There two parts to being in a good mood — you and the people around you.
While each of us is born with a tendency toward optimism — or pessimism — we can teach ourselves to shift our attitude into a happier range. Physical exercise, friendships, volunteer work, gratitude, sleep, and following your passions are all great mood enhancers.
Additionally, expanding your feeling vocabulary allows you to actually experience more variations of feelings. Someone who lives in the snow doesn’t use one term for snow, but benefits from knowing the distinctions between slush, hoarfrost, sleet, powder, etc.
Similarly, grasping a whole range of subtle distinctions between emotions adds richness to your emotional life. Emotions are also easier to handle when you know how and why they are caused. A greater vocabulary to describe your feelings also gives you more choice as to how you experience them, which makes them more manageable.
For example, when you reframe “panic over potential failure” into “nervous excitement over a new challenge,” you’ll feel less angst. Likewise if you determine that you are “sad for your loss but need to move on” rather than “crushed ,” you can transform devastation into determination.
The People Around You
It seems that we only have control our own mood and not the mood of those around us. So does it matter if people around us are in a bad mood?
Yes. An experiment showed that among 70 work teams in different industries, the people on each team ended up sharing their good moods or bad moods within two hours of being together.*
We can always try to influence the people around us to improve their moods, if they are open to being uplifted. But when it’s a futile battle, we should beware of having our feelings of well-being shifted for the worse by spending time with complainers, doom-and-gloomers, and other disgruntled types. Minimizing time with people who leave us dejected, frustrated, or angry in favor of people with passion, vitality, and enthusiasm makes life more gratifying and fruitful.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
*2000, Caroline Bartel at New York University and Richard Saavedra at University of Michigan.