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Published on June 4, 2020

5 Ways to Get Out of a Bad Mood (Backed by Psychology)

5 Ways to Get Out of a Bad Mood (Backed by Psychology)

There is nothing worse than being caught in a bad mood, especially when it seemingly comes out of nowhere. It can be caused by one thing, one off comment, a snide look, or an empty coffee cup, and the negativity overwhelms us and throws us into a bad mood.

But now that you find yourself in one, it’s pointless to continue to stay there. Being in a bad mood is okay for a short time, but you don’t have to stay in a bad mood. It isn’t productive or conducive to you being happy and living your best life.

What Causes a Bad Mood?

Some psychologists believe a bad mood originates due to ego depletion. Researcher Roy Baumeister[1] suggests when people use up their willpower to avoid temptation, they drain cognitive resources.

Think of yourself as having a stress-threshold. When you pass the line, you get in a bad mood, which might manifest itself as anger, irritability, or cynicism. All of these cause your blood pressure to fluctuate and increase your level of the stress hormone cortisol.

There are so many causes that can put us in a bad mood, and they are all completely personal to you and your situation. While the causes are varied, there are some common strategies that tend to help those who have fallen into a bad mood.

5 Ways to Get out of a Bad Mood

This list is more like a pick and choose for whichever one will work for you. Some will work for some bad moods, but keep in mind that if your bad mood is caused by a strong feeling you are having, you should face that feeling and deal with the situation. The most effective way to get out of a bad mood is to face your problems and resolve them.

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1. Gratitude

Gratitude is the power to switch your mindset from lack and negativity to abundance and positivity[2]. It is easy to get sucked into the a negative headspace with the society we live in, the media, and our culture.

However, by practicing gratitude you literally change the molecular structure of the brain. It keeps the gray matter functioning and makes you feel healthier and happier[3]

The power of gratitude is extensive and has been backed by scientists over and over again. By practicing gratitude, you activate your hypothalamus and the other parts of the brain’s reward pathways to improve your mood. Your brain is an incredible asset and can be used to generate positive or negative emotions, and it’s ultimately your choice.

Practice gratitude as a way to disperse your bad mood. You don’t have to start off big. Start small by appreciating the little things in life: the smell of coffee, the kindness of a stranger, the sound of your baby laughing. Gratitude can be just as addictive as a bad mood.

2. Exercise

Now gratitude is a wonderful asset, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Sometimes you are just in such a bad mood that you can’t even get into that state to express gratitude. This is when you can try exercise. There is so much evidence backing exercise as a mood booster that it is overwhelming[4].

The most notable shift that exercise creates is the release of four notable chemicals into your brain: serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and norepinephrine[5]. These chemicals are released into your body and are designed to make you feel happy; in fact, they are called the happiness chemicals! If you’ve gotten stuck in a bad mood, try an exercise class or go on a long walk or run. You’ll be surprised how much it helps!

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Try these morning exercises to get your day started on a good note!

3. Meditation

Next, let’s talk about a deeper way to deal with a bad mood: meditation. The world is extremely overwhelming, and sometimes exercise and gratitude just don’t cut it. Sometimes you just need to stop for a moment and breathe.

It is so easy to get caught up in those negative thoughts that are floating around your head, so take a moment to sit in them and face them.

When you are stressed or in a bad mood, your medial prefrontal cortex becomes hyperactive and you become depressed. Meditation has been found to change certain brain regions that are specifically linked with depression. Dr. John W. Denniger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, explains:

“Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious.”[6]

Meditation is another way to use your amazing body to work with you to help you boost your way out of a bad mood. It makes you stop and face those feelings and relax the tension that they are causing. There are even options to do specific mood-boosting guided meditations to help you if you are new to meditation.

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If you’re not sure where to start, check out this guide to get started.

4. Rest

Meditation, gratitude and exercise are all well and good, but if you are exhausted, they won’t be much help. We are all just human beings, and at the end of the day, we live, breathe, eat, and get tired. When a bad mood comes, it may just be that you are tired and rundown.

Sometimes you just need to rest, something that is frowned upon in our culture. We live in a “get everything done now” kind of world, and if you rest, you are perceived as lazy, and it is draining and exhausting.

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood[7]

Try resting, and I don’t just mean sleeping more or having a nap. I mean disconnect from your constant need to go, go, go and sit and take a day to do nothing and recharge. If you are feeling emotionally drained, you will struggle to lift a bad mood.

5. Connect With Your Support System

This one is incredibly important and often underrated. When we feel low, we feel disconnected and unvalued by those around us. Reaching out and talking out your bad mood to a trusted friend in your support network really helps you get out of a bad mood. It helps us to process our feelings, put them into perspective, and obtain advice and support.

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A new brain imaging study by psychologists suggests that verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger, and pain less intense.[8]

When we talk about our feelings, they become less intense, and we can relax a little. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It isn’t always easy, but talking it can really help you move forward.

Sometimes it feels like we just keep all of this noise in our head, and it gets too loud and we just get overwhelmed. Spending time expressing how you feel in a safe space can be very therapeutic and mood-boosting when you receive support and reassurance.

Final Thoughts

Being in a bad mood sucks, but you are overall responsible for your mood and actions. Someone or something can trigger a bad mood, but you are in charge of how you feel and what you do moving forward.

You can choose to do these activities to boost your mood and take responsibility for how you feel, giving you back power and control over your mood.

Nothing lasts forever, not even a bad mood. Look to the future and gain some perspective. One day, you won’t even remember this moment.

More Tips on Curing a Bad Mood

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jade Nyx

Qualified Life Coach

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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