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Well Becoming

a blog about being well, becoming well, staying well - and flourishing. Written by a professor and family doctor living between Liverpool, UK and Granada, Spain

Ordinary magic and personal medicine
12 February 2011 @ 09:00

When times are tough we start with survival, as I explained in my last blog. But we can do more, a lot more. Human beings have an amazing capacity to overcome adversity. We are resilient. We can bounce back from difficulties and tough times.

Ordinary magic and personal medicine are key.

By ordinary magic, I mean the everyday relationships that most of us just take for granted. Caring parents, friendships we developed as children and teenagers, and close relationships as adults - at home, at work or in our social lives. These are enormously helpful when times are tough. They act as buffers, they protect us.

Here are the experiences of some people who took part in a recent study. [If you want to read more. check out ]

What was most helpful in dealing with depression, stress or worries, we asked them?

George said ‘I think talking to my wife would've been the most beneficial’. For Alice, it was ‘being able to talk about it with a group of close friends’.

Mark’s boss helped him through a bout of severe depression. 'I just gradually went down hill, I lost a tremendous amount of weight, my work performance was down, and my boss noticed and he knew my wife had left me and he asked me if I'd thought about suicide and made me promise that I wouldn’t do anything in the next few days and arranged for me to see his psychiatrist - his father had shot himself in the head, and he recognised what I was going through and he knew that I had separated from my wife. I was very lucky to have him there at the time.'

Personal medicine refers to things we do, deliberately, to increase our inner resources.

We may need to start by facing the reality of our situation. Sally says: ‘Accepting it and dealing with it’. Sometimes we also have to realise our own part in it all.  Stephen ‘was doing a lot of drugs and drinking, and just wanted to straighten myself up.’

Then, we can do a whole variety of different things to expand our positive emotions.

‘I've played sport for all my life so that's always helped’ said Sophie. And then ‘meditation or breathing. Also writing a journal’.

'I used to lay on the couch and listen to Mozart’, said John. ‘ I’m a big fan of classical music. It really calms me down’.

Andrew’s personal medicine was more direct: ‘I just go out and chop away at a heap of wood. Seriously!’


We can work on extending our bonds and networks. ‘I've just got a new grandson and that gives me a positive outlook for the future’ said Brad. ‘I'm looking forward to showing him around the farm….. I think I'm travelling pretty well at the moment.' Or like Val (and me!): ‘I’ve got a new puppy dog’.

What works for you? What ordinary magic do you call on when times are tough? What is your personal medicine? 

You could make a list. You might just be surprised how many things are on it, when you start to think about them. Then share it with us, on Comments

Sometimes we do get stuck. Either we can’t work out what our ordinary magic or personal medicine is – or else we feel we just don’t have enough of them to tackle the problem’s were facing. In my next blog I’ll explain how to find (and build on) your personal strengths. And where else to go for help, if you need it.


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