Moody people are often thought as difficult people to deal with. Also, there is a sneaking suspicion that they are just being childish and they are mentally fragile.
Women get a raw deal when their bad moods are noticed much more than men, as pointed out in Dr. Julie Holland’s book Moody Bitches. She argues convincingly that women’s moods are a strength, rather than a weakness. A new study from University College of London recently appearing in the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal also confirms that moodiness is not a bad thing at all and may actually have a biological purpose.
Moods make us more adaptable
The main findings in the UCL study, led by Dr. Eran Eldar, suggest that moods have had an important role in helping us to adapt as we evolved. They are distinct advantages.
“It’s long been known that mood biases our judgments and perceptions, but this effect has usually been regarded as irrational or disadvantageous.” – Dr. Eran Eldar.
Eldar’s work indicates that moods are a very useful tool in helping us to adapt to our surroundings. They provide the basis for useful learning experiences and prepare us better when we are faced with similar situations in the future.
Moods will change our behavior
When we are in a good mood, the positive glow affects our behavior and makes us more adaptable. An example is a stock trader who gains from an investment. His good mood now means he is more prepared to take risks which will help to respond more quickly to a rising market.
We can think of it rather like the good mood becoming more a permanent state as the rewards gain in value. But they are also interconnected so we can see them having a ripple effect as we gain success in skills, wealth and social status, not to mention success in finding a soulmate.
“This effect of mood should be useful whenever different sources of reward are interconnected or possess an underlying momentum.” – Dr.Eran Eldar
Bad moods will be equally effective in the diminishing returns and convince us that outcomes are worse than they really are. How many times have we said to ourselves, “I knew this was going to happen.” Our expectations are an exact match of all the punishment and negative consequences raining down on us from a merciless sky. In addition, negative moods really can affect our decision making and reasoning.
More studies in this area may lead to a better understanding of depressive and bipolar disorders.
Moods can help us adapt to change
In our evolutionary past, we had to adapt to changes in the seasons and the environment. Moods are really like an evolutionary relic. They reflect how early humans had to adapt to finding food when certain meteorological and seasonal changes were crucial to survival.
Warmer temperatures and more available food were positive factors which reinforced the rewards and chances of survival. Winter and colder temperatures were representative of declining rewards and resulted in different behavior, such as having to hibernate to survive and, of course, a lower mood.
Moods can be reinforced by our thoughts
Another study carried out among bipolar students at the University of Lancaster in the UK, found that positive and negative thoughts were important behavior indicators. The positive thoughts such as repeating a mantra which states that you will indeed do well were influencing moods and subsequent behavior. When the negative thoughts such as fear of having a breakdown were activated, behavior and mood went into a downward spiral. Neutral thoughts, such as acknowledging that you have a lot on your plate, were not nearly as influential in determining mood.
Of course, moods are not the whole answer, fortunately. They are just one element in a complex web of tangled elements such as mind, body, diet, exercise, weather, and social relationships. The important lesson from all this is to realize how moods can help us to adapt to changes more easily. They always have and they always will.
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” – Virginia Woolf