I have been visiting friends, who are unwell and feeling rough. Ann is post operative and Sarah is having chemotherapy. Both friends have experienced some horrible times through life, as well as good times.

We talk, discuss problems and laugh. I commended Ann on her attitude and she replied: “Well, if I was miserable all the time, no-one would want to come and visit me.”

When I said much the same to Sarah, she replied: “What’s the point of making everyone else miserable just because I’m going through it?”

Ann and Sarah have insight and are self-aware. They are not self-absorbed and think of and help other people in their daily lives.

Their comments made me think of the focus on loneliness in the media at the moment and I thought of people who moan rather too much.

I was taught about the invaluable ‘observing self’. Imagine an internal CCTV. The ability to look at yourself in situations and think about how you are behaving. Perhaps not comfortable, but a very helpful exercise in self-awareness.

I’m tall and use my 'observing self’ in situations where I become aware that I’m perhaps standing a little too close, maybe speaking too loudly too, perhaps too intrusively.

A client told me that he didn’t have any friends. Despite further discussion, he couldn’t elaborate. So I asked him to imagine he was taking me to his local pub. He had to imagine that we walked into the pub and could see him standing at the bar. I suggested that we went to talk to him. As quick as a flash, he told me not to, because he wasn’t very nice. I asked him why he wasn’t very nice. He said he pinched his friend’s girlfriends. He had used his 'observing self’ and now we had something concrete to work with.

We all love a moan and a gossip, but there is a limit. The limit is when people withdraw from your company. Would you want to talk to you, visit you, help you, introduce friends to you? If not, why not?

Can you change your attitude? Ann and Sarah know that you cannot change events, but you can change your attitude to them. Small changes can bring big differences.

  • Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in North Yorkshire. As Alison R Russell, she is the author of ‘Are You Chasing Rainbows?’ www.chasingrainbows.org.uk