Change, Your Mood, and the Power of Uncertainty
As usual, let’s start with a mood check-in. Are you below zero? Set a timer for two minutes and remember something warm and comforting from your past. Immerse yourself in the memory as you relive it.
How’s your mood now? If you’re like most people, it has improved.
Yesterday, the lesson focused on mindset and how it affects your mood. Today, we’re looking at uncertainty—that place of not-knowing. For many people, even those with a growth mindset, it’s a scary place filled with stress, worry, anxiety, fear, dread, and more. It’s a fast drop on the mood elevator—or is it?
Change pushes the uncertainty button.
Change comes at you from all sides. There are little changes like a new procedure at work, a different barista at the coffee shop, a new menu at your favorite restaurant. Minor changes can be annoying or irritating, but they rarely rock your mood.
Some changes—the birth of a child, a marriage, a new job—are anticipated with a combination of fear and joy. It’s as if your mood is bouncing up and down like a ping-pong ball.
Other changes can be sudden and devastating. They leave you numb at first, then the emotions kick in, and your mood takes a nosedive so low you think you’ll never hit bottom.
Change Is a Process
Navigating change is a journey. Often the actual change is outside your ability to control; you can’t make it go away. While you can’t control it, you can control your mood as you go through the change process.
If you view a change as something good, your thoughts about it are resourceful, your emotions toward it are positive, and your mood is high. You may be apprehensive and have a few concerns about your ability to handle it, but if you cultivate a growth mindset, your journey through the change will be more natural, and the result will be more satisfying. The reverse happens if you view the change as bad.
Some changes are never good—the death of a loved one or a pet, a natural disaster, a catastrophic illness. It’s hard to see or feel anything remotely positive when these types of changes hit you like a freight train. You need time to move past the pain to a place where you can think. Now you can become more resourceful. Now you can begin moving your mood upward. The best action for these types of changes is self-compassion.
Uncertainty Is Your Mood’s Lifeline
In Lesson 1, you learned about Larry Senn’s mood elevator. The top of the elevator is gratitude and the bottom, depression. The middle of the elevator, zero, is curiosity.
When a change happens, you can’t know what’s on the other side of it. That’s in the future. Right now, all you have are your thoughts about it. As you learned in Lesson 2, you can control your thoughts about the change. This, in turn, helps you control your emotions, which only stay around for 90 seconds unless you keep feeding them with triggering thoughts.
If you fear the change, if you continue to think thoughts of failure or fear, your mood will remain low. You want to move into a mood of wait-and-see, of curiosity, exploration, and research. By doing so, you place yourself in a more powerful, resourceful state, and that, in turn, raises your mood.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu
1. Make friends with uncertainty by changing up your routine. Take a new route to work, explore a new neighborhood, try a new cuisine, take a class. Challenging yourself builds up your resilience muscle.
2. Accept the fact that change can be good or bad; you can’t know for certain, so don’t assume either way. Instead, play a wait-and-see stance. Move to zero on the mood elevator.
3. Remind yourself that uncertainty is fleeting; it lasts only as long as the situation or event is new and unfamiliar. Learn all you can about what’s happening and what your options are.
Uncertainty often leads to stress. Tomorrow, you will discover how stress affects your mood and learn some ways of handling stress more effectively. Until then, have a good-mood day.
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