I’m going to let you in on something about me. I’m not always positive. Sometimes I get in a bad mood and let myself just stay there for awhile. My inner three-year old sits down, folds her arms with a huff, and sulks, pouts or glowers off in the distance. Have you been there? Let’s face it, we aren’t always happy and things aren’t always positive. The positivity project has provided many tools in the past two years to help us get past these feelings. I’m going to do that as well, but first let’s take a time out.
Emotions are data. Negative emotions are telling us that something isn’t right. Instead of covering them up or brooding over them, we need to stop and reflect. I notice I’m feeling uneasy. I notice I’m feeling frightened. I notice I’m feeling peeved. What are these feelings telling me about my current situation? What are they telling me about myself? What are the circumstances surrounding my feelings? Emotions do serve a purpose, and the better we get at acknowledging them and naming them, the better we get at understanding why they are there and what we need to do to move through them.
Sometimes bad moods don’t have a good reason. There are mornings when I simply wake up in a bad mood. When I want to shake off my bad mood and turn things around for the positive, here are three powerful tips that can help.
1. Focus on someone else
A bad mood usually forces us to become overly focused on ourselves. Shifting our attention to others gets us out of our own world. When we turn the spotlight onto someone else, we can practice empathy, kindness and listening. Altruism is the principle and moral practice of concern for the happiness of other human beings or other animals, resulting in a better quality of life, both material and spiritual. So, offer to help a neighbor. Pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you. Take time to really listen to a friend’s problem and help them see the way through. Building them up will lift your mood.
2. Get Yourself Moving
I notice both a physical and mental benefit when I get up and move or exercise. For example, about six months into the pandemic I noticed a work-life balance issue starting to happen. I finally decided to block out the lunch hour (12-1 p.m.) on my calendar so every day that I could, I would get outside and walk for the first half of my lunch. I called it 21 in 2021. I experienced a renewal of energy that helped me get through the rest of the day with mental clarity and focus. I also noticed my body felt better. I wouldn’t get back aches and leg cramps from sitting too long. Psychologist Robert Thayer and colleagues identified a number a strategies people use to self-regulate their moods. Physical activity and exercise proved to be the most effective. In fact, the effects of exercise can happen so quickly that you might decide to keep going once you’ve started. For an even better boost, get outside. Research by Richard Ryan and colleagues shows that being in nature significantly increases our sense of vitality.
3. Think More Like An Optimist Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, is considered the father of positive psychology. He has studied the thinking styles of optimism and pessimism. When an adverse event happens, like receiving an unexpected bill in the mail, pessimists are likely to think of it as being permanent and pervasive. They might say to themselves, “I’m always going to be behind on bills and my life sucks.” Optimists, on the other hand, are more likely to describe the event as temporary and to compartmentalize it. An optimist might say, “I’ll have to cut back for the next month to pay this off, but it will be OK. At least I’m great at what I do for a living.” If your bad mood stems from a challenge or obstacle you’re dealing with, try to focus on the control you have to change it, and be realistic about how much of your life it affects. And don’t forget to smile. The simple act of smiling can improve your mood. For the greatest effect, give yourself a big authentic smile by finding something that genuinely makes you laugh. Not only will you feel better, you will start a ripple of positivity.