We all know what ‘moods’ are but we don’t often give them a lot of thought. Such little thought is paid to them, in fact, that we tend to limit their description to ‘good’ or ‘bad’, even though they can ‘flavour’ everything we are doing. Moods are not like emotions because we can just wake up with a mood; a mood is not always linked directly to an obvious stimulus like emotions are and moods can be less intense. I see them as more like a background, baseline thing, off which certain emotions might be more or less likely to be triggered. e.g. We are less likely to feel joy if we are in a bad mood.
And yet moods can affect us considerably, especially if we experience a ‘low’ mood for a substantial period of time. Low mood makes us more vulnerable to negative thinking, catastrophising, a lack of motivation and intolerance, amongst other things. A further blow that comes with a low mood, is it negatively affects our motivation to address our low mood! We can be in a low-mood hole and that hole seems too deep to make it worth the bother to even start to look for the ladder that will help us climb out. (This can be the pre-curser to depression of course.)
Some people are more prone to mood fluctuations and different people will experience a greater tendency towards ‘moodiness’ at different times in their lives. A person’s ‘moodiness’ might well be linked to personality, self-worth, childhood trauma, brain chemistry and general circumstance. Diet and the amount of sleep we have had can also affect mood. We also know people have varied levels of neuroticism (the tendency to feel negative emotions) and It seems obvious that this would also link to our moodiness tendencies.
I once said to a friend, ‘when you feel low mood, the mood itself isn’t the problem - it’s our strong or panicked need to stop feeling it alongside an apathy to do anything that might help. That can feel agitating and disempowering and leave us feeling an unecessary sense of despair.’ My simple solution to low mood used to be, ‘tidy a drawer, watch a film, or go for a walk’. I would now also add, ‘don’t panic. Just accept you feel low as it’s part of the full experience of being human. This too will pass.’ However, in a perpetual quest to get better at self-regulating/soothing I think there is mileage in a ‘Low-mood menu’ – thus the title of this post. Bearing in mind that a low-mood affects motivation, I think it can be handy to have a list of easily accessible things you can do when you feel ‘flat’ - in other words the ladder to get you out of the hole. The aim might not always be to stop the mood as much as to soothe you a little and break the apathy component of low mood that can be so disabling!
So for grown ups as well as children, I think creating a low-mood menu can be a great idea. It would not only prompt you to acknowledge and reflect upon mood, it could also help you manage moods better. You could stick your menu on the fridge. Ideas you might like to include are:
- Read a book
- Tidy something
- Listen to a podcast
- Have a bath
- Light a candle
- Watch a film
- Watch a comedy sketch on Youtube
- Look at old photos
- Listen to some music
- Go for a walk
- Message someone you have not messaged
- Copy a picture from a book
- Write a list of questions you’d like answered
- Search the internet for a picture that best represents your mood
- Just sit with it and accept it
With children, you could explore ‘good moods’ and what they make you feel more like doing. You can also improve a child's awareness of their mood by asking them to grade ir from 0 (very low mood) to 10 (very good mood). This can then improve awareness of what influences mod either way.
An 'after-note' - words to describe moods and emotions do tend to overlap.