Bad moods feel so bad you want to get rid of them as soon as you get them. They seem to come out of nowhere, mess with our lives and then leave at their own whim. Just when we begin to think we’re finally free from their clutches, they visit us again, as if to ensure we don’t stay happy for long.
The whole process- the onset, fading away and the re-onset of bad moods- seems random, much like the weather. No wonder poets and writers often compare the shift in moods to the shifts in the weather. Sometimes we feel as bright as the sunshine and sometimes we feel gloomy like a cloudy day.
It seems that we have no control over the entire process, doesn’t it?
There’s nothing random about the onset and fading away of bad moods. Our mood changes when we encounter new information from the environment and how this information is interpreted by the mind results in our mood.
If the info is interpreted positively, it results in a good mood and if it’s interpreted negatively it results in a bad mood.
That’s the entire psychology of moods summed up for you.
So what is it that determines the way we interpret new information?
It all depends on our beliefs, our needs, our goals, and our attitude toward life.
Many people have absolutely no clue as to where their bad moods come from. They know they’re feeling bad but they can’t figure out why. So they distract themselves with some pleasurable activity to feel better for or simply wait for the bad mood phase to pass.
Time changes everything, they’ve been told. The reality is, time doesn’t change anything. It only temporarily distracts you.
When you don’t understand why you’re feeling bad at any given moment, all you’ve got to do is to retrace your steps in time and bingo!- you’ll almost always figure out the reason/s behind your current mood. Then you can work on eliminating that reason. I’ve described this backtracking technique in more detail and with an example here.
Bad moods are a purely scientific phenomenon
Bad moods ALWAYS occur for a reason/s. Like every other phenomenon of nature, there are some rules that enable their occurrence. And when you know how something is enabled you automatically acquire the knowledge of how to disable it.
Just like water boils when you heat it to 100 degree Celsius and freezes to ice at 0 degree Celsius, bad moods only visit you when the conditions of them visiting you have been satisfied.
The important question is, what kind of conditions?
A bad mood is nothing but a warning signal from your mind. Your mind uses a bad mood to tell you something like:
Something’s wrong buddy! We’ve got to fix it.
The problem is, your mind doesn’t tell what this ‘something’ is. That’s your job to figure out. However, the info you were exposed to in your recent past can provide you with important clues.
This ‘something’ may be any negative event that may have occurred to you. It may be some loss you might’ve encountered in your business or it may be a break-up with your lover.
Any event under the sun that you interpret negatively can result in a bad mood. Whether that negative event or situation is corrigible or not is another matter.
Your mind wants you to fix what can be fixed and accept what can’t be changed. When you do that or plan to do that, only then your bad mood will subside.
The tricky part here is that it is not only a negative event that can trigger a bad mood, but anything that reminds you of a bad past experience or a future concern can also accomplish the feat.
We’ve all had that experience of feeling good at one time and then feeling bad for apparently no reason, with practically nothing happening in between.
It ‘seems’ to us that nothing happens in between but something does happen. It has to happen because that’s how moods work.
For instance, if you were abused by your father as a kid and walking down the street you suddenly encounter a man who looks much like your father, then this single event can bring back all the traumatic memories of the past and make you feel really bad.
Similarly, when you’re mindlessly changing TV channels and see a guy with 6 pack abs in a deodorant ad, it can remind you of your weight-related concerns which in turn can result in a bad mood.
The point is, there’s always an external trigger that leads to a bad mood.
When we can’t fix things, we change our attitude
Let’s say you badly want a BMW and haven’t been able to afford it. You not having a BMW is registered as a negative situation by your mind- something that needs fixing.
Obviously, you can fix the ‘I don’t have a BMW’ issue of your mind by buying one or… by changing your attitude toward buying a BMW.
Now, whenever you see a BMW on the street it will remind you of the fact that you don’t own one.
BAM! Off goes your mind:
Something’s wrong buddy! We’ve got to fix it.
In this case, you not having a BMW is what’s wrong, and buying one could possibly fix this problem. But understand this, buying a BMW may not be the ‘only’ solution to this problem.
The real issue is your ‘need’ for buying a BMW. If that need is overridden by some other strong belief, the problem can be fixed too and your BMW-related bad moods will disappear.
For example, some people hate consumerism or care for the environment enough not to buy fuel-devouring, pollution-causing cars.
Such people can actually think themselves out of the ‘need’ to buy an expensive car, even if that need was present before, to the point that they no longer feel bad when they encounter a flashy BMW.
It all boils down to how you look at things.
The proper way to get rid of bad moods
When you’re having a bad mood, try not to escape it. I know that’s easier said than done but it’ll help you greatly in figuring out the underlying cause of your bad mood. As I mentioned before, people distract themselves from their bad mood by indulging in something pleasurable or they wait for the bad mood to pass.
Things don’t get better because time heals everything. They get better because you are exposed to new information continually which enables you to bury your unresolved problems in your unconscious. But they remain there and don’t go away.
They keep waiting for the next trigger to resurface in your consciousness and pester you again and again until you finally make serious effort to get rid of them.
So, the proper way to handle bad moods is to deal with them as soon as they arise because your mind is bothered about something and needs reassurance.
If you ignore your bad moods, they’ll all get buried in your unconscious and one day they’ll resurface so aggressively that you might not be able to handle the hot lava from the exploding Vesuvius.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve published one book and authored 300+ articles and on this blog (started in 2014) that have garnered over 4 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur. Feel free to contact me if you have a query.