Ever find yourself yelling curses at people in your head (or maybe out loud) over their crappy driving or their constant comments about your protein intake, or just upset about anything? Of course you have, who hasn’t? As a therapist I often work with clients on how they can improve their mood on their own. These tips do not change the content of what you are upset about, but they can absolutely improve your mood when you do them. Some people think you have to “sit with your feelings”. Well, I agree to the extent that it is useful, but for many people they get stuck in the bad feeling and don’t know how to change it. Then they are likely to feel like they just have to wait for it to pass like a bad stomachache. Additionally, you may find yourself resisting this already, thinking, “I don’t want to do these steps! What do you know?!” It’s natural to have some internal resistance, especially when you are in a bad mood. Whenever I am truly in an awful mood and do some self-talk encouraging myself to do one of these things, my first thought is often like a petulant child that yells, “I don’t want to!” That being said, I usually try to do it anyway, because I don’t like being miserable, and each time I continue to be surprised when it works. The more often you practice these tools, the more you will find that it becomes easier, similar to using a muscle to lift weights, you get stronger and more agile at doing it.
Here are 3 Ways To Quickly Improve Your Mood
1). Make a Gratitude list
You may have heard someone to tell you to focus on gratitude or think of all the things you are grateful for. I found that for me, this lost its effectiveness quickly. James Altucher, author, entrepreneur and all around inspiring guy (http://www.jamesaltucher.com), recommends that you make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. The catch is each time you do this; you have to come up with ten NEW things that you have never listed before. You will find that the first couple of times its easy to do this (family, friends, health etc.), but after awhile you have to get very creative to come up with new things. For example, while stuck in traffic in pouring rain the other night at 10:00, I tried doing this and came up with the following:
- I am grateful that I live somewhere that is so desirable there are this many people who want to drive or live here.
- I am grateful that I have a thriving private practice with enough clients that I need to drive home late at night sometimes when I am finished for the evening
- I am grateful that my daughter is sleeping and not screaming while we are stuck here in traffic
- I am grateful that I am awake and able to drive carefully
- I am grateful that there are so many aggressive angry drivers here as I am sure there are many therapists in the area who would love to work with them
- I am grateful that I have a full tank of gas right now
- I am grateful that I have a snack in car as I am getting hungry
- I am grateful that I am wearing enough layers and the heat in this car works
- I am grateful that I am done working for the evening and don’t have to a job that requires me to work during the night
- I am grateful that I was able to come up with 10 things!
You will discover, that you cannot be both simultaneously grateful and angry or upset at the same time. Your mind is like a camera lens and can only focus on one thing at a time, so it pays to point it at something else. Accordingly, the things I come up with when I struggle to find new things to be grateful for, are often funny, making me giggle and in turn changing my mood that way as well.
2). Emotional Toolbox
The Emotional Toolbox is a common idea in psychotherapy used to help people feel better. Essentially it helps you become aware of all the things that shift your mood and then allows you to use them as tools. To do this, make a list of 10 things that put you in a good mood and then try one or two from the list. For example, music that you like listening to (country party music cheers me up- think Luke Brian), something creative like cooking, drawing or writing (in my case I feel better writing or cooking a new plant-based recipe), something physical (I like dance class), being with animals (my two rescue dogs), even taking a shower (sounds hokey, but many people are surprised how effective this is). You may find that making the list itself keeps your mind busy and shifts your focus to a more positive one, and it will also be a helpful reminder of things to try when you aren’t in a good mood.
3). Don’t keep telling the story over and over again
Often times when you are upset about something, you may find that you tell the story over and over again in great detail to people in your life. In doing this, you actually relive the events emotionally and it serves to reignite many of the negative feelings each time you do it. I encourage you that once you have shared it with someone supportive (or even if nobody was supportive) to work on letting it go and moving on to trying either a gratitude list or something from your emotional toolbox.
Give it whirl and let me know how it goes for you- really!