Psychological Self-Tools - Online Self-Help Book

Methods For Changing Your Mood

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Moods are emotions, and emotions are feeling states affecting mind and body, thought and behavior, and yet distinct from those things. They are a fundamental part of human nature, much older in evolutionary terms than your ability to think. Before thought existed as such, emotions evolved as the most primary way for animals to make decisions about events in the world. The word "emotion" contains the root "motion". This is because emotions are motivating; they exist to push or lure us to move towards things we feel good about, and to want to avoid or escape from things we feel badly about. Emotions motivate us to behave in particular ways, sometimes with such intensity that thoughts and other rational considerations are pushed aside and we end up behaving in ways we know are bad for us.

People are capable of having all sorts of moods and emotions. The basic complement of emotions people are capable of includes anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise, according to researcher Paul Ekman, but other emotions, including anxiety, shame and guilt, become available as we mature and become a part of families and society.

Few people view positively toned emotions like joy as a problem. Instead, it is the negatively toned emotions and moods such as anger, anxiety, fear, and depression/sadness which people seek to change. The more chronically people experience these states, the more urgently they generally wish to be rid of them.

A variety of techniques are useful to know about for managing moods. We've already covered a very large and important technique, Cognitive Restructuring, in our discussion above concerning how thought habits may be changed. Cognitive restructuring is a method for changing thoughts. Because thoughts heavily influence and determine moods and emotion, changing the way that you think about things (the way you appraise and make sense of events) changes your moods. When you stop thinking in ways that make you sad, you end up feeling sad less often, in essence.

Cognitive restructuring is a method for fundamentally undermining and altering the causes of your chronic negative moods and emotions. Practiced regularly and accurately, it enables people to experience their problem moods less frequently, and less intensely. The method is best suited for preventing negative moods from occurring in the first place, or preventing negative moods from getting worse, however. In order for it to work, you need to be capable of thinking logically and rationally. It is very difficult to do that when you are emotional. You must turn to other techniques for calming yourself down when you are feeling upset.


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