We all have times when we need to get out of a bad mood, or escape from a negative frame of mind.
I know I need to make an effort to change how I’m feeling when I find myself spiraling into a black mood. I might be unreasonably angry, irritable or tearful. I might be in one of those moods which we all get from time to time – wanting to scream, or hit something (or someone). Obviously, this isn’t pleasant for me or for the people around me, and it destroys my ability to focus on doing anything productive.
So I’ve found, partly through trial-and-error, and partly through reading the advice of others, things which help me to pull myself out of a bad mood.
Cheering Up: Things That Work
When I need to break out of a black mood, these are great instant fixes:
- Anything that makes me laugh. – silly but it works, and are great online sites to keep handily bookmarked for when you need a quick dose of humour.
- Hugging someone (my boyfriend, my mum…). This helps when I’m sad, not always when I’m angry!
- Reading a book. I find reading very absorbing, and a great way to forget about whatever was bothering me. I’ve been using this as a state-changing technique since my early teens! I find that watching TV doesn’t have the same effect.
- Drinking tea. Over here in Britain, “a nice cup of tea” is seen by many people as a magic cure-all whenever anything goes slightly wrong. I find that sweet, milky tea gives me the comfort hit and the caffeine hit that I need to cheer up.
- Going for a walk. When I’m getting stressed with work, or a situation in my flat, escaping improves my mood almost instantly. And exercise is a natural mood-booster.
- Taking a shower or bath. Like going for a walk, this is a great way to force yourself out of a stressful situation. I also get most of my good ideas in the shower, so if I’m struggling with my writing, it can be a great help.
Whatever activities you use to change your state of mind, they should be things that make you laugh or relax. Don’t think “I’m in a foul mood, I can’t concentrate on my work, so I’m going to do the chores” – you’re likely to work yourself into a worse and worse frame of mind.
Wanting To Cheer Up
The main problem I struggle with, though, is that when I’m feeling very upset or wound up with something, I don’t want to cheer up. It’s hard to explain this (or even understand it!) when I’m feeling perfectly relaxed and calm, and writing an article for The Change Blog, but part of being in a black mood means feeling that I can’t snap out of it.
Rationally, I know this is nonsense: I can and do change my state to escape from a horrible mood. The hardest thing is to just remember this, and to turn to my list of “mood-breaking” activities.
One thing that does help is when my boyfriend (patient and long-suffering chap that he is) recognizes that I’m getting into a bad mood; he’ll encourage me to go for a walk or get a shower, or he’ll come and give me a hug. If you’ve got a close family member or friend you can rely on, give them permission to tell you to take a “time out” when they recognize that you’re in a bad mood and thank them (once you’re firmly back to your usual self!) afterwards…
Something else that I’m going to try is making the link between a bad state of mind and a cheering-up activity seem more automatic. For example, when I’m feeling tearful, instead of just getting more and more worked up, I’ll take a shower and calm down. If I’m getting frustrated or angry about something, I’ll turn to a good book, or to something that makes me laugh. As soon as I recognize I’m in a negative frame of mind, I’ll automatically reach for that state-changing activity. I’m hoping I can condition myself to do this almost without thinking, as once I make that first move, I’m already well on my way out of the bad mood…
Avoiding Getting Into A State
Of course, I’d ideally like to avoid getting to the brink of tears or anger in the first place. I know this means learning to recognize what puts me into an unwelcome state of mind in the first place. Sometimes, there seems to be no obvious cause (and I blame hormones) but I can usually find the roots of the problem if I search hard. For instance, if I’ve been working too hard, I’ll often “crack” at some little annoyance. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with a long to-do list, one small thing going wrong can be enough to throw me into a head-spin.
So for me, and I suspect for many people, avoiding getting into a state which needs breaking means:
- Taking regular time out to rest and recharge. And importantly, not feeling guilty about this or calling it a “waste of time”.
- Avoiding situations where I know I’m likely to get annoyed. For example, my university’s computer room on Wednesday afternoons… people chatting on mobiles in libraries is guaranteed to get me seeing red!
- Staying organized with my time and my belongings. This means I don’t end up feeling rushed or stressed because I can’t find things.
Yes, it’s all common sense, and all stress-avoiding advice that I’ve heard time and time again – but somehow, that doesn’t make it any easier to take on board!
What do all of you do to change your state, to snap out of a miserable or angry mood, and to cheer yourself up? I’d be very grateful for your advice and your thoughts!