Your Mood Matters: 3 Exercises to help alter your mood.
Have you ever been frustrated, tired or angry and without even uttering a word, you notice that your child, spouse or colleague has suddenly become defensive or upset?
I recently had a run in with a new car seat. I am happy to say that I finally figured the darned thing out, but it left me frustrated. I took that mood home with me and when I picked up my 5 month old son he immediately started to fidget and whine, which didn’t help my mood. When I handed him over to my husband, he was almost instantly happy again. That was the moment I realized that I wasn’t the only one being affected by my bad mood.
Now ‘Mood Transfer’ as I like to call it, isn’t a new idea. In 1993 Elaine Hatfield, John Cacioppo, and Richard Rapson published a now classic book called, ‘Emotional Contagion’ . Put simply, the authors provide evidence that shows that our emotions are communicated to others even when we try to hide them. And here’s the important point: Our mannerisms give us away, and our emotions are contagious. The tone of our voice, the way we move, and the words we use all affect those around us, whether we want them to or not. My mood affected my son, just like your mood can affect your friends, family and co-workers.
Realizing this, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then I picked my son up and gave him a big hug and kiss and told him I loved him. He giggled. My mood suddenly changed and happily, so did his. And as a bonus, my husband’s mood changed too, from defensive, to calm and happy.
Once I saw how quickly I was able to change the mood dynamic in my family, I began to wonder how many times I could have created a more positive, productive environment by simply changing my mood.
Now for those at work, I realize we can’t give a big hug and kiss to a colleague and make it all better, but there are a few things we can do to help us see things in a more positive light.
Here are 3 exercises to help quickly change your mood:
1. Take a deep breath: Don’t pass over this one. It is one of the most effective ways to calm down. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to lower your blood pressure and heart rate and helps you relax. To get a detailed explanation of why breathing helps, check out this great article at LiveStrong.com.
2. Recount a happy story or imagine something great happening: Richard Boyatzis and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University have researched and studied how talking about positive events and aspirations have a positive effect on the brain. It turns out that PEAs (Positive Emotional Attractors) can significantly affect mood and motivation. Don’t underestimate the power of a happy memory or dreams of a better tomorrow! If you want to learn more about Richard Boyatzis and his work, he offers a free course on Emotional Intelligence through Coursera.
3. Give a compliment: Did you ever notice that when you are in a bad mood, you are focused on yourself. When you step back and consciously take a look at others in order to offer a compliment, it can help us get you out of the rut of thinking about whatever it is that is bothering you. And beyond the good of giving a compliment, the response you get is often enough to set you right again.
Now, I know that not all bad moods can be cured with a simple exercise. If you just can’t shake it, talk to someone you trust about what is bothering you, or meet with a professional counselor. And don’t forget about your workplace resources. Most organizations have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) where you can confidentially speak to someone about stress, anxiety and a number of other possible issues.
Also, Lori Deschene at Tiny Buddha.com wrote a great blog with some additional ways to overcome a bad mood. Click here to check it out.
What do you do to help take your mood from bad to good?
I would love to hear your stories, exercises and comments.