In general, there are only three things known to change mood: drugs, actions, and thoughts.
When you’re faced with negative feelings, which do you want to use? More and more people are moving toward the third option—changing their thoughts—to alter their mood. Changing the way you think, view, value, judge, etc. can be difficult, but there’s a shortcut to get out of a bad mood. Use the power of perspective.
Think of your problem on a continuum.
On one end of the spectrum, there are horrible extremes like being murdered, raped, tortured, etc. On the other end, winning a billion dollars, bliss, everything going right for the rest of your life, etc. Most of our lives are spent somewhere in between.
When things are not going right for us, we tend to feel extremely bad, because we think about our problem with extreme words like “horrible”, “awful”, “I can’t stand it”, etc. This type of word choice triggers our nervous system to react as if we’re being murdered, raped, or tortured. It’s like executing someone for forgetting to return a library book. The thought doesn’t fit the problem.
Gain perspective by inserting your problem into the spectrum of all things that are happening or have happened on earth to humans and begin to realize that your problems are in the realm of normal and manageable.
Just the other day I was at an office supply store with my three kids and my dad.
It got a bit chaotic, because I was carrying a lot of things plus my one year old daughter. At some point, I put down a ream of paper that I had already purchased to help my daughter off the ground.
When I got home, I realized that I had left the paper behind. I called the store, but the person I spoke with apologized and said that no one had reported finding the paper and there was nothing that could be done. I was a so frustrated with myself for being so careless as to leave a paid item behind. For over an hour I was bent out of shape and annoyed. Then, I started to gain perspective by asking myself questions such as:
- Where does this fall on the perspective spectrum? The answer, of course, is only slightly to the left of everyday, neutral life. Probably in the “inconvenienced” area.
- Is it really so bad that I messed up? No. Mistakes happen. Besides, I didn’t forget one of my kids!
- Can I live with the fact that I made a mildly costly error? Yes.
Once I gained perspective, I was on my way to mentally moving on. Check out part two of this series to see what else I did to help my mind out of a bind.