You might not realize it, but many things can affect your mood — for better or worse. And sometimes it’s the seemingly small things that can dim your day.
But once you can identify these sneaky triggers, you can determine how to deal with them.
Below are eight potential issues that — before you know it — can lead to a bad mood, along with what to do about them.
1. Spending time with negative people.
There’s nothing wrong with venting. But some people moan and groan about every little issue without wanting to solve their problems — and that can mess with your mood, said DeAnna Welch, MA, a psychotherapist in Denver, Colo. “Spending time with negative nellies can leave you feeling drained, or like some of their negativity has jumped off of them onto you,” she said. So limit your interactions with chronic complainers, she said.
2. Spending too much time on Facebook.
Spending too much time on a social network like Facebook can give you “a comparison hangover.”
“I first heard [this term] from Marie Forleo, which describes the crummy feelings you get after engaging in way too much envy-stoking behavior, especially without the full picture of what someone else’s life is really like,” said Ashley Eder, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado. How do you know when too much is too much? “When you find the smile from reading up on your friends’ lives has faded,” she said.
3. Ignoring or overriding your body.
“Fighting against your body can make you tired, irritable, and feeling like you want to isolate yourself from loved ones,” Eder said. But it’s tough to listen, especially when your body wants a nap or a day off from exercise, she said. And for many of us, it’s tough to identify our somatic clues in the first place.
Eder likened reading and responding to our body sensations to learning a new language. “It takes practice and persistence to gain fluency.” One way to regularly connect with your body is by doing a body scan. Without judgment, first check in with your entire body; then pay attention to each body part and consider its “sensation, temperature [and] patterns of tension or relaxation,” she said.
Identify how your body feels and how you can best respond. Doing so has important upsides. As Eder said, “When your body makes a request, you get a chance to learn about what’s going on with it, and act on its behalf. Often it turns out that taking the time to do these two things results in your body feeling satisfied, and you being more aware of what is going on in your life and how to respond to it.”
4. Trying to control others.
Trying to control others’ behavior is futile. When they inevitably don’t do what you want, you’re the one who ends up getting frustrated. The next time you feel the urge to control someone else, repeat this mantra, Welch said: “Other people are not me. Because they are not me, they are not always going to do what I think they should do.”
She suggested asking yourself: “What can I do to make this situation better?” She gave the example of a friend who’s always running late. Rather than getting irritated and telling your friend what to do, bring a book to read, so you’re not wasting time, she said. Remember that “the only person you can control is yourself,” Welch said.
5. Trying too hard to lift your mood.
Trying your hardest to feel better can actually backfire. According to Eder, “Denying that something is painful or pretending that a bad thing didn’t happen can actually create more tension around the problem and pop up in unrelated situations, like picking a fight with your partner or avoiding things that would help you feel better.”
Trying to pay attention to several pieces at once pilfers our ability to fully focus and enjoy what we’re doing, Eder said. She quoted Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who encourages people to focus on being present “instead of worrying about what just happened or what comes next. His reminder to ‘wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes’ is an invitation to be fully present in each moment as a way of settling our naturally busy minds,” she said.
7. Viewing jarring media.
Watching graphic news or videos can be upsetting. But you don’t need to watch the disturbing stuff to stay informed. As Welch said, “You don’t need to see video of Saddam Hussein’s execution to know that he died, or to see Snooki getting punched in the face to know that some men hit women.”
8. Being disorganized.
“Spending precious time looking for items and being surrounded by piles everywhere can definitely lead to stress and anxiety,” Welch said. And it can lead to other negative consequences: Not finding your keys can make you late for work – and get you a speeding ticket. Or worse, not finding an important document can get you in trouble with your boss or jeopardize a school project. (Try these ideas on cutting clutter and getting organized.)
Pinpointing the people, places and things that sink your mood is key to your emotional health. “The more you can get in tune with what you do and don’t need in your emotional life, the less you will find yourself falling into patterns that can lead to bad moods,” Welch said.