“My mind is a bad neighborhood that I try to not go into alone.”
While Anne Lamott’s humorous adage makes us smile, she does identify a significant problem for many: The moods found in the ‘hood of our mind can challenge our mental health, well-being and happiness.
They are pretty hard to totally avoid — the blahs, the blues, icky moods.
All are vulnerable. As psychcentral.com puts it, “Everyone experiences the blues because of troubling events such as the loss of a loved one, job difficulties, money problems, family issues or illness.” In some situations, like the grieving process, experiencing the blue moments leads to healing from our loss. But at other times, the blues and blahs insulate us from happiness and contentment.
Moods are a normal part of life. People who experience the blues aren’t broken, just normal. The key to a healthy, nurturing emotional health is to not get lost in, or overtaken by the blues. Many do the opposite, by way of their emotional management and inner-chatter or self-talk — they take to wallowing in their blue moods. Like throwing gas on the fire, the moods can then rage against them, incinerating happiness, confidence and sense of well-being.
Here are seven suggestions for healthy mood management:
Live in the moment: As the old saw goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Living in the moment reduces significantly our exposure to blue moments.
“Find the narrow gate that leads to life. It is called the Now,” is a wisdom of Eckhart Tolle, a “living in the moment” guru. “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have.” When we bring ourselves into the present and truly experience each unique moment of our lives, we have no time for living in the past or future.
Living in the past generates guilt, shame and disappointment. Those lost in the future create anxiety and fear by their endless worry. Both past and future are petrie dishes for the blues. Tolle continues, “The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created. Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”
Spend your emotional capitol living in the present moment, not in the past which we cannot change, or the future which is not yet real. The blues and blahs will visit far less often.
Exercise: “We often hear about the physical benefits of exercise (e.g., increasing heart health), less often are the psychological benefits promoted,” says the Association for Applied Sport Pyschology.” Yet, engaging in a moderate amount of physical activity will result in improved mood and emotional states. Exercise can promote psychological well-being as well as improve quality of life.”
Exercise is a mood buster. Along with “improved mood, increased ability to handle stress, and improved self esteem, exercise results in increased feelings of energy and the decrease in symptoms of depression.”
Even a brief walk at low intensity can improve mood and increase energy. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a positive effect. “For long-term benefits, exercise three times a week for 30 minutes per session at a moderate intensity,” says the Association for Applied Sport Pyschology. “Programs longer than 10 weeks work best for reducing symptoms of depression.”
Practice Service: Helpguide.org suggests, “Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment.”
Service is helpful in combatting depression. “A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.”
Remember your 10 worst days: Sometimes feeling better is all about perspective. I keep a list of my 10 worst days on the wall above my desk. I review occasionally when things aren’t going so well. It has been years since I have added a new day to the Top 10. Reviewing the list gives me hope and courage. I survived all those days, some of them have turned out to be blessings. It helps me remember my own strengths, and encourages me that “this too shall pass.”
Reframing current moods in the context of our experience can have a therapeutic, mood-raising effect.
Watch your favorite movie: Sometimes I think that my son was raised by the high school football classic, “Remember the Titans.” He watched it countless times. One day I asked him why he watched it so often. His answer surprised me. “I just feel better after I watch it.” He had learned a way to regulate his mood.
Just the act of taking care of self by allowing the taking of time to watch one’s favorite movie can change mood. Many mothers especially feel endless demands on their time and energy. It can be waring. Taking a moment of enjoyment for self sends a rather clear message, “I deserve this, and I am worth it!” That very true statement, in and of itself, can be a mood buster.
Connect Spiritually: Connecting spiritually means much more than the Sunday school answers of pray, read the scriptures and go to church. It means contemplating your place in this universe, the wonder of life itself and the connection we all have as we walk this path. No matter what our sense of God or religion is, connecting to the powers that guide our universe can bring comfort, peace and serenity into our lives.
Take others with you: One of the 12 steps of the self-help movement challenges those working the steps to “share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do,” this is also an appropriate guide for accomplished “mood busters.” One of our human quirks is that we are often chameleons when it comes to mood. We tend to take on the mood of those around us, or at least be affected by them. By avoiding down moods and being healthy in our approach to life, we can effectively raise the mood of those in our sphere of influence.
Tuning forks pick up the vibrations of any other tuning fork and cannot avoid joining in. Being healthy and managing the elements that can create “bad” moods can be just as contagious among friends and associates. Eyore from “Winnie the Pooh” is known to be a mood killer for those he comes in contact with. Individuals that learn good mood management techniques are not. They serve as healthy emotional tuning forks whose “good vibrations” are shared by all that come in contact with them.
“Seven suggestions for escaping icky moods” published by ksl.com written by Roger.