6 Simple Strategies To Give Your Mood A Lift
If you’re like me, when you feel low you will:
• Brood on your shortcomings
• Scan your experiences to gather fantastic amounts of evidence to support these shortcomings
• Stop accomplishing things
• Compare yourself unfavourably to others
• And dwell on yourself
Here are my 6 top strategies to combat this. Let’s start with the brooding.
1. Identify your distorted thinking styles.
When you feel low you will tend to think in distorted ways. In fact, to a large extent thoughts dictate mood. This gives you leverage. If you can influence our thoughts you can lift your mood
Here are a few common distortions that you may recognise:
All-or-nothing thinking: Seeing things in black and white. For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a failure.
Overgeneralisation: Seeing a single negative event as indicative of a pattern of defeat.
Mental filtering: A single negative detail becomes the total reality.
Disqualifying the positives: Insisting positive experiences don’t count.
Everybody thinks in these ways some of the time. But when you feel low you will likely go to town with them. Identify your own common thinking distortions. Have a look at this for other common thinking distortions.
2. Deal only in facts. Do not support your thinking with assumption.
Once you are in the grips of these thinking styles you start to scan your past. You handpick experiences that confirm your current view or yourself and the world.
This can feel good as you prove yourself right. But take it from me: the vast majority of what you will be gathering will be assumption, conjecture and opinion. In a court of law, most of it would be dismissed with the shake of a judiciary hairpiece. Instead only use hard evidence and actual events to confirm and disconfirm your current thinking patterns. Deal only in facts...and you are likely to discover the picture is more balanced than you thought. Here’s a good exercise for thought challenging.
3. Be engaged in mastery. Accomplish through action.
Wallowing in this strangely familiar and comforting place of pain, you stop accomplishing things. I’m talking about mastery. It’s a beautiful word: mastery. When we feel low we are likely to incline towards distraction, pleasure seeking, solitude, inertia. Mastery rarely gets a look in.
Mastery does not just refer to becoming an expert or an authority; it refers to the accomplishment of something, anything, and the sense of effectiveness this gives rise to. You can feel mastery by cleaning your teeth really well if you choose to.
Here’s an idea. List your daily activities, hour by hour. Rate each one for a sense of mastery (0-10). Also chart and rate your mood. You will find that each time you accomplish something, however small, you will feel better.
4. Resist comparing your self to how others seem
Comparing yourself to others when you feel blue is normal. It can also be extremely detrimental. What you’re really doing is comparing your inner world with others’ external world; and finding yourself lacking. But you're assume what in all likelihood you do not know...someone may look confident but feel an anxious wreck inside. The external does not necessarily reflect the internal.
Now lets think about your body. How does it feel when your blue? Heavy, tired, stooped? Fit in body fit in mind they say. It’s true. But this does not have to involve a punishing schedule of exercise.
Start with a half-smile (or an all our full beam if you can manage it). Researchers at Cardiff last year found that people who had Botox injected to reduce laughter lines were more depressed. The same researchers have also found that those who have Botox injections to reduce frowns are less depressed...and this was not to do with an increased feeling of attractiveness. I'm not suggesting Botox, far from it, but I am suggesting we can use our bodies to affect our mood.
Before you dismiss it try it. Really try it. You’ll be surprised. While we’re on it, you could also try striding out of the house with your shoulders back, your chin up and a purposeful step. New research out this year shows that imitating a happy style of walking increases actual happiness levels.
6. Think about somebody else.
Finally, low mood and depression can quickly mean you get locked into yourself. Next time you wake up in gloomy mood ask yourself who you’re thinking about. Instead of dwelling on your own concerns think of someone you know. Why not do something for them? It's a simple way to make yourself feel good.
It can be hard to feel motivated or hopeful when we feel blue and often we wait to feel better before taking action. But instead of waiting, we can do some really small things to make a big difference.
Image: Jon Sullivan