Four Ways to Get into a Better Mood
With it being January and the start of a new year, many of us will feel an unconscious slide into negative mood territory. This is because the euphoria of the holidays is long gone, we realize how we over ate and over spent, and we have to deal with extremely cold temperatures and gloomy, dark skies. We look outside and it isn't pretty, we look indoors and we're confronted with some frustrating reminders, and we look within to find that we might already be slipping on our New Year's Resolutions.
Which is why I specifically told you NOT to set them last week. Remember?
So it's very common to dip into some Winter doldrums. Be on the lookout for unexpected negative mood swings - and use what I'm about to tell you to combat how you're feeling.
Let me give you four powerful strategies you can implement to immediately shift your emotional state from a negative, "my life sucks right now" mood to a positive, "I love it and I don't care how freaking cold outside it is" mentality.
STRATEGY ONE: GET PRIMAL
We get depressed because we forget that we're human beings with a link to a far more primitive past. It's easy to surround ourselves with technology each and every day and feel little to no connection to other people and especially to ourselves. When we lose touch with our bodies, we lose touch with our most basic instincts - and the disconnect we feel often leads to depression.
Here's my solution: get primal. Especially if you are the kind of guy who spends a lot of time staring at a computer monitor or television. SHUT OFF your internet, put down your cell phone, stop watching TV, and just simply...get quiet. Consider living for 20 minutes as someone who has no access to digital resources. With less time spent staring at a blue glowing screen, you're going to be able to rejuvenate your soul.
Start by taking some deep breaths - breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for 5 seconds, and then exhaling for 5 seconds. 10 of these should suffice. Then stretch your entire body - start by rolling your neck left to right, stretching your fingers like you're trying to reach the ceiling, and then twisting with your obliques all the way left and then all the way right. Relax your jaw (we hold a TON of tension here) and open it as WIDE as you can. Stretching out your mouth like this releases a lot of stress and anxiety.
And then I want you to go somewhere no one will hear you (your car is usually the best option) and just YELL. Yell like you're the last man alive on Earth. Why? Because when we're depressed, we have a SHIT LOAD of stored up emotions we're holding onto that no longer serve us. Yelling like this gets us back in touch with our bodies and helps us push the toxic energy OUT. Think of it like letting the dam burst - all of your negative mood can pour out of you. Do this is if you're especially pissed off about something or at someone. This will immediately help you shift out of hatred and into a more productive mentality.
Your goal in doing this is to physically exhaust your body. You want to get everything you've bottled up and repressed OUT of your system until you run out of energy. If yelling isn't enough, use exercise as a means of wearing yourself out - especially if you're suddenly in a lousy mood and don't quite know why. As soon as you notice your emotional state slipping, throw on some sneakers, change clothes, and hit the weights. Your goal is to workout for each set until you reach absolute failure (meaning you cannot lift a single additional rep). By forcing yourself to exhaustion during each set, you're guaranteeing you come home feeling wiped out. This is actually a very good thing; sometimes wearing yourself out physically can help you wipe your emotional slate clean. Think of it as a reset button.
I say "get primal" because our ancestors were never depressed. They couldn't have been; there wasn't enough time in their schedule to contemplate their sadness or bitch about nothing going their way. The only thing on their minds was survival (well maybe reproduction, but the two go hand in hand). Every day was physically grueling and demanded these men to be completely present to potential danger. Starvation was a real threat, and as a result, they busted their ass to take care of themselves.
Now I'm not saying that you should approach every day like. But use this strategy as needed to get you out of your head and reconnected with your body. Shut off technology, get outside, and start MOVING.
STRATEGY TWO: MEDITATE, BRO
You mean you've heard of meditation before? Gosh, I'm not sure I really have much to say then. Just ignore this and move onto strategy three.
OK, I'm being sarcastic. I realize that this strategy is super obvious - and you're probably nodding your head right now thinkin, "Yeah I knew that would be on the list - it always is." Well, I'm here to tell you there is a reason it's always on lists like this. And I also know one truth: there is about a 99.43% chance you're NOT meditating in your life right now.
How do I know this? Because meditation can be extremely frustrating and boring. It's like eating your vegetables, wearing a Jimmy before you get down to business (did I just say Jimmy?), and taking out the trash on Sunday. Stuff we know we should be doing, but never ever feel like doing. Look, I'll admit that sitting quietly isn't the most entertaining thing in the world - with millions of possible ways to have fun sitting within arms' reach and work always calling to be done, meditating can be an enormous challenge.
But here's why this activity needs to move from the category of "I know I should be doing this" to "I need to be doing this daily": if you consistently do it, I guarantee that you will feel far less depressed and irritated and I guarantee you will be in consistently better moods throughout your entire day.
Here's why: mediation is your most potent ally in clearing out toxic energy and garbage you're still holding onto. In a way, it's taking out all the dead weight you're carrying and freeing your mind up to focus on better things. When you meditate, you increase blood flow throughout your body, improve your concentration and focus, and restore mental energy. You're giving your brain a chance to rest free from stimulation - and this rest allows you to get some inner peace and quiet you are actually desperately craving (and don't even realize).
The process of doing it really isn't too complicated. Just pick somewhere quiet, sit up straight, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. That's really it. If you want, you can add a silent mantra you repeat over and over again to help you stay mentally on track, but you don't have to. Doing this for a solid 10 to 15 minutes a day will give you more than enough to work with.
If you find that your mind is racing the entire time and thousands of thoughts are flying into head, no problem. There's no "right" way to meditate. Yes, it's far more relaxing to be able to just shut your mind off and completely zone out, but neither you nor I are on our way to enlightenment. (If you are an enlightened being reading this blog, then I apologize for insulting you). The point I'm making is: don't worry. You'll deal with less and less of this mental clutter the more you do it, and the more you do it, the more you'll notice how happy you'll feel during the day.
You can do this immediately whenever you catch yourself in a bad mood or you can do it consistently each morning and evening right after you wake up and right before you go to sleep. I suggest a combination of both.
STRATEGY THREE: LISTEN TO "GOOSEBUMP" MUSIC
No, I'm not talking about the R.L. Stein books we read when we were kids. I'm talking about throwing on a pair of headphones and playing music that gives you goosebumps. Studies have shown that music has the power to immediately change our mood depending on what we listen to. This is why we play fast-tempo music in the gym when we're working out, calm music when we're studying or working, and sexy music when we're alone with our dates. Movie composers specifically use music to influence our emotional state; you don't have to watch many Steven Spielberg tear-jerkers to realize the music is deliberately trying to make you feel a certain way.
To start with, make sure you have certain playlists created on your iPod or computer based on the mood you want to get in. For example, if you notice that dancing helps wake you up and get you feeling better when you're tired, create a dance playlist you can play whenever you're particularly out of it. If you've been avoiding going to the gym on workout days, create a workout mix you can listen to in order to motivate you to hit the weights and get going. Lay out some Mozart and Beethoven compositions to jam out to when you're studying. Having specific playlists setup like this ensures you're prepared to quickly get out of unsupportive moods when necessary.
Next, get into the EMOTIONS of the songs playing. What I mean by this is to focus on how the music is making you FEEL and amplify the feeling as much as you can. I understand this is a little abstract - so let me give you an example. Let's say you really don't feel like going to the gym. You're disappointed in your lack of progress, you haven't been disciplined, and you're feeling too tired to get there. Turn on your iPod, start playing your workout mix, and let the fast pace tempo of each song guide your body. Start moving your head to the beat, tapping your foot, and even moving your entire body if you can. Let how the song is making you feel influence your physiology until you GET yourself into the right mood to WANT to workout.
Sometimes by just getting the ball rolling, we have all the emotional leverage necessary to do what we've been putting off. This applies to really any negative mood you might find yourself in - especially depression. If you're depressed, create an "anti-depression" playlist. Put songs on there that inspire you and motivate you - the ones that give you goosebumps. And let the emotions of the music overwhelm you.
STRATEGY FOUR: ACT LIKE A RAVING LUNATIC
Strategy four comes with a friendly warning and legal notice: I am not to be held liable for any damages you may cause to yourself or to your house (or parents' house or girlfriend's house or girlfriend's parents' house).
With that being said, let me explain where I'm coming from with this using some good 'ole fashioned psychology: our physiology influences our emotions.
In layman's terms: what we do with our bodies impacts how we feel. The Facial Feedback Hypothesis proves that facial movement can "influence emotional experience." Amy Cuddy's recent TED talk proves that our body language and posture directly affect our level of confidence. What should all this mean to you? What you do with your body - even if you're not in the mood to do it - will begin altering your mood and how you're feeling.
If you start smiling, you'll begin feeling happier. If you hold your shoulders back and take up more space, you'll begin feeling more confident. If you take deep breaths and hold your chest up, you'll actually feel more energetic. Our physiology and emotions are directly linked together; as one changes, the other goes with it. The key to capitalize on this information is this: if you are in a bad mood, stop focusing on how you feel and start focusing on what your body is doing.
It's that simple. Now - why is this strategy called "Act Like a Raving Lunatic?" Because doing so will dramatically shift your emotional state. It HAS to. Try running around your house, chanting gibberish, laughing like an idiot, skipping, dancing, making animal noises, and humming the chorus to I Saw the Sign by Ace of Base.
Doing "silly" and "ridiculous" things with your body ensures that you start feeling completely different by the time you're done. It also UNSTIFLES your mental energy - it frees you up. This will actually take a lot of stress off of your shoulders, and if you do it right - give you a good laugh. But here's the biggest challenge: you will NOT feel like doing any of this. You'll think of this strategy the next time you're in a shitty mood (I hope) and think, "Yeah no f-ing way." But just give it a shot. Trust me.
And if you're worried about what people are going to think of you? SO WHAT!? They're probably even more depressed or angry than you are - and you don't see them doing anything about it, do you?
If you want an excellent example of a master of goofing off and owning it, check out Sean Stephenson. Here's his "dance party" video:
Think about that video the next time you're feeling a bit low.
About Byron Van Pelt
Byron Van Pelt is a Certified Life Coach, entrepreneur, and published author of Unshakable Swagger: The Man's Guide to Being Confident Any Time, Any Place...Period. He is now happily married with his wife, Bethany and lives in Jacksonville, Florida. With over eight years of dedication to the world of high-end personal development, he utilizes an arsenal of skills to accelerate his clients' breakthroughs in business, dating, health, and fulfillment. Byron specializes in teaching men how to explode their level of confidence in everything they do and ensure it resonates in even the most challenging circumstances.