of the other foundations of self that Covey identifies.

An abrupt change, especially one for which we are unprepared, can quickly become a critical threat to our well-being. I wrote about the trauma I experienced in my post, Retirement re-calibration when ill health forced me to retire ahead of my plans. My stress arose from the suddenness of retirement, and not from the act of retiring. I felt utterly unprepared for the timing and the pace at which the changes happened to me. Since I was ill at the time, with stress-related burn-out, some of my inner resources weakened. Take, for example, my resilience. Illness weakened my resolve to exercise my will and powers of concentration. I could not see clearly nor make decisions.

In another example, the death of someone close to us will dent us. Losing a partner, friend, parent or child is genuinely traumatic and devastating. How often are we prepared for the death of a loved one? Does an anticipated end make it any easier? Death has a way of wrong-footing us. Some circumstances happen to us and have the power to pitch us into upheaval. We find ourselves digging deep within to find that inner strength that we need to get through the event.

In the summer of 2019, I wanted to make contact with an old school friend only to discover that they had died of pancreatic cancer some twelve years ago. The news set off something of a personal earthquake within me. I was devastated. I do not cry easily, but this news caused me to shed tears. I did not expect this news, even though the death took place several years ago. To me, this death was just as real as if it had happened yesterday. My reaction seemed disproportionate, even puzzling to me. I was grieving and mystified.

Over the last few months, I have come to terms with the news even though the memory of my friend still causes me pain. I write about the experience here to make the point that some events barge in on our otherwise peaceful lives. They happen to us. We have no control over them. They emerge without warning and may cause unexpected and great pain.

One way of looking at the phenomena between stimulus and response is to liken the in-between phase to the stage when young children start potty training. Often taking place around the age of two to fours years old, a child will longer want to wear their nappies. It is a rare child that does not have accidents. Usually, there are puddles. As a parent, it is tempting to go back to diapers, but we know that there is only one way out of the uncertainty, and it is forward. We choose the hinterland of unpredictability because we know it is the only way to the goal of a dry child.

The in-between stage happens in many areas of life. We are more ready to let go of the former things before we can embrace what comes next. When we do, we enter our hinterland and must keep moving forward even if things are tough for a while. Every child must learn to manage their need before the new clothes can be correctly worn. As it is with children, so it is with adults.

In closing, let me leave you with more thoughts from Covey’s four foundations. I ask that we consider our personal development and identify areas where we can be thankful for our progress. Additionally, the list will perhaps help each one of us to see where we can invest in ourselves.

Self-awareness: Am I able to stand apart from my thoughts or feelings and examine and change them? When the response of other people to me – or something I do – challenges the way I see myself, am I able to evaluate that feedback against deep personal self-knowledge and learn from it?

Conscience: Do I sometimes feel an inner prompting that I should or should not something I’m about to do? Do I inwardly sense the reality of true north principles such as integrity and trustworthiness?

Independent will: Am I able to make and keep promises to myself as well as to others? Can I subordinate my moods to my commitments?

Creative imagination: Do I think ahead? Do I visualise my life beyond its present reality? Do I look for new, creative ways to solve problems in a variety of situations and value the different views of others?

Finally, my deep-seated desire here is to help readers think about how they might respond to their transitions, especially those that they are going through right now. If you have an experience or insight to share, please post them via the comments.

I hope that our comments will help us all to muster our thoughts sufficiently to form a resource that we can draw on when we next go through a testing transition. I hope so.

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Quotes: The four foundations are taken from Stephen Covey.
Covey, S. R., Merrill, R. A., and Merrill, R.R. First Things First (Simon & Schuster, London, 1994) pp.62-63

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