Have you ever noticed how bad moods can strike no matter how your life is going and no matter what mood you started out with? Being human is not always easy. Expecting yourself to be continuously easy-breezy and happy is not realistic, and it sets you up for disappointment. The fact is, bad moods happen!
Sometimes bad moods are the result of outer pressures in your life, like the flat tire, the whiney kids, or the slowpoke driving in front of you when you’re already running late. Other times, bad moods result from inner conditions like excessive negative thinking, not getting enough sleep, or too much caffeine or sugar. A bad mood could even be the culmination of multiple inner and outer causes. And many times bad moods just seem to arise out of nowhere, for no discernible reason.
Handing a Bad Mood
Here are some suggestions to help you deal mindfully and skillfully with a “bad mood”:
- Recognize and acknowledge that you are in the midst of a bad mood. This may sound obvious, but it requires your mindful awareness of the present moment. To determine your mood, stop everything you’re doing and feel what’s going on in your body, heart, and mind. If your internal state feels heavy, dark, agitated, angry, sad, impatient, or dull with malaise, you’re dealing with a challenging mood.
- Remember that bad moods are temporary. Try to see your moods as passing weather patterns that inevitably change over time. With consistent mindful awareness, you’ll notice that moods are fluid and ever-changing.
- Accept your present mood state. We usually have no problem accepting great or neutral mood states, but we tend to resist unpleasant moods. Practice accepting whatever mood state is present—especially the challenging ones!
- Engage in helpful self-care. Most of us are so busy trying to plow through our long to-do lists that we can easily overlook essential self-care practices:
- If you are sleep-deprived and have the opportunity, take a short nap.
- If your blood sugar is low, eat a healthy meal or snack.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for support or take some time away from any challenging tasks if possible.
- No matter how you’re feeling, find time for mindful meditation practice. This will cultivate a calmer, more peaceful mind.
- Don’t take your bad mood personally. When you regard your poor mood as a personal deficiency, you are giving it power over you. This strengthens the bad mood, making it even worse. Here are some indications that you are taking the bad mood personally:
- Resistance: You resist the mood by refusing to acknowledge it. You may pretend to feel fine or perhaps you try to distract yourself by seeking pleasure. Or you may engage in unhealthy, addictive behaviors to improve your mood.
- Self-bullying: Alternatively, you might get mad at the bad mood and try to bully it out of yourself. You beat up on yourself and judge yourself harshly. Self-bullying not only doesn’t help, it will also worsen an already unpleasant mood.
- Complaining: You exacerbate the bad mood by running around complaining to anyone who will listen. Not a good idea—you’re only strengthening the storyline.
- Projection: Even worse, you project your bad mood onto others by looking for culprits to blame, judge, or even abuse. You might feel some temporary relief from projecting, but in the long run you’ll feel much worse.
- Hold the bad mood state lightly. You may even want to laugh at it. If someone asks you how you are doing, you might want to make a joke like “The Incredible Hulk has taken up temporary residence in my internal world, but I am still doing well.” Hold whatever mood is present with light and kindness, for it too will change.
Ease and Acceptance
I have found that my moods tend to be more pleasant when I consistently engage in healthy behaviors such as eating healthfully, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and meditating daily. Even so, challenging moods arise.
What I have learned through my mindfulness practice is that I cannot always prevent bad moods, but I can relate to such moods with acceptance and a sense of ease. In this way, challenging moods no longer have any control over me. I remain the calm in the center of a storm. This is true peace.