Sunday, July 31, 2016


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lifting a Lousy Mood

None of the people who know me well would describe me as a moody person..Maybe my personality is more prone to being emotionally steady, but, at the same time, I think I do work at my mental attitude. Even so, I had a very lousy mood earlier this week.

I once heard a psychologist say that the same things that bring us up can also bring us down. This makes sense. For the things that are important to us, our relationships, our jobs, can bring us a lot of happiness when they are going well but can give us a lot of grief when they are not. My lousy mood was brought on by my creative work. It was very high when my ideas were flowing and came crashing down when I ran into a tangle and problems.

We all are prone to problems and bad moods, so here are some tips for fighting a bad mood.

1) Nip negative thoughts in the bud. 

It would be unrealistic to never think about a problem, but sometimes the way we think about problems is not productive. I can usually recognize when I'm going too far with a stream of pessimistic or negative thoughts and will make myself stop. Mentally rehashing painful things from the past is also not a good mental habit. It's mentally healthier to put past trauma out of your mind as much as possible. If you're finding it difficult to avoid worry for the future or dwelling on the negative things of the past, focus your mind on the present moment and the task at hand.

2) Talk to a friend. 

It's possible to talk about problems excessively, but sometimes, talking to a trusted friend or family member, even when it doesn't bring about a solution, can do a lot of good. A couple of years ago, I had several incidents where I was treated badly by a number of untrue friends. Thankfully, I still have a good family and a number of loyal friends. Talking to my brother, who gave me some good insights, and talking to a close friend, who was very sympathetic and defensive of me, helped relieve some of those negative emotions. I was able to put those situations behind me. As a Christian, I also talk to God about my issues and try to leave them in His hands.

3) Do a kind deed for somebody else.

Sometimes, it helps to get your mind off of your own problems entirely. When you are going through some difficulty, you are also better equipped to sympathize with others going through difficulty. It truly is better to give than to receive. You will lift your own mood by taking a moment to send someone a card or kind thoughts and express some caring for someone who is having a hard time.

4) Listen to music.

Music can be very therapeutic, but not all music is equally good for lifting a bad mood. You may want to avoid songs about heartbreak and funeral dirges. One of my favorite movies is Sense and Sensibility, based on the Jane Austen novel. In the very beginning of the story, two sisters lose their father and then their house which is inherited by their brother. One sister, Marianne Dashwood, plays sad songs on the piano towards the beginning of the story. Her sister Elinor tells her, "Marianne, can you play something else? Mama has been weeping since breakfast." Marianne then switches to a dirge. Elinor tells her, "I meant something less mournful, dearest."

I actually can enjoy sad songs when I'm feeling good. I enjoy sympathizing with the characters in the song. If I'm inclined to melancholy, even the sad sound of the musical notes can perpetuate that mood, so I avoid sad songs during those times. I can remember a time as a child when I had a little conflict with a friend who was visiting and we were both feeling terrible. Mom put on the soundtrack to Mary Poppins and let us hear this song, and her plan worked in helping us forget our earlier grievance and causing us to laugh together instead.

5) Watch some comedy.

In similar thoughts, I enjoy dramas, even tearjerker dramas and Holocaust movies. These have their place, but, comedies are more therapeutic for when you're going through stress and difficulty.

My brothers introduced me to this comedian Tim Hawkins, and I've been enjoying him ever since. One of my nephews can practically deliver his routines from memory. This particular clip might be about marriage (in part) and I'm single, but I can still appreciate it.  It makes me think of my parents. It also makes me think of myself when I'm riding with my father and am his "special helper in the car."

6) Set aside some time to think through proactive solutions. 

A few of these ideas such as listening to cheerful music and watching comedy seem like escapism. I don't think escapism is entirely bad. I very much like a quote that was widely attributed all over the Internet to J.R.R. Tolkien. It turns out it isn't a direct quote of Tolkien but is a quote by Ursula LeGuin who was indirectly quoting Tolkien.

 "Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!"

I agree with that philosophy. However, just because we need some escape, doesn't mean we shouldn't apply some more proactive thoughts towards solving issues. I'm putting this sort of thought in a different category than worry. A few years ago, I was very upset when I learned a doctor had upped antidepressant medication for a friend. (In a lot of cases, I hear testimonies that people feel better when they stop taking these medications.) One of the issues that was upsetting her was one that was very possibly solvable with some steps on her part. This advice, which I tried to give her, would have been more helpful than more medicine to artificially alter her mood.

In my own recent bad mood, relating to my creative process, I felt more optimistic when I took some steps towards untangling my snag.