Feeling sorry for myself during a bout of pre-Christmas flu, I decided I needed something more powerful than paracetamol to tackle my symptoms. So I tried the psychological approach: visualisation. I imagined how I’d feel if I was better. I started to picture myself doing healthy, vigorous things in the open air, in sunny spring weather, quite unlike the raging storms that were beating against my bedroom window.
I discovered I was frighteningly suggestible: before I knew it, I’d reached for my laptop and signed up to run the Bristol 10K next May. This also made a splendid New Year’s Resolution. I coasted into the Christmas festivities with confidence, knowing that I’d soon be running off all those mince pies.
This was a prime example of Janet’s Theory in action – a phenomenon I named after my sister-in-law’s insistence that “the best way to get something done is to do something else”. The most memorable example she gave, in an unguarded moment at a dinner party, was “If you want to get your nails really clean, make pastry”. The apple pie she’d made for pudding suddenly seemed less appetising.
I’ve seen her theory proven many a time. Getting my car valeted provided my husband with a new mobile phone. (The valet found one I’d lost – and replaced – underneath the driver’s seat.) Taking my car to be MOT’d equipped me with a whole new wardrobe. (Killing time while I waited in the high street, I discovered my favourite clothes shop was having a big spring sale). And if I ever want the house spring cleaned, I know exactly what to do: plan a party. That always triggers weeks of scurrying round to get the place respectable before the big day.
So if you have the misfortune to catch a cold this winter, I suggest you give the Lemsip a miss and let your imagination provide the cure. You never know what it might lead to.
I wish you a healthy and happy New Year!
(This post was originally written for the Hawkesbury Parish News, January 2012)