Moods. We all have them.
- Sometimes they are positive and good, uplifting the people around us and the energy of a room.
- Sometimes they are agitated, bothering other people and intensifying how a situation feels.
- Still other times, they are heavy and low, bringing everyone and everything down with us.
That’s because our moods are contagious.
If someone is excited, it’s hard not to start to feel some of that excitement yourself. If someone is angry, it’s hard not to feel defensive and perhaps a little angry back at them. Or, maybe, it just shortens our own fuse, making us more susceptible to getting upset over things.
Our moods can bring all sorts of mayhem in our lives, especially at home.
There is a marriage researcher named John Gottman who has a brilliant track record for understanding relationships and accurately predicting their future. He found that one common source of conflict is approaching situations with a “crabby habit of mind.” That means that our state of mind, or mood, colors our experiences.
Picture this with me: You have just had a fantastic day. You are feeling great! You come home and you see that someone didn’t clean up from a snack they made and that there is clutter in the living room. How do you react?
Now picture this: You have just had a horrible day. You are feeling awful! Nothing seems to be going your way. You come home and see the same mess in the kitchen and clutter in the living room. Now, how do you react?
Even though you are in a good mood in the first scenario, it may be dampened by the mess, but you could also completely overlook it because your mood causes you to focus on the good stuff around you. But in the second scenario, my guess is that not only would those messes aggravate you, you will probably notice every other thing that is wrong in the house as well. Your bad mood gives you goggles that zero in on every negative thing.
So, you can see Mr. Gottman’s point.
Being crabby or irritable can definitely set you up for a fall. It can actually lead you to create or manifest conflict and a negative spirit.
Now, if you believe that we are slaves to our moods, riding the roller coaster with everyone around us, then you’re stuck to watch this pattern repeat over and over. But the truth is that we actually can do something about how we feel. We just have to own our feelings and take responsibility for our state of mind.
You know what triggers your bad moods and you know what puts you in a good mood.
You can feel irritability coming on. So there is often a way of avoiding the bad mood altogether by paying attention to your triggers and the early signs of a bad mood.
Unfortunately, avoidance isn’t always possible. When it’s not, you need a stronger strategy.
One, know that your thoughts contribute to how you feel. If you change your thoughts, you will change your mood. So don’t ruminate on the bad stuff and keep fueling the bad mood.
Two, recognize that your feelings, aka your mood, manifest in your body. Doing physical things can help.
- Take a walk, take a run, or work out to burn off those feelings.
- Take a bath, meditate, or sleep to relax your state of mind.
- Take deep calming breaths, spend some time alone, or spend some time talking with God.
Simple strategies can go a long way to avoiding the mayhem that our moods can create at home.
About Jennifer Miller
Jennifer Miller, MAR, MA, LPC is a Christian pastor, professional counselor, and author of No Longer Two: A Guide to How God Created Men, Women, and Marriage. For over a decade, she has been combining her expertise in psychology and theology to help individuals, couples, and families both in private practice and in ministry, as well as through her writing, speaking, and teaching.
She is the co-founder and Co-Executive Director of The Center for Living Well, a nonprofit Christ-centered wellness ministry dedicated to helping people live well and love God. She regularly leads classes, workshops, and retreats on a wide range of topics including faith and relationships. She is also a Master-level Christ-Centered Yoga Leader at the Center.
Jennifer is one of the new co-hosts on Heart and Soul with Jory Fisher. You can listen to her with Jory the second and third shows of the month.