One Quick Trick To Raise Your Mood
Despite your best intentions, it is entirely possible that you did not leap out of bed this morning singing like a lark, ready to embrace the wonder and pure possibility that is today.
I sure didn’t.
I am not by nature a morning person. Yet I have morning life. There is my day job awaiting me, with people who are counting on me to be competent, responsive and pleasant to be around.
Not the fog-brained, blank-faced ass-dragger I would be if I didn’t take certain measures.
Hence, a daily morning practice of yoga and meditation, neither of which seem all that remarkable while I’m doing them, but taken together have a salubrious effect on my perspective and attitude. Also, coffee.
Still, there are times when lifting my spirits feels like trying to pick up a manhole cover with my nose. I’m not talking actual depression here, just an off mood, and a mighty temptation to indulge it. Without intervention, I am fully capable of slipping into full-blown curmudgeonhood.
Which is, if I’m being totally honest, a teensy bit enjoyable. Griping and kvetching is perverse fun, for about ten minutes. After that, it’s nothing but a drag on me and everyone who has to be around me. And it takes even more effort to pull myself out of the sludge that is my mood.
So, best not to get stuck there in the first place. I suspect you know exactly what I mean, because if you’re reading this, you are a human being. And we human beings have a real talent for letting our perspectives warp on us like funhouse mirrors.
This is when popular wisdom tells you to “think positive.” Turn your frown upside down, let a smile be your umbrella, repeat out loud the affirmations you’re supposed to have stuck to your bathroom mirror.
When in the midst of a truly sour mood, doing those things feels artificial at best and discouraging at worst. There’s so much contrast between your behavior and your internal state it feels like your teeth might crack.
Here’s what can help: negative thinking. When I’m stuck in the emotional doldrums, I find this works much better than slapping a happy face on my sourpuss.
I don’t expect too much of my downer self all at once. Instead of shoutin’ hallelujah when I’m not feeling it, I sidle up to positivity through an indirect route. Okay, I’ll tell my sadsack self, go ahead. Feel like that. But you still have to walk the dog.
And while I’m walking the dog (which all by itself is a mood lifter, even when I really don’t want to do it), I reflect on the fact that nothing prevents me from walking the dog. The same is not true for my sister who has a progressive neurological disease. I don’t have that condition, and I remember to be grateful for that fact.
My spirits lift a bit. This leads to thoughts of other things I don’t have: heart disease, cancer, crippling arthritis. Ditto blindness, deafness, balance problems. I know people with one or more of those problems. I appreciate not having them myself. I feel rather better.
Think of this as reverse gratitude, or thankfulness for what you lack. If you master the trick, it can lighten your spirits gently, gradually, and more dependably than doing the Pollyanna thing.
To be clear, this is not the same thing as telling yourself you have no right to feel bad. Or that you should feel good because there are people who have it so, so much worse than you. That didn’t make you want to eat your spinach when you were told about the starving children in (pick a country) when you were a kid, and it doesn’t work now.
Nor am I suggesting you take a heartless, sucks-to-be-you attitude toward the suffering of others.
Nobody, not even you, has any business judging whether or not your emotions, whatever they are from moment to moment, should exist. They already do. Feelings just are. They are part of your current perception of reality.
But feelings are not reality itself. It helps to keep that in mind.
Instead of bludgeoning your less attractive emotions into suppression and berating yourself for not feeling as good as you think you should, try stepping outside yourself for a moment and reflecting on what you don’t want that you don’t have. You might be surprised at what happens.
You feel a wee bit better. And you begin thinking, quite without effort, of what you do have, the people and things and abilities in your life that you cherish. It doesn’t take long before you feel remarkably better.
After all, what have you got to lose? Next time your mood goes south on you, try negative thinking.
Just be grateful for all the things you don’t have.
Check out my other posts this month as I explore radical gratitude, in a challenge to find the miraculous hidden in the everyday. If you feel inspired to join me, by all means, write on!