You know how it is. Maybe you got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. Or it could be something rattled your cage and you’ve not shaken it off. When they’re being polite, other people describe you as being moody.
Sometimes these mood swings only last a few minutes. In which case it’s probably easiest to let them pass.
But other times they seem to follow you round like your own personal thunderstorm. Literally raining on your parade and affecting your mood for the worse…
Don’t use props to change your mood
Some people resort to alcohol or other drugs to deal with these issues. Others pay a shrink a small fortune. Yet others just mope around, moaning all the time, a bit like a human version of Marvin the robot in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
All those can help but they’re usually just temporary solutions – a bit like a Linus blanket.
Some of these mood adjusters can be habit forming – alcohol and drugs spring to mind here but it can be surprisingly satisfying to be in a bad mood too often and watch other people get dragged down by you. I’m not exactly sure what the perverse pleasure is from that but I’ve seen too many people doing it to think that it’s a coincidence.
Take a bit of time to work out at least approximately which prop or props you use to support your darker moods. Jot them down on a piece of paper or get a trusted friend (the one who sticks with you through thick and thin, even when you treat them ungratefully) to help you identify some of the triggers that cause your moods and some of the ways that you bring them into being and even accentuate them.
Changing your mood
The weird thing is that actually you don’t need much to change your mood.
It can be as simple and as fast as a dog shaking itself dry:
- Lift your head up! That’s the reason fast food restaurants have their menus attached to the ceiling behind the staff. It’s near enough impossible to be grumpy if your head is pointing upwards – try it for a quick lift if you’re feeling low.
- If you’re somewhere that you won’t be embarrassed, face the ceiling and shout “Yes! Yes! Yes!” at the top of your voice. If that’s something that would be frowned on by others around you, you can always think the words until you get a chance to shout them out. It’s better than just letting yourself feel down. But there’s something extra powerful about shouting the words so do it as soon as possible – inside an empty lift works OK. And a distant corner of a parking lot with traffic to drown out your words from passers by is another option. Be imaginative and you’ll find somewhere.
- Smile. This changes the way your body looks and feels. It also changes the reaction of the people you meet. If you’ve ever felt a dark cloud enter the room alongside a permanently dour person, that’s their attitude escaping into the general atmosphere. Smiling extinguishes that – it’s literally infectious, the same as yawns are, but smiling is much livelier and seems to last for longer. It’s kind-of difficult to take back a smile or a grin.
- Stop thinking and saying all those negative things. You know the ones. Turn your phraseology around. Twist and turn those negative words and thoughts into positive ones. This may be like pulling teeth for a while until you get used to it. But, like most things in life, the more you practice the better you get. Chances are that you won’t catch every single negative. That’s normal – you wouldn’t be a regular human being if you managed to stop every negative utterance before it left your mouth or swirled around your mind. Work on reducing the amount of time you allow negative words and thoughts to be around you. Even a small reduction is better than nothing. And while you’re at it, cut negative things like the news out of your life. The news will happen whether or not you pay attention to it. Chances are you can’t affect it – for starters, unless the newscaster has suddenly started reading a crystal ball, it’s already happened. And chances are that you don’t know anyone who’s been affected by it. So you’ve just using it as a crutch. A bit like all those people who change their Facebook photo when a tragic event happens – it sounds uncaring to say this but it won’t affect a thing in the real world. Think about that the next time you find yourself drifting into a negative thought pattern. And just aim to either trap or reduce a few negatives a day. They’ll gradually figure out that they’re no longer welcome in your life.
- Listen to bouncy music. Music affects our mood a lot. If the tunes you play are slow and mournful then your mind will tune in to that. If they’re faster and bouncier, you’ll pick up the vibrations and your energy levels will change for the better. And be careful of songs with upbeat tunes but rather less happy lyrics. You’ll know the ones you listen to more often than you should. Gradually shift what you play so that it’s more upbeat more often.
- Go for a brisk walk. Exercise releases endorphins – our natural “feel good” chemical. It doesn’t have to be an-hour-at-the-gym exercise. A brisk walk does the trick nicely and has the extra advantage that it doesn’t feel like exercise so you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate about doing it. Even a walk up the stairs or to the water cooler is better than no exercise at all. But fresh air (unless it’s torrential rain outside) is helpful as well as the exercise element.
- Get the feeling off your chest. Recognising that you’re in a bad mood is an excellent start. Figure out a way that you can announce your moody feeling and let it disperse into the atmosphere. Visualise the bad mood hitching a ride on the words as they leave your mouth. Notice how the feeling fades as the sounds move further away and imagine the feeling harmlessly evaporating into the air or seeping (again harmlessly) into the ground. Go with this one – it’s a lot more powerful than it first seems.
- Snap out of it. Yes, your mother was right! You’re able to do this with any mood if you decide to. Taking a few long, deep, breaths helps you to snap out of the mood that’s been dragging you down. Getting extra-excited will work as well. You managed to do this as a child (even in your most stubborn moments) but you’ve forgotten how to do it as an adult. So just pretend that you’re a child again, even for a minute or (if that’s too long) a second or two. That’s more than enough to break the pattern and let your conscious mind regain control of your mood.
- Distract yourself. This works fantastically well with dogs and it works pretty well with humans as well. Find a way to distract yourself from all those dark, negative, mood dampening thoughts. Whether it’s watching a quick funny YouTube video, finding a joke that makes you laugh out loud or anything else that takes the majority of your minds focus away from the mood you’re in and switches it. Breaking state – even for a second or two – is a really neat way to do this. It’s a lot more effort to go back to precisely how bad you were feeling before if you’ve allowed yourself to be happier even if it’s for a barely perceptible amount of time.
- If you want, call the Samaritans. They’re there to help and they’re available to talk to at any time of the day or night. They don’t just deal with people who are feeling suicidal – that’s actually just a small (but vital) part of what they do. Or you could call a trusted friend and ask them for their help. The thing to remember is that even though it can feel as though you’re the only person going through whatever it is causing your mood, that’s not the case. With thousands of years of existence and billions of people alive on the planet, you’re not totally unique. Which is good because it means someone, somewhere, can help you.
These are simple tricks that you can use in a few seconds or minutes to transform your mood for the better.
Give them a try in the coming days and weeks. And keep a track of how they make you feel.
Then keep doing them!
With a few days of practice, you’ll feel like a new you.
And if you’d like more help with being less moody: