Radiators and Drains …………

I love benefiting from other people’s experience!  This concept, ‘radiators and drains’ I have unashamedly pinched from my dear wife, who in turn heard it from another colleague.  Actually, it turns out to be a fairly well known concept which appears to have been conceived in or around 2012; I stand to be corrected though. 

What is it all about?  Well, people can broadly be divided into two categories, radiators or drains.  Radiators are people that give off positivity in some way; they make you feel good, positive, energised, they inspire you, you want to be part of their team, be in their company – perhaps something may rub off onto you.  No guesses as to what the person that is a drain does is there?  They are often negative, perhaps they have little positive to say, their lot is worse than yours, they slept worse than you, if you have challenges, theirs are bigger, their interest is in their lives and their challenges.  Familiar?  They are often pessimistic about the outcome of ‘stuff’. 

Now of course, we are all pessimistic at times.  Suppose you are the sole earner in the family, and you lose your job, how can you possibly be an optimist and not be a drain to others despite your best efforts?  When down, it is important to not open yourself up to negativity, in whatever form and people that can drain you further.  Expanding the concept then, ‘things’ can be radiators and drains.  When I am in the mountains, I feel alive, the environment – even if the weather is not good 😉 makes me feel good.  Zipping across the hills on my bike, in my hill running shoes or on my skis makes me positive and optimistic.  Frankly, a walk in the sunshine often makes me feel good – I’m easily pleased!  Having a nice glass of red wine or a good malt in front of the fire provides me with feelings of wellbeing too.  For me and for many, in moderation this is a good thing. 

We are in very strange times; Brexit, COVID-19, US elections etc.  The fallout from this ‘era’ we are in may last for a great many years.  For some, the rest of their lives.  I do not have a solution, a cure or the magic bullet.  What I have (as a risk manager!) is mitigation measures, those things that allow me to manage, as best as I can, my own mental health.  I do my best to engage with people and ‘things’ that are radiators.  I do things that make me happy, I get into the hills, I climb and I get out on my bike, sometimes with others and sometimes alone.  Sometimes I am with those that are draining me – but they are close to me in one way or another and they need my support as they may be challenged by the circumstances of the world they are in.  It is wrong to jettison those that drain you as they may need to off load, just be aware that you need to stand next to the radiator at times!  Help them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to see some positivity in things.  Help them to find their radiators.

I have pretty much stopped watching the news.  My head is not stuck in the sand, but I have found that much of the news was negative and pessimistic.  The journalism appeared too regularly to be seeking to highlight failings, weakness and a negative (sensational) outcome – almost celebrating it.  I listen to Radio 4 a little, but not too much.  For me it is often BBC 6 Music and its eclectic mix of music tastes and the brief news summaries.  The reporting in 2020 has been extraordinarily alarmist at times – in the spring of 2020 I will never forget hearing on the radio that up to eight million people in the UK could die!  That was the only time during this pandemic I have been afraid.  Now, I manage my negative media intake.  If something is negative, I chose not to read it or listen to it.  If someone in my social media network is negative I ‘defriend’ them or stop following them.    

I try to be optimistic and positive since the opposite of this is pessimism and negativity!  So, life and emotions are not binary, we know that, but on this sliding scale of emotion I try and keep the balance weighted on the side of optimism and positivity.  The outdoors for me is a positive and optimistic place, it is my ‘happy place’.  When I am in it, I say hello to people.  I feel good when they smile and say hello back.  Try saying hello to a stranger or at least smile, rather than passing head down, averting eye contact and ignoring fellow humans. How good does it feel to make someone smile, or to help someone, friend or stranger?  Call it unsolicited niceness.

So, in these extraordinary and challenging times, seek out the people and ‘things’ that are radiators and that help you to feel good.  Those things and perhaps those people that drain the life out of you, chose to manage them, be conscious of them and for some – avoid them.  Be warned though the top of the bottle and the first few kettle crisps are awesome and make us feel good, over consumption and the bottom of the bottle /crisp bag are less likely to make us feel quite so good!  Join me in my happy place in the mountains for a positive and uplifting learning experience, or at least say hello in passing 😉.

Author: Will Manners

Will Manners is a Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (WMCI), and International Mountain Leader, a Nordic Ski Instructor (BASIO 2) and a Mountain Bike Leader. Passionate about all things in the mountains including hill running, ski touring, bike packing and kayaking.