What can you do about a bad mood?

We all find ourselves in a bad mood from time to time. The triggers and stresses may vary, but understanding what’s going on in our mind and body can make it easier to deal with it.

Some psychologists believe a bad mood can be caused by ‘ego depletion’ – a form of mental tiredness – and that if we use up our willpower trying to avoid temptation (e.g. food) we drain our cognitive resources. The harder we push our minds to avoid something the more likely we are to get irritated, angry and cynical, which can raise blood pressure, stop digestion, and elevate heart rate – causing a bad mood.

Researchers have also found that being in a bad mood gives you a sense of tunnel vision: if you’re in a good mood, you have a wider view of your surroundings whereas bad moods can cause us you to miss things.

So what can you do to alleviate a bad mood?

  1. Eat
    Your bad mood could be caused by low blood sugar in which case food is key. Eating regenerates nutrients depleted during the day. Fatty acids can have a positive effect on emotions and spicy foods release endorphins. Win.
  2. Exercise
    Moderate or high-level exercise releases endorphins, which can improve your mood almost immediately. This happiness boost may not last long, but it should be enough to lift you out of a fug.
  3. Listen to music
    Music can trigger a release of dopamine into your brain and provides a “potent pleasurable stimulus” as you follow and anticipate a tune. Mozart or Madonna, crank up the volume and feel your spirits lift.
  4. Embrace it
    It’s not all doom and gloom, a bad mood can trigger more careful, attentive thinking and the accompanying tunnel vision can help you focus more completely on a specific task. It can also make you more persuasive because it promotes concrete ideas and communications styles. So if you can’t beat the blues turn them to your advantage and tackle a complex problem or project.

Above all though, try to remember that bad moods are natural and healthy. Just as you will feel happy some days for no particular reason, you can also feel down. Don’t agonise over the reasons too much, or panic about changing how you feel. Instead, notice how you’re feeling, and remind yourself that the feeling will pass. Give your mind a bit of time, hold off on quick fixes, and see how you feel later: sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.

Need more ideas for coping with a bad mood? Try this list of handy articles on managing moods:

And of course you can learn more about your mind in our illustrated guides, The Mind Manual and A Mind for Business, published by Hamlyn Press and Pearson/FT.

Kindness is good for you

Being kind to other people is officially good for you – and it seems it’s all down to a nerve that links social contact with positive emotions.

The vagus nerve links directly to nerves that tune our ears to human speech, coordinate eye contact and regulate emotional expressions. It influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding. Higher ‘vagal tone’ is also associated with intimacy with others and more altruistic behaviour.

Recent studies suggest that people who regularly practice mindful ‘loving kindness’ meditations, focusing on warm, compassionate thoughts about themselves and others, show an increase in positive emotions like joy, interest, amusement, serenity and hope. The emotional and psychological changes brought about by positive emotion and connectedness to others, seem to correlate with an improvement in vagal function.

The vagus also regulates how our heart rate changes with our breathing so being kind and compassionate to other people could also be a great way to improve your physical health. In general, the greater the vagal tone, the more varied your heart-rate and the lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and other major killers, so every positive interaction you have can have a positive impact on your own health and happiness.

Try these two articles for more information about the health benefits of kindness and mindfulness meditation.

Learn more about your mind in our illustrated guides, The Mind Manual and A Mind for Business, published by Hamlyn Press and Pearson/FT.

Love at a distance with Moodbug

“I could never do a long-distance relationship” your sixth form self once stated. Now at university you find yourself planning your weekend activities around your significant other’s visit and hopelessly pining after them whilst watching Netflix in bed after a day of lectures. Well you’re not alone, nearly a third of people who claim they…
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Fresh from the mind orchard Mindapples present….Moodbug!

Leaving for university can be an emotional cocktail. A blend of excitement and freedom with a large dash of fear and as many a student will know, too many cocktails physical or emotional will leaving you feeling a little worse for wear. Moodbug is a simple app available for iPhones that lets you share your…
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This Emotional Life

This Emotional Life is a three-part series that explores improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals. Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert, talks with experts about the latest science on what makes us “tick” and how we can find…
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Relationships are the only things that matter

For the first time, a journalist, Joshua Wolshenk, has been given access to the archives of one of the most comprehensive longitutudinal studies in history. For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age….
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Mark Johnson on emotional education

In today’s Guardian Mark Johnson has written an article entitled Forget Sats: lesson one is a basic emotional education. It is very interesting to read Mark’s thoughts on the subject, as he school experience was difficult. He is author of Wasted, which describes his experiences growing up with violence, alcohol and drugs, often crime. Mark’s comment in the article was pointedly saying that without offering children suitable support for their emotional needs through school, we are basically excluding them from education, because children with problems cannot hope to access learning in any meaningful way. With so much debate about how to teach emotional intelligence and wellbeing in schools amongst academics, it is very interesting to hear from Mark Johnson who clearly supports this work so strongly.




“At school, these children aren’t mentally or emotionally ready for the academic learning designed for others. The curriculum races ahead of them, while their life sentence of labels begins. They are difficult, troublemakers, a problem. Then they’re excluded, hoodies, yobs. There’s an inevitability about the next label: criminal. However long their sentence, once they’ve got that label, the prejudices of others ensure they’re really lifers by instalment. And maybe they’ll add another label too: addict.

…Then we should bring in the professionals – the psychologists, therapists, counsellors and people who understand this way of working. They should teach children how to nurture themselves and each other.”