Are you in charge of your life or are your emotions? Does you mood determine day by day activities that are not always the most beneficial for you? Pay attention to your mood. Take your emotional temperature from time to time. Recognizing when your mood has changed and understanding your moods is the first step in managing how you feel and feeling better more quickly. A persistently bad mood does not necessarily mean that you have a mood disorder but it can be a significant pain in your life that you need not put up with.
What Is a Mood?
Think of a mood as part of the normal emotional rhythm a person experiences. Moods normally have a reason, a trigger that sets them off. They are less intense than burst of anger or a sudden shock of fear but tend to last longer, sort of like music in the background. What a mood does is color your appreciation of life and all of its aspects. Someone in a sad mood will tend to think of all things in life as being sad while someone in a happy or cheerful mood will always expect things to be positive.
What Causes Moods?
Single, isolated events or factors may generate temporary emotions but rarely cause prolonged moods. Persistent stress, weather patterns that persist, poor eating habits, news that is always bad or negative, people who are constantly negative or difficult to deal with, lack of daily exercise, and the hormonal changes with a menstrual cycle can all cause persisting moods. Other factors can include medication side effects, long work hours with no relief in sight, genuine depression, alcohol or drugs, long term poor nutrition, unrelenting anxiety about things beyond one’s control, and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), dementia, bipolar disorder (manic depressive state), and chronic pain or physical illness.
Can You Change Your Mood?
Sometimes changing a mood only requires that we recognize that we are constantly “in a mood.” Many times it is difficult. When your mood is a matter of perspective it can be modified by simply thinking about why you are sad, upset, etc. You can simply remind yourself about the good and useful things in life, avoid irritating people, stop obsessively watching news programs that only upset you, or avoid being sucked into social media rants and arguments that are specifically designed to be addicting. Seek out people who are positive. Make plans to do things that make you happy. Take time for yourself when work has been consuming your every moment and thought.
When You Cannot Change What Is Causing Your Mood
There are circumstances in life that cannot be materially changed. Military veterans with permanent injuries like traumatic brain syndrome, amputations, and severe PTSD or depression generally don’t feel better with a change of perspective because the perspective never really changes. In these cases a person needs to seek help and accept help. That help may come in the form or rehab services or someone to talk to and gain coping skills. From the point of view of a person who has PTSD flashbacks or the darkness of severe depression there is no way to rethink things or talk your way out of it without help.
Psychedelic Medicines for PTSD and Depression
Changing one’s mood while in the depths of depression or PTSD is difficult because every effort to think about the issues involved tend to trigger a feedback loop that simply makes a person feel worse. Psychotherapy, which should be helpful, does not help because simply bringing up past trauma reactivates all of the negative mood and emotion that keeps the problem going. Recently psychedelic medicines (MDMA and psilocybin) have been found to break the feedback loop that makes simply talking about past trauma impossible. By essentially rewiring the brain they allow coaching or psychotherapy to progress and the individual to put the past in perspective. That is a long way around to improve a negative mood but it is a way to improve and even save lives!
Physical Activity Helps Moods
There are times when you do not need to think about why your mood is bad or find ways to convince your mind that things really are OK: Go for a walk. Take up jogging. Start playing competitive sports with friends. Do yoga. The point is that physical activity tends to generate a good, positive mood while inactivity does the opposite. At the same time you will be doing something that is good for your heart, gets you in better physical condition, and maybe helps take off a few pounds.