Written by Catherine Stothart
Here are some questions:
- How do you know what mood you are in?
- Where does your mood come from?
- What impact does your mood have on your behaviour and therefore on other people?
- Is your mood helping you or hindering you in achieving what you want?
If you know the answers to these questions, you are probably already managing your mood. (NB this article is about how to manage the day to day ups and downs that we all experience, not about coping with anxiety or depression).
Neuroscientists are still working on explanations for moods but there are some things that we know now that can help us to manage them.
It is often difficult to know what’s going on in our own minds. Much of our behaviour is driven by unconscious processes – we do and say things based on automatic patterns, without conscious thought. We rarely stop to check how we are feeling or how our thoughts are influencing our behaviour.
At intervals throughout the day, take a few moments to stop what you are doing and check your mood – how are you feeling? Are you bored, anxious, angry? Or are you curious, confident, excited? Being aware of your mood is the first step to changing it.
Own your mood
We talk about “getting out of bed on the wrong side”, as if something happened during the night to cause us to feel bad. Similarly, we may say that someone else has “made” us feel unhappy or angry. But we can choose how to respond and we can reframe a situation to feel differently about it. When someone cuts us up on the road, we feel angry, but if we knew that the other driver was rushing to hospital in an emergency, we would feel sympathy instead, a much more constructive emotion.
Even when we are aware of our thoughts and feelings, we often cannot explain why we are thinking or feeling that way. We may feel happy, but we don’t know why. Do we smile because we are happy, or are we happy because we are smiling? You can influence your mood by working on both your body and your mind.
Work your body
The body tells the mind what mood we are in and vice versa. By changing something in your body, you can change your mind. If you are going for a job interview and are feeling nervous, your body tells you that you are nervous – you have butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms and a dry mouth. You can work directly on your body to release the tension by doing some deep breathing in the abdomen. This calms your nerves and puts you in a more resourceful state.
Work your mind
You can use your mind and your thoughts to affect your body and your mood. When we go for a job interview, we tend to have automatic negative thoughts which make us more nervous. (“I’ve got no chance of getting this job”). You can change these to positive thoughts (“I’ve got as good a chance as anyone”) and you will both feel and appear more confident. This trick of turning negatives into positives is a valuable technique for managing your moods to have a more positive outlook.
We all have some things that lift our mood and make us feel better. Make time to do them! Too often we think we haven’t got time to do the things that help put us in a good mood – but this is false economy. By taking time for what we enjoy, we get into a more upbeat frame of mind and this has a positive impact on the other things we do – so listen to music, go for a walk, stop by the coffee machine, or whatever works for you. Don’t stop to think about whether you have time, just do it.
Look after yourself
Looking after your different types of energy – physical, mental, emotional – helps maintain positive moods. When you get home from work after a day using your mental energy, do something completely different and use some physical energy instead – this enables your mental resources to be replenished. Don’t wait until you “feel like” going for a run or to the gym – go out and do it and you will return re-energised.
Watch the ripples
Moods are infectious – like the ripples in a pond when a stone is dropped in – and can have a positive or negative impact on the people around us. The killer question to ask yourself is whether your mood is helping you or hindering you in getting on with the people who are important to you – your partner, boss, colleagues, friends, family. If it’s hindering you, then do something to change it.
How to Get On with Anyone: Gain the confidence and charisma to communicate with ANY personality type, by Catherine Stothart is out now, published by Pearson, priced £12.99. For more information about Catherine Stothart, see https://essenwood.co.uk/