I keep blaming my mood(s) on menopause, but the reality is that it’s also attributed to those I’m around. Admittedly it’s difficult enough to stabilize and get back to where I WANT my moods to be (happy and carefree) when I feel challenged and/or like a failure.
One of the sneakiest things about bad moods is that we often don’t recognize when we’re in one. I actually DO recognize it though! Instead, we start drawing dangerous conclusions: I’m just unlucky. Things are never going to work out for me. Everything’s wrong. These dark thoughts are powerful, and can have real consequences in our lives. If you find yourself defaulting to a bad mood over and over again (in the shower, on your commute, at work, etc.) you might want to consider doing some work to raise your mood set point.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of a mood “set point”, it’s a popular idea that’s been floating around psychology for the last 35 years. The theory arose from a study conducted on a group of lotto winners in the late 1970s, which revealed that the winners (after the initial high of winning wore off) weren’t any happier than a second group of people who had suffered spinal cord injuries. Point being, research supports the idea that we each have a set level of happiness we tend to return to over and over throughout our lives, regardless of circumstance. Say hello to your mood “set point”.
So, what factors decide where your set point falls on the happiness scale? Researchers say we have our parents to thank for our unique mood set point, which (in theory) is 100% genetic. From that perspective, a mood set point is unchangeable. It’s as absolute and predestined as your fingerprint. The good news is that even those experts who believe in the genetic set point think that it probably only accounts for about 50% of our overall mood at any given time. Which means there’s a lot you can do to change your day-to-day happiness levels, no matter what Mom and Dad were like. My sister DOES like to point out how I am ‘like our mother’ (agreed) but since she didn’t know our dad, she doesn’t recognize that side of me – he (when not drinking) was actually a very happy-go-lucky, wanting-to-please-everyone man! That I got from him!
Personally, I (author Jennifer Rose Smith) inherited my sensitivity and a large emotional range from my mother. But I believe that where I tend to hang out within that spectrum is totally up to me. I’d describe my natural demeanor as calm, relaxed, and cheerful — I tend to return to that state over and over after (sometimes extreme) emotional highs and lows. Some might say that I’m genetically lucky, but the truth is I work at maintaining the mood I want to be in. Agree with Jennifer here, I try as often as possible to also work at maintaining my mood. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the past decade that I’ve found to be highly effective when it comes to catching a good mood and riding that wave:
Increase awareness of your own expectations.
Almost every bad mood starts with a disappointment. It rained the day of your backyard party. Your new haircut didn’t transform you into a supermodel. He didn’t call when you thought he would. Our expectations are incredibly tied to our moods, which would suggest that there is some good logic behind keeping your expectations in check. One of my favorite artists, Ray Wylie Hubbard, is fond of saying, “The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.” While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend keeping your expectations low, it’s good practice to keep your expectations general. Example: I don’t know what the weather will be like the day of my party, but I’m looking forward to sharing some quality time together with the people who come.
Squash competitive thoughts.
Competitive thoughts are tricky — we often don’t realize that they stem from a dark underlying belief that there isn’t enough good to go around. Once you recognize that there’s actually more than enough good to go around, you’ll realize that the successes of your friends and peers don’t hurt your chances of succeeding at all. If anything, they probably help your chances. Think about it — successful people hang out with other successful people, right? I was guilty of this at my previous job and it can be difficult (at times) working with my sister (our boss views my sister as the the daughter-he-never-had and she does a great deal for him; he’s relied on this for the past 7 years) so it’s a challenge for me to prove that I too am a very hard worker. I am truly grateful for the two of them hiring me to work with them, but I already recognize the ‘competition’ I face.
Default to optimism.
Our thoughts are the most powerful tool we have when it comes to mood control. Did you know that it’s actually physically impossible to think about two things at once? Practice thinking optimistic thoughts as often as you can. It could be as simple as I’m lucky. Good things are coming. It’s good to be me. Love this!
Reframe the situation.
When we take the time to really think about the things we love, we’re instantly in the act of enjoying them. And that’s living. Right now. Gratitude can also help us to reframe the inevitable disappointments of life (see above). The next time you’re feeling disappointed about a situation, challenge yourself to see if you can change your mood about it. Reframe the situation by finding things to be grateful for and considering worse scenarios that (thankfully) didn’t happen.
The most unhappy people I know are also the most self-involved people I know. They are never free from worrying about themselves and their problems. They haven’t realized that by listening to a friend’s problems, or just volunteering for an hour or two, they could get a much needed break from their own worries. One of my favorite quotes from our #31 Mornings campaign is this one from Mark Twain: “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try and cheer someone else up.” Always be on the lookout for those around you in need, and don’t be afraid to extend some of your time and energy towards helping others. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a sad sap who consistently worked out all the time. Seriously — those things just can’t exist in the same space. One of the simplest ways you can raise your mood set point is by incorporating daily exercise into your life. Go for a jog outside, grab a friend for a game of tennis, or try out a candlelit yoga class. Make movement a priority in your life and you’ll be rewarded with better moods, more often.
My challenges have been in being there for some of my family, I have three very different personalities (as well as the new one of the boss) that I’m always wanting to please! Yet, like my sister says, being a people-pleaser is my biggest WEAKNESS and it also makes me feel (at times) like a failure!
How do YOU deal with those types of issues (if you have them)?