You have control over your mood to an astonishing degree. Anything from taking a nap to having a snack can make you feel better in a very short time.
Some people are hesitant to improve their mood. People have told me before, “that’s just the way I feel right now,” and imply that if they were to try to change their mood it would be dishonest.
They clearly haven’t thought that one through. Your mood changes like the weather. You are not your moods any more than you are the water that moves through your body.
It would be similar to saying, “My body just stinks. That’s the way I smell right now,” and that is your reason for not showering. As if showering would be dishonest. It’s just stupid. If you don’t want to put out any effort to feel better just because it feels better, then think about doing it for better health. Or do it because it will improve the moods of those around you. Or because it makes you more effective in dealing with people.
There are many good reasons to improve your mood and no good reason to continue in a bad mood when you can easily change it.
One man told me it bothered him that when he was at work and he was in a bad mood, his co-workers didn’t like it. “I feel like I’m obligated to pretend to feel good when I don’t.”
“What makes you think you’re obligated,” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he sighed, “they try to cheer me up, or they give me a bad time about being grumpy, or they get short-tempered with me like they’re mad at me for not feeling good.”
“That’s interesting,” I said. “I remember reading a study on charisma. They had three people in a room just sit there. One of them was naturally charismatic, and the other two were not. They were told to just sit there and not say anything for a little while. At the end of that short time, without saying a word, the moods of the two less-charismatic people had moved toward the mood of the charismatic person.”
He looked puzzled.
“In other words,” I explained, “They tested the moods of all three before and after sitting in the room together. Let’s say the charismatic person was feeling irritable beforehand. Maybe one of the other people was feeling cheerful. After sitting in the room, the cheerful (but uncharismatic) person was more irritable.
“All I’m saying is that moods are contagious, and that is especially so when someone is charismatic, like yourself. So probably when you’re in a bad mood, it starts ruining the mood of the people around you and they are resisting that.”
“What, so I’m responsible for their moods now?” He didn’t seem to happy about this.
“There is some good and bad to just about anything. When you’re charismatic, it’s great because you make friends easily, people like you, you're more persuasive, you have more influence on others, and so on. But the downside is that people pay more attention to your moods and that may seem like a burden, but it is nothing more than being in a position of leadership. Charisma is a power. And like the uncle in Spiderman said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’”
He laughed but he got the point too. And I hope you do too.
It's also true that he doesn't have to pretend to be in a good mood. He could actually get into a good mood.
Whatever the cause of your mood, it is almost always true that you can do something about it. If you feel stressed, you can meditate or do some aerobic exercise. If you feel like you have no energy you could have a cup of coffee or move faster or go for a walk or take a nap or make sure you get more sleep or change your diet. If you feel angry, you could use the antivirus for the mind or write in a diary or talk to a friend. If you feel lonely, you could reach out and communicate with someone or read a good book on relationships.
Ask yourself how you can improve your mood at the moment, and keep asking until you come up with some good answers, and then pick one and do it.
When you want to improve your mood, simply ask the question: What’s one healthy thing I could do today to feel better?
Adam Khan is the author of See Her Smile and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.