We all have times when we show up as our “best selves.” We are hopeful and optimistic, confident and resourceful. Our thinking is clear, we have high emotional intelligence, and what occurs to us to say is wise and right on point. Life looks and feels good.
But life is not always like that. To be human means we all ride the mood elevator in life. We face times when we are discouraged and disillusioned when life isn’t as we want it to be and our dreams seem out of reach. We drop down to the lower floors of the mood elevator where we worry, feel alone, lose our energy, and are self-critical and pessimistic.
So since we will all visit those lower floors, how do you “do down well,” and what can you do to get back to your real self—your best self? To answer that, you need to understand where moods come from. It appears that they are the result of events and the things people do, and while those things can trigger moods, it is not where they come from.
Moods come from our thinking: what we make of people and events in our minds. Worried thoughts create worried feelings, and insecure thoughts create insecure feelings. At the same time, hopeful thoughts create hopeful feelings, and optimistic thoughts create optimistic feelings.
This is not about the power of positive thinking alone. We can’t always change our thinking when we are caught up in it, and bad things do happen. It is about understanding the role that thought plays in our life, and that we are the thinker.
Worried thoughts create worried feelings, and insecure thoughts create insecure feelings. At the same time, hopeful thoughts create hopeful feelings, and optimistic thoughts create optimistic feelings.
To make this concept real for you, recall a time you were totally drained at the end of a day. You felt exhausted and overwhelmed. You were clearly down the mood elevator. Then you got a good night’s sleep, got up to a beautiful day and maybe took a walk, and it all looked different and you knew you’d be fine.
What changed? Nothing changed in the circumstances. Only your thinking changed.
Here are some things you can do to lighten the burden when you are down, and some tips that can help you move up and stay up more of the time. The key to doing down well is to know that your thinking is almost always unreliable when you are in a lower mood state.
To minimize damage to yourself and others, try to avoid acting on it. Don’t make that decision. Don’t give up that dream. Don’t say that thing you feel compelled to say when you are in a really bad state of mind.
Moods can be like the weather. We know when it rains that in time the sunny sky will come back—it’s just covered by clouds. Our moods can be the same way.
Why? Have you ever said something to a friend or loved one you wished you could take back? Have you ever sent a text or email you later wished you could recall? Where do you think you were on the mood elevator? Yes, in both cases, you were way down, and if you had checked your feelings, you would have known.
So how can you stay in a better place more of the time, and how do you climb back up if you are already down? Here are some pointers.
There is a direct connection between physical health and mental health. We catch colds more easily when we are run down because our immune system gets impaired, and we catch moods more easily when we are run down, too. Sleep might be the biggest factor; a good, deep, full night’s sleep is incredible in restoring us, and yet most of us are sleep deprived. Exercise is a powerful mood lift, as well; vigorous exercise clears the mind, and that brings us back to our naturally best self. Anything we can do to quiet the mind, from mediation to periodic deep breaths, impacts our state of mind.
Because our thinking creates our moods, anything that shifts us from low-mood-state thinking helps. Call a very positive friend and talk. Do something to help someone else. Take a walk. Find what works for you.
More specifically, a gratitude perspective. When we are down, we have lost perspective. We have forgotten all we have to be grateful for. Because our thinking creates our experience of life, if our thoughts are consumed by what we don’t have and don’t like, that is how life will feel. If we can count our blessings and think of the roof over our head, our health, the friends and family we have, and the opportunities that always lie ahead, we gain perspective and life looks better.
Yes, moods will come and go, but we do play a role in them. And remember, moods can be like the weather. We know when it rains that in time the sunny sky will come back—it’s just covered by clouds. Our moods can be the same way.
Related: Better Mood = Better Outcomes
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and in 1978 founded Senn Delaney, the culture-shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow-up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator.