How quickly does your mood change?
If you’re like me, it takes about a millisecond.
You’re going about your day and things are either good, neutral, or lousy.
BAM! – some tiny little thing happens and it sends you reeling in the opposite direction.
This morning, it was my husband’s energy that did it.
Sometimes it’s something more tangible - a phone call, an email, a Facebook post – but this morning Paul, my rock, was actually worried about something and his worry hit me like a thunderbolt.
In the blink of an eye, I had a stomach ache.
In the old days, that moment, that thunderbolt, would have informed the rest of my day. I would have taken it on as my own. Retelling his story in my head over and over and adding in my own fears as it grew and grew.
Back then, I would have gotten nothing done today.
Back then, my mood would have infected others like Paul’s infected me.
Back then, I would have made things worse by adding my worry to his and his to mine, back and forth, each of us feeding the monster, both of us sliding down the spiral together.
Now things are different.
I know that I don’t have to stay there. I know that I can switch my mood back – maybe not to feeling great, but definitely to neutral.
And neutral is productive.
It’s better than worried. It’s better than rumination. And it’s a hell of a lot better than the catastrophizing future-cast.
Learning to shift your thinking and your energy isn’t about hearts and ponies. We’re not donning rose colored glasses and ignoring reality.
Some things are just plain crummy, and that’s life. Pretending otherwise to cheer yourself up will give you a whole host of new problems.
No, shifting your thinking isn’t about hiding. It’s about facing reality and nothing else (the nothing else being the stories your telling yourself about the reality).
The pain of the reality – no matter how grim – is always a fraction of the pain caused by the stories we tell ourselves about it.
Mood Shifting in 3 1/2 Simple Steps
Clarify the reality.
You probably don’t even recognize what the reality is at first. Dial it back to the fact – the thing it is without the story. (i.e. “He broke up with me.” “The diagnosis is x.” “She appears to be angry with me.”)
Each of these has no story attached. Even the one about anger… You’re not making up the story that she IS angry. You can’t possibly know that for sure. What you do know, is that through your lens, she appears to be angry.
Choose your response.
Is there anything you can (or wish) to do right now that would be useful as it relates to this situation?
If there is, do it.
If not, choose the to do the thing you had planned to do next before the mood-shifting thing happened.
Take a few centering breaths and direct your attention to the task at hand.
Each time your mind presents you with an emotion or story about the situation, acknowledge it without judgement and direct your attention back to your chosen task.
3.5 Get grateful
Appreciate yourself for making the shift – even if it’s a small one. It’s better than before. ; )