If you’re mood is low and you don’t seem to be able to snap out of it, well that can be really frustrating. Feeling flat can affect not only ourselves but the people around us…let’s face it, it’s hard work being with a mood-hoover!
The bad news (literally) is that humans are hard wired to focus more on the negative than the positive. There have been plenty of research papers written about this and one common theme is that our negativity bias helped keep us alert to danger way back in the day. Fast forward 600 million years and our attention is more readily drawn to an insult, a harrowing news story, a bit of negative gossip – over some good news or compliment.
We are even more likely to dream about the embarrassing, dangerous, scary, sad events (ever been shouted at by your boss in a dream?!) way more than we are about fluffy kittens or being promoted!
It’s not all bad news though because although we are more likely to be drawn to the doom and gloom, we can balance this off with actively seeking out the good stuff. We can make that choice. Building up the good can make us more resilient to life’s negatives and helps lift us up out of the doldrums.
The challenging part is that no one else can really do this for you. If you have made the decision to change your outlook then that’s the first vital step on the ladder.
To start with, SLOW down. Are you missing out on seeing the good stuff around you because you rush everywhere, head down, full speed?
ACTIVELY NOTICE the small things, and yes, without wanting to sound all Julie Andrews, I do mean the birds singing, the flowers budding, the happy exchanges between other people. Soak it up.
If it’s all WORK, WORK, WORK, then put aside a small amount of time to do something for you. 15 minutes of a loved activity is enough to start with and try to do this most days. Remember that the better your mood is, the better you can deal with life’s blips. Miriam Akhtar’s book on Positive Psychology has some really good advice on this.
- Look through old photos – indulge yourself in some happy memories.
- Listen to some great music.
- Dance to some great music!
- Watch a favourite film.
If you have the tendency to put on one of those turn-your-frown-upside-down faces, then try to smile a little bit more. Smiling can make us look more attractive and approachable and it can also make other people feel better so it’s a win-win!
Even if you are more of an introvert, we all need some human contact. Other people are essential for our emotional wellbeing and the positive moods of others can help lift our own…it’s a virtuous circle. Spend time with a friend; take them for coffee and talk about the good stuff.
Feeling down from time to time is a pretty typical human experience. However, Clinical depression is an illness and shouldn’t be left ignored. If you have been feeling down, depressed or hopeless, have no pleasure in anything and have felt your mood deteriorate over an extended period of time, please seek help from your GP. There are appropriate medications and/or therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for depression. This can be accessed through the NHS or a private psychotherapist.