Bad moods don’t just happen—they start with one tiny little trigger (someone cuts you off in line, you misplace your keys) that causes a ripple effect, making unpleasant waves in your day. In a survey of more than 4,000 people done by meQuilibrium, the first online stress management program, 73 percent of respondents said they find themselves frustrated over the littlest things. You can stop those ripples before they get out of control.
Here are four ways to stop irritation and annoyance from derailing your entire day.
Root out trouble right away. When you can identify the moment your mood takes a wrong turn, you can right yourself before you find yourself in an emotional tailspin. Let’s say you received an email and the tone seemed rude or dismissive, and it put you on the defense. Instead of letting the issue fester over the course of the day, approach that person directly—but rather than defend, aim to connect. Initiate a kinder communiqué and you’ll likely extinguish any real or imaginary tension before it has time to ruin your mood.
Get up and out. Don’t take a bad mood sitting down. It’s harder to stew if you stay on the move. Researchers at Boston University found that individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower stress levels, and for those with anxiety, exercise can reduce fears. Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, with 75 minutes of vigorous activity. But it can be a simple as getting up and out of your chair and walking regularly.
Give that snack a second thought. If you feel lousy, bingeing on a bag of chips will only make things worse. Penn State researchers found in a recent study that participants who were in a bad mood to begin with felt more negative after bingeing or eating unhealthy food. Rather than reach for a heavy dose of carbs when stress hits, reach out to a friend instead. If you must eat, make a conscious choice to eat something you’ll feel good about.
Help someone else. There’s no better way to get out of your own head and your own bad mood than to be of service to someone who needs it. Neal Krause, of the University of Michigan, followed 976 churchgoing adults over a period of three years and found that the act of giving social support reduced their anxiety over economic situations. (Read more about the science of giving.) As soon as you feel a bad mood closing in, make it a point to seek out someone in need—a colleague, a parent, a friend—and do something, anything, to make them feel loved and cared for. Not only will the act of giving lift your mood, but the gratitude and love you feel in return will put a new spin on your outlook.
Terri Trespicio is a lifestyle expert and editor at meQuilibrium, the first-ever online stress management program. She also serves as VP of Talent & Business Development for 2 Market Media. Visit her at territrespicio.com and @TerriT on Twitter. Find out more about how you can reduce your stress with meQuilibrium's 28-day challenge.