The Bad Mood

Despite some lingering confusion, frustration, resentment, or other negative feelings we may have about it, it seems most of us have pretty much come to accept that there is no cure for the common cold. Of course, it’s easy to wonder how the complex technology, chemistry, and advanced research that has been rapidly developing in the medical field over the years continues to be out-witted by the cough, the sneeze, and the watery eye, but nevertheless, we suppose it’s just the way it is. And so we stock up on tissues, sip our tea, take our steamy showers, pop our cough-drops, curl up into helpless balls on the couch watching movie after movie, and…. wait it out.

As pathetic as this may look and sound to those left unscathed by such misery, there is not one person who’s never experienced it before. Not one person who doesn’t know the triumph of getting out of bed after a sleepless night, making it in to the kitchen, and hurrying to get down a few sips of orange juice before coughing it all back into the glass. Not one person who hasn’t experienced the strength it takes to reach into an empty box of tissues after an unexpected sneeze-eruption only to have to then use every ounce of weak sickly energy to leap from the couch to grab the closest napkin before the next round hits. We become proud of our abilities to just minimally-function in these ways, as survival itself feels like success in the face of such unbeatable evil.

But is it the same when it comes to our emotions?

Well, if you think about it, just as there is no cure for the common cold, there is also no cure for a bad mood. A bad mood is perhaps the common cold of our mental/emotional world, often presenting with tears (AKA watery eyes), swear words (AKA coughs), or feelings of disgust/disappointment (AKA sneezes). Just like with attracting a cold, we don’t seem to have any control over how or when a bad mood will hit us, or how long it will last. We often can’t even pinpoint a cause.

Unfortunately, despite their similarities, we’re much harder on ourselves for feeling emotionally-crappy than for feeling physically-crappy. When it comes to the common cold, we’ve adopted an “if- you- can’t- beat- ‘em- join- ‘em” type attitude, which puts us in a position to work WITH our ailments rather than against them. We don’t judge ourselves harshly for contracting a cough or sore throat, yet, when it comes to the bad mood, we are often very quick to self-attack. We wonder why our lives aren’t better, we think about the ways we’ve failed, we turn against the ones we love most, and we isolate ourselves from what normally makes us happy. We don’t give ourselves permission to feel this form of “sick” because “we should know better” and because “we should be happy all the time” [live, laugh, love, right? Isn’t it that simple?].

Dwelling on the bad mood in this way only ends up making it worse. This should not be a surprise, as we do not expect that staring at/inspecting a bloody cut on our arm will end up helping to soothe our pain. Instead, we clean and bandage physical pain as quickly as possible and move on to something more pleasurable to distract ourselves with (because we have no direct control over how quickly that cut will heal). And, well, hate to say it, but despite all of the complex mental health institutes, intense therapeutic approaches, specialized psychiatric meds, and abundant psychological research, the “bandage and distract” approach to treating the bad mood remains the best anyone has come up with.

Now, this is not to be mistaken as suppressing/ignoring our feelings, but instead, it is to recognize that the most effective thing to do when feeling overtaken by the randomly-inevitable bad mood is to recognize it as a normal human discomfort that, like the common cold, will pass. The bad mood does not always signify a deeper and more serious issue, nor does it always require our close attention or solution. Once understood this way, the bad mood tends to lessen in power and some relief overcomes us as we remove the pressure to battle and resist yet another unbeatable symptom of the human condition and instead, work with it…

…and how do we do that? Well, by stocking up on tissues, sipping our tea, taking our bubble baths, reading our newest book, watching our favorite TV shows, listening to that feel-good song, visiting our best of friends… and yes, waiting it out.

Doing things that make us feel good is the best (and only) medicine for a “mood gone bad.” It is crucial that we no longer hold off on doing things that feel good UNTIL we feel better and instead, start doing things that feel good IN ORDER TO feel better! Makes much more sense, right? We truly are in control of making the whole ordeal just as simple as that.