Take Control of Your Mood
Research supports that life events influence health and well-being. Pleasant and unpleasant events are happening constantly, and much of what goes on is beyond our control. It’s difficult to turn on the news or read the paper without coming across something very upsetting, that we seemingly have no ability to change.
You get a bill in the mail, someone steps on your foot, rear ends your car, your child is whining and crying, the person in line ahead of you is taking forever… The list can go on and on. The lack of balance between pleasant and unpleasant events can contribute to sadness and anxiety. It’s easy for people to begin to feel frustrated and burned out.
The well-known relationship expert, John Gottman found in his research that the magic ratio for partners is 5:1. This means that for every one negative event, feeling or interaction, five positive feelings or interactions are necessary to neutralize the negative one. Similar numbers were found in the workplace, “Praise to Criticism” ratio. If we take this information and generalize it to life events, it’s easy to see how things can spiral downward fairly quickly in terms of mood and well-being. Pleasant or unpleasant events can contribute to how, “up” or, “down” you feel.
The good news is that there are plenty of things we can control. We can make choices about many of the events that happen in our environment. The key might also be in our perceptions, and a little cognitive reframing can go a long way. I talked a little about cognitive therapy and how our thoughts influence our feelings in previous posts.
You can also help yourself feel better by intervening behaviorally, making sure your day has plenty of pleasant events that bring you pleasure. Pleasant events don’t have to be huge activities that require a lot of planning. These things can be as simple as: Listening to a song you like, taking a short walk, chatting with a friend, appreciating nature, meditating, getting a mani/pedi, getting a massage, massaging yourself, reading, tidying up your house, eating your favorite meal, looking at the clouds… It really doesn’t matter what it is, it matters how you categorize and perceive it. Anything you like to do is a pleasant event!
My wise mentors in graduate school, Drs. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, Ph.D., and Larry Thompson, Ph.D. implemented the research findings on pleasant events with caregivers of dementia patients to increase well-being in this extremely stressed out population. I’ve used these methods successfully with my clients over the years and have found it to be fairly generalizable. The idea is that at the beginning of each day, you decide on several things you will do to take care of yourself that day. Four (or more) pleasant events a day, that are consciously chosen, and deliberately done, will keep the blues away. This can work retrospectively as well. If you forgot to plan your 4 CCDD things (consciously chosen and deliberately done), you can take a moment to think about what things you did because you were doing them to take care of yourself. Pat yourself on the back for prioritizing self-care. We all need it.
Give it a try and see if your mood improves!