Sure, it sounds like it would be nice to walk around in a constant state of bliss like a Disney character, chirping birds following you around. I mean, given the choice, almost everyone would choose to be in a good mood over a bad one. But life isn’t so saccharine sweet.
Blame your boss, the weather, your period, whatever—it’s 100 percent normal to be in a bad mood every now and then. (Yes, even for people who go to yoga four times a week and sip green tea instead of coffee.) Even happiness therapist and The Sunny Side Up author Lauren Cook wakes up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes.
The difference between Cook and the average Jane is that Cook knows the psychological tools that can be used to snap out of a bad mood quickly. Here, she shares her secret so we all can benefit.
How to get a mood boost, according to a happiness expert
1. Make self-care an everyday habit
According to Cook, the key to being less prone to getting a bad mood in the first place is incorporating self-care into your daily routine. “This doesn’t mean scheduling a bubble bath or face mask every day, although incorporating that every now and then is not a bad thing,” she says. “Self-care can look like setting boundaries by saying no, working out, and having time to do something you enjoy, whether that’s watching a favorite show or eating some Halloween candy. What’s important is that a person make time for their own needs so that they have enough energy to support those around them.” When you make self-care a part of your day-to-day, you’ll be less likely to be frustrated when others ask for your time outside of your pre-scheduled “me time.”
2. Process, then act
When you do find yourself in a bad mood, Cook offers up this two-step solution: pinpoint the cause, then take action. “The worst thing you can do when you’re in a funk is to wallow in it,” she says. “This doesn’t mean that you avoid processing why you’re in a bad mood. However, once you’ve sat with your emotions, it’s time to incorporate what we call behavioral activation.” What does behavior activation look like exactly? It’s basically a fancy way to say you should do something you enjoy doing to reverse your mood. “This is when you engage in activities that either give you a sense of pleasure or mastery. It means getting off the couch and taking action in some way to shift your mood,” Cook explains.
3. Set boundaries and expectations
If there’s someone in particular who tends to put you in a bad mood, Cook says setting boundaries and expectations can be helpful. (You know, if you can’t avoid them completely.) “It might be worth having a [respectful] conversation with the person about this,” Cook says. Another one of her tips is trying to develop empathy for the person—even if they really do tick you off. “What this means is that you can [acknowledge] that the person is hurtful sometimes and you want to have a relationship with them,” she says. “Many people think in all or nothing or black and white terms. The reality is that life is much more complex than this and once you hold multidimensionality in a relationship, it becomes much easier to have space with others—even when you don’t always get along.”
4. Recognize that not being in a happy mood all the time is actually happy
As a therapist, Cook has seen that some people feel guilty about being in a bad mood and in an attempt to never be in one, they numb themselves, often using food, alcohol, or go on social media benders to feel nothing instead of bad. “What’s ironic is that people often have a worse mood after engaging in these numbing behaviors. If we can learn to become more tolerant of our distress, we start to learn how resilient we are,” she says. “We learn that uncomfortable feelings do not last forever and they are ultimately helpful indicators that we need to create change in our lives.”
While bad moods happen, Cook emphasizes that the key is acknowledging it without wallowing in it. And with these tips, you’ll be able to prevent something frustrating or annoying from derailing your whole day, ultimately getting back to your neutral or happy self. Cue the animated birds…
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