Health & Medicine

Try to sweeten a sour mood

It’s one of those days. You’re seething at your boyfriend. You dread going to work. The reflection in the mirror resembles Medusa. Let’s face it. You’re in a rotten mood.

Moods are emotional ups and downs that frequently correlate to positive or negative events in our lives. Meet a hot gal on your co-ed volleyball team? Your mood is likely to soar. Back your father-in-law’s new Audi into a wall? That same mood may plummet faster than a skier on an icy slope.

Moods are different from personality traits that tend to be consistent from day to day. Some folks are naturally enthusiastic. Cheeriness is their M.O. Others are perennial Eeyores and respond with doom and gloom.

Bad moods are also contagious and spread as quickly as the sniffles through a pre-school. If your partner or best friend is having a terrible day, it’s hard not to sink into the psychological abyss along side of them.

It’s tempting to blame our sour psyches on events we’ve deemed out of our control. “I can’t help that I’m in a bad mood. My boss just gave me an awful review.” Such statements seem to justify our behavior and grant us the permission to gripe and moan to our hearts’ content.

Of course, unhappiness is inherent in the human condition. Jobs are lost through no fault of our own. Medical diagnoses can be crushing. Retirement accounts are decimated by a financial downturn. We’re pelted by emotional hailstorms that leave us mentally bleeding and bruised.

Physical changes impact our moods, too. Lack of sleep, illness or excessive stress increases the likelihood that we’ll feel crabby and out of sorts.

An underlying problem may also be the culprit. Serious mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder can cause prolonged episodes of unhappiness that interfere with daily functioning. Talk to a mental health professional if you have any concerns.

Still, the vast majority of our bad moods are self-inflicted. Yes, you may have hit an emotional rough patch. Life may feel as if it’s on the brink. But being ornery only makes matters worse.

That’s not to say an occasional gripe fest isn’t warranted. We all deserve a chance to spout our garbage. Perhaps a good cry or outburst is all we need to reverse the downward spiral. The key lies in knowing the best ways to vent and not dragging those we love into our psychic cesspool.

Tips for changing a bad mood

Ready to send your bad mood packing? Try these sure-fire techniques:

Separate from your mood. You are not your bad mood. It’s merely a pattern of negative thoughts that’s causing you to feel down in the dumps. Take hold of the mental reins on your runaway steed and reclaim a sense of control.

Identify the cause. What sent you into a tizzy? The answer may be quite simple or it may be require a little sleuthing. Solving your problematic puzzle prevents it from recurring in the future.

Resolve contributing issues. Once you’ve found the answer, do the work to make things right. Perhaps you need to talk to your mother about her unrealistic expectations or tell your girlfriend that the relationship isn’t working out. Solutions may not be simple. They’ll pay big dividends to your emotional state.

Do something nice for yourself. Your bad mood warrants a little extra TLC. Talk with your best friend. Go out to dinner. Hit the gym. Curl up with your Kindle. Each little step helps you feel more relaxed and soothes your inner turbulence. Stay away from alcohol. One glass of wine may ease that hard edge. Any more can do more harm than good.

Eat some chocolate. Food scientists know that chocolate stimulates the release of serotonin and endorphins and creates feelings of calm and euphoria. Indulge yourself with a few bites of Godiva.

Fake it. Put a big smile on your face and behave as if you’re on top of the world. Others will react to your cheery persona. You’ll notice positive changes, too.

Know that it will pass. Your bad mood is only temporary. It can be over as soon as you release it. Take a deep breath. Make happiness your choice. Then go forth and enjoy your new outlook.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com

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