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9 Ways to Shift Your Mood: Some Techniques to Help You Feel Better
by Cheryl Rainfield, 2005
It's hard depressed, sad, anxious, or in emotional pain. And while it can be healthy not to run away from our feelings, or to be able to feel and express them, it's also healthy—and important—to not overwhelm ourselves, to not get so stuck in painful emotions that they overwhelm or oppress us, and to give ourselves a break.
Some people believe that any thought tied to emotion that we think and feel for more than 15 seconds starts to connect up with all the other times we felt that way. This can be true for painful memories, too, so focusing on something painful may bring up other times we felt that way, and may reinforce those feelings or make us feel worse.
Sometimes, when we're feeling awful, we need to be able to shift our mood. This is something we can all do, with practice. It's not something most of us are ever taught—but working with our emotions is just as important as working with our mind.
The following are some techniques you can use to shift your emotional state to a lighter or happier one:
- Do something physical that requires concentration. Try balancing yourself on one leg, with your arms held high above your head. If this is easy to do, try a position that is harder for you to balance in, such as holding one leg straight out in front of you, or another pose altogether. Doing something physical that requires your concentration can help to shift your thoughts and mood.
- Go for a walk, and temporarily change your environment. If you're inside, go outside. If you're outside, go inside or somewhere else outside. Consider going someplace you've never or rarely visited. Wherever you go, pay attention to your surroundings; notice the little details around you. Sometimes changing your environment can help. This is especially helpful if where you are is where you often feel badly.
- Close your eyes and think of a person or of people who love you. Try to see their faces clearly in your mind, their eyes smiling at you with love. Try to feel that love, and remind yourself that that person/people care about you, and that you are loved. Try to do this for more than 30 seconds at a time.
- Please your sense of smell. Your sense of smell is a quick and easy route into your emotions, and is one of the most powerful ways to evoke memory. Smell something from a time when you felt happy or joyful or loved, that reminds you of someone you love, or that just makes you feel good. Pure citrus scents (natural, not fake) are naturally uplifting. Many people are also drawn to the scents of cinnamon; vanilla or benzoin; favourite perfumes or colognes; the scent of cookies being baked or a favourite meal; etc. I personally love the smell of crayons. :)
- Find a way to laugh—jokes, movies or tv, funny books, playing with your pets and watching their silly antics, being silly with a friend. Laughter is an effective way of changing your mood, and can help your body as well as your emotional state. You can read more about this here: (http://www.helpguide.org/aging/humor_laughter_health.htm).
Reframe your thoughts. Our thoughts can have a powerful affect on your emotions—especially negative thoughts. Try to notice the thoughts you've been thinking lately. How many of them are negative? If it helps, write out what you've been thinking, so you can really see for yourself what's been in your mind. Then try to change or reframe those thoughts to more positive phrases—even if you don't believe them.
If you have thoughts like "I'll never," "I can't," "I don't want," "I should/shouldn't," try to change them into something more hopeful or positive, such as "I can," "I want," "It's good that I," etc.
Negative thinking also includes self-criticism and self-hate. If you find yourself putting yourself down, gently stop yourself, then give yourself a true compliment or praise, even if you don't believe it.
Just changing the way you think can help change how you feel.
Change your body posture and breathing. Your body store emotions, and your body also often show how you feel—you might slump when you feel depressed or tired; curl inward or protect your abdomen/stomach when you're feeling vulnerable; tighten your hands, jaw, shoulders, or neck when you're feeling angry; breathe shallowly when you're afraid.
Try consciously changing your body posture and breathing to reflect how you want to feel. Close your eyes, remember a time when you felt happy or confident, and try to move your body into that position. Or watch how other people look when they are confident or happy, and try to mimic their body postures.
- Listen to music that makes you feel good. Try singing or humming along with the music. Music can help alter your mood. Choose songs that make you feel strong, or happy, or loved—music that is pleasant to your ears, where the music, words, or both speak to you.
- Reach out to a friend and talk. You don't have to talk about what is upsetting you, unless you feel like it. Just connect with another person, with someone you care about. Often, making that connection can help shift your mood, even just a little.
If you're feeling really awful, you may not be able to shift your mood as far as you'd like to, right away—and that's okay. You may be able to make a little shift—like from despair to sadness—and then later, another little shift. It's actually more reasonable to expect little shifts, rather than an extreme shift. Each movement you make matters.
Consciously working to change your mood can help you to feel better. Even a small shift in your mood might bring relief, or make it easier to laugh or to have fun. While it might not always be something you choose to do, it's good to know that you have a technique that you can turn to, to help change how you feel when you want to.
©Cheryl Rainfield, 2005
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