Factors That Influence Your Mood: Part 1
Welcome back. Today, we’re looking at another way to fix a bad mood by discovering how to stop feeding it.
First, let’s start with a quick, mood check-in.
What’s your mood right now? Are you above zero or below? If you’re below, do the Fast Fix from yesterday’s lesson before you continue reading.
As we learned yesterday, when something happens, a soup of neurochemicals is released into your body. However, they remain in your body for only 90 seconds and then are flushed out. Your emotions and your mood settle down.
Then how can you stay in a bad mood for hours or days? What’s going on?
According to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, in her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, you keep feeding the lousy mood with your thoughts and create a continuous, negative mood loop.
Remember, the neurochemicals leave your body in 90 seconds. This means that after the initial surge, you can stop a bad mood from continuing. That’s good news. The bad news is that you can do it only if you stop thinking about it.
The solution is to starve the mood by stopping your thoughts for just 90 seconds. The challenge is being able to notice that it’s your thoughts that are making things worse and to know how to turn them off.
“Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” —Shakespeare
How You Feed Negative Moods
Here are three common ways you can feed a bad mood and not even realize you’re doing it.
Rumination: Rumination is thinking over and over about your situation and dwelling on worst-case scenarios. This often is a contributing factor to depression, the basement of the mood elevator, and it is a perfect storm for creating a persistent, bad mood.
Habitual responses: Habitual responses happen when you always react to a situation in the same way. Some are good; some are bad. For example, when a car cuts in front of you on the highway, you throw on the brake—a good habitual response. However, if you always go ballistic when this happens, and your anger flares like a flamethrower, that’s a bad habitual response. It can lead to road rage and other undesirable results.
Confirmation bias: Your mood leads to confirmation bias, and you notice everything that supports it. You are still fuming about the car that cut you off when you arrived at work. You discover that the flash drive with the only draft of your report is sitting on your desk at home. You go ballistic again. Add to this, the coffee room is out of creamer for your coffee, and the printer ink needs to be replaced. What otherwise would be annoyances are now confirmations that your entire day sucks, and your bad mood is justified.
Three Ways to Turn Around a Bad Mood
To turn a negative mood into a positive one, turn your thoughts to something positive for just 90 seconds.
Gratitude: Research from Stanford University and other academic institutions shows a direct correlation between gratitude and enhanced well-being. Larry Senn placed grateful at the top of the mood elevator. Focus on what is good in your life, what you value and cherish, what you love and are thankful for having.
Creativity: When 50,000 people took part in the BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test, the majority reported emotional benefits from the creative process. They said that it was useful in blocking out stress, improving self-esteem and resilience, and allowing them to reflect on issues that were affecting them. Take 90 seconds to think about or do something that gets your creative juices flowing.
Kindness: According to Cedars Sinai Hospital, “Acts of kindness can release hormones that contribute to your mood and overall well-being. The practice is so effective it’s formally incorporated into some types of psychotherapy.” Spend 90 seconds doing something nice for someone. Compliment them on their shoes or haircut or just walk around, smile at people, and ask them how their day is going.
1. Start paying attention to times when you are ruminating, notice habitual responses that negatively affect your mood, and be aware of confirmation bias.
2. When you find your mood slipping below zero, use one of the three ways to turn it around before you infect others.
That’s right. Moods are contagious and can be transmitted from person to person. Tomorrow, you will learn how you can immunize yourself. Until tomorrow, have a good-mood day.
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