Always in a bad mood

Angry All the Time for No Reason? This Might Be Why

Maybe you feel angry regularly. You’re irritable, short-tempered and grouchy. Maybe you snap (or want to snap) at everyone around you — because your anger feels like a tsunami. It’s bound to crash into something. Yet you don’t know why you feel this way. You have no clue why you’re so on edge.

Where does this unexplained anger come from? What does it mean?

There may be many different causes. One explanation is that you have weak boundaries. You say yes when you really want to say no. You do things for others that you don’t feel comfortable doing. You’re constantly drained and depleted.

But you might not make the connection, said Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D, LCSW, owner of Wasatch Family Therapy and author of The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships. “ may just think that people take advantage of and not realize that have a part in that dynamic.”

Or maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep or you’re drowning in to-do lists. Which makes it “more difficult to access emotional coping skills,” Hanks said.

Maybe it’s depression. “There seems to be a misunderstanding that depression is crying all of the time and not getting out of bed.” However, increased irritability is a common symptom, Hanks said.

Maybe it’s anxiety. “Individuals with high anxiety often feel on the verge of overwhelm because they have to work so hard to manage their own internal emotional state.” So when a challenging situation arises, you might be maxed out, which manifests as anger or a short fuse, she said.

Psychotherapist Rebecca Wong, LCSW, sees many individuals and couples who are angry because of relational issues. That is, they’re angry with their spouse, kids, parents, friends or coworkers. For instance, maybe they’re angry because they feel invisible or like they don’t matter, said Wong, founder of connectfulness counseling.

Maybe you expected your best friend to support you, but they didn’t. Maybe you expected your spouse to help out more around the house. “That’s where, if those buttons are pushed enough, often enough, you could flip into a state of anger without even knowing why.”

Anger also “stems from wanting to control what is outside of us,” said Michelle Farris, LMFT, a psychotherapist in San Jose, Calif., who loves helping people learn how to manage anger and build healthy relationships. Years ago, Farris worked with a young woman who realized that focusing on what others did triggered her frustration.

Sometimes, you might not feel angry at all. Rather, your actions might be passive-aggressive, and you might feel resentful. Many of Hanks’s clients who have “anger issues” actually don’t let themselves express their anger.

For instance, Hanks worked with Cindy (not her real name), a woman in her 30s who seemed cheerful and positive—and exhausted. Cindy was an excellent caretaker and had great empathy for everyone (but herself). She has two kids with disabilities. Her husband rarely helped. He either disconnected from the kids or exploded at them. Cindy worked very hard to keep everyone happy.

Once she connected to her thoughts and feelings, she realized that she felt angry about doing most of the parenting and letting her husband off the hook for not interacting with their kids. She also realized that beneath her anger was loneliness. She didn’t feel supported.

Maybe like Cindy, you’re also not in tune with your feelings. “Most of us didn’t learn how to navigate our emotions,” said Farris, also author of the e-book The 4 Essential Steps To Building Your Confidence (which you can download here for free).

“Instead, society encourages us to avoid conflict, be nice and say yes when we mean no.” We struggle with anger the most because it’s still seen as a taboo emotion, she said.

We fear that by expressing our anger, we’ll hurt someone’s feelings, possibly lose control or risk ruining the relationship, Farris said. However, she believes that when we navigate anger effectively, it’s actually a gift. “It teaches us when something is wrong, or when to take appropriate action—or do nothing at all.”

For instance, Cindy applied her anger to making specific requests to her husband, so she’d have more support and feel less alone. Farris’s client redirected her energy to herself, and learned to manage her own thoughts. “She learned to express her feelings without blame and take a break before exploding.”

Farris shared these suggestions for effectively managing your anger:

  • Become aware of your early warning signs of anger. (Which may be different for everyone.)
  • Express your emotions without blaming the other person.
  • Plan ahead to handle difficult situations.
  • Take deep breaths to stay in the moment.
  • Notice negative thoughts that trigger your irritation.
  • Ask for help if you’re struggling.
  • Take a break when a situation starts to escalate. Let the person know that you’d like to continue the conversation once you (or both of you) have cooled off.

“Anger is often a secondary emotion,” Hanks said. Beneath the frustration and irritability is usually a vulnerable emotion, such as loneliness (as in Cindy’s case), sadness or fear. And it’s usually harder to access and express, she said. With her clients Hanks uses the metaphor that emotions are an ocean. She asks them to draw the surface of the ocean, and write or draw what they’re feeling. Then she asks them to brainstorm the emotions that might be swimming below the surface.

Remember that angry feelings are not the same as violent behavior, Hanks said. We tend to use the terms interchangeably, which has created the misconception that anger is “bad.”

Again, anger is a valuable and vital emotion. “Acknowledging feelings of anger and using this awareness to understand the underlying vulnerable emotions is key to emotional health.”

Angry All the Time for No Reason? This Might Be Why

Mental Health

Author: Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division

Moods are our emotions. They affect us every day. Sometimes we’re sad, other times we’re happy. We might even be sad and happy in the same day. But sometimes people’s mood can get “stuck” on sad. Or the moods might change a lot or become extreme. When this happens, it affects our lives. And it might be caused by a group of mental illnesses called mood disorders.

What is it?

Mood disorders are a group of mental illnesses that affect how you feel and think about yourself, other people and life in general. There are a few different types of mood disorders: depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder.

Depression leaves you feeling sad or depressed. Some people experience depression as feeling “numb” or having no feelings. Depression can also make you feel irritable, hopeless and guilty. Many people living with depression lose interest in things they used to enjoy or and they often isolate themselves from family and friends. But depression can affect more than your mood: you might have a hard time concentrating or remembering. You might sleep or eat less than usual or more than usual. You might also feel tired all the time.

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s affected by the seasons. It usually affects people in the winter months, when there’s less daylight.

  • Postpartum depression is a type of depression that affects a mother after they give birth. Postpartum depression is likely brought on by different biological changes as well as the social and emotional changes in parents’ lives.

Dysthymic disorder (also called dysthymia) is similar to depression. With dysthymic disorder, your symptoms of depression are milder but last for a longer period of time.

Bipolar disorder is made up of three different parts: depression, mania and normal feelings. The depression in bipolar disorder is like depression in any mood disorder. Mania is what makes bipolar disorder different. Some people experience this as feeling very happy, but others feel very irritable or angry during an episode of mania. Common symptoms of mania include feeling very powerful, not needing much sleep and having racing thoughts. During an episode of mania, many people also do things they wouldn’t normally do, like go on expensive shopping sprees they can’t afford, have risky sex or use alcohol and other substances more than usual. Bipolar disorder can look different in each person depending on how long the mania and depression episodes last, how severe they are, how quickly a person’s mood changes and how long a person has normal mood in between.

Mood disorders and psychosis

Some people experience psychosis during an episode of severe depression or mania. There are two parts to psychosis: delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are strong beliefs that aren’t true, such as the belief that you have special powers. Hallucinations are things you sense that aren’t real.


Who does it affect?

Mood disorders are among the most common mental illnesses. In fact, about one in seven Canadian will experience a mood disorder at some point in their life. They’re more likely to affect the following groups of people:

  • Women: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, dysthymic disorder and SAD. But bipolar disorder seems to affect men and women equally

  • Young people: While mood disorders can affect you at any time in your life, many people start to experience symptoms in their teens and twenties. About 3.5% of children and 3% to 7% of teens are diagnosed with depression. Many people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder between the ages of 15 and 19.

  • Family members: Having a close relative who has a mood disorder increases your risk of having one

  • People who experience substance use problems: Some substances can cause a mood disorder, trigger an episode of mania or depression or make a mood disorder worse,

  • People living with other health and mental health problems: People with long-term health problems like cancer, AIDS, heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to experience depression. People living with an anxiety disorder or eating disorder are also more likely to experience depression


What can I do about it?

Mood disorders are very treatable. With the right treatment, about 80% of people no longer feel any symptoms at all. Some common treatments, used on their own or in combination, are:

Counselling: The most common forms of counselling for people living with a mood disorder are cognitive-behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT is the most common therapy treatment for mood disorders. CBT helps you understand the relationship between your mood, thoughts and behaviours. It also teaches skills like problem-solving that may help prevent symptoms from coming back in the future.

  • When you’re depressed, your relationships with others often suffer. Interpersonal therapy can teach you skills to improve how you interact with other people.

Medication: Depression is usually treated with a group of medications called antidepressants and bipolar disorder is usually treated with a group of medication called mood stabilizers. You may also be prescribed other medications for psychosis or anxiety.

Electroconvulsive therapy: Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT may help people who experience severe depression or bipolar disorder, particularly when treatments like counselling and medication haven’t helped. Treatment is done in the hospital, and it involves passing an electrical current through the brain for a few seconds while you’re under general anaesthesia. Modern ECT is very safe, fast-acting and effective.

Light therapy: People who experience SAD may find light therapy helpful. Light therapy uses a special kind of light that’s much brighter than indoor lighting. But this may not be a good option for everyone, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before you start light therapy.

Self-management: There are some things you can do on your own to help keep you feeling better. Regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping a consistent sleep schedule, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, spirituality and monitoring your use of alcohol and other substances can help manage mood problems.


Where do I go from here?

In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information on mood disorders:

Mood Disorders Association of BC
Visit or call 604-873-0103 (in the Lower Mainland) or 1-855-282-7979 (in the rest of BC) for resources and information on mood disorders. You’ll also find more information on support groups around the province.

BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit for info sheets and personal stories about (illness). You’ll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems.

Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division
Visit or call 1-800-555-8222 (toll-free in BC) or 604-688-3234 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources on mental health or any mental illness.

If you are in distress or are worried about someone in distress who may hurt themselves, call 1-800-SUICIDE 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. That’s 1-800-784-2433.

Resources available in many languages:
*For the service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.

HealthLink BC
Call 811 or visit to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.

Crisis lines aren’t only for people in crisis. You can call for information on local services or if you just need someone to talk to. If you are in distress, call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number) 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. The crisis lines linked in through 310-6789 have received advanced training in mental health issues and services by members of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.

About the author

The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit

© 2013 | Back to Top | PDF | More info sheets

10 Ways to Escape a Bad Mood Fast

Source: luxorphoto/

We all get into bad moods—and, eventually, we snap out of them. The main reason we have trouble extracting ourselves more quickly is because we can’t shake a bad mood if we’re not aware of what’s causing it.

The next time you get into a funk, don’t just wait for the dark cloud to lift. There are steps you can take to improve your mood, and the first is to figure out what’s causing it.

Here are 10 common causes of bad moods—and what you can do to banish them.

1. Guilt. Feeling even mildly guilty can have a huge impact on our mood. Forgetting someone’s birthday can make you feel bad even if you apologize (but certainly if you don’t). The best way to resolve guilty feelings is to atone for your actions. If you still feel bad about the missed birthday, take a few minutes to send a cute and funny apology card, e-card, or small gift. They will appreciate the gesture and you will feel better as soon as you click send. (See The Five Ingredients of an Effective Apology.)

2. Small rejections. Rejections are an extremely common emotional injury, especially in the age of social media. (See Why Rejections on Social Media Can Really Hurt.) When you post your vacation pictures on Facebook or Instagram and no one “Likes” them, it can sting. However, since you don’t know the circumstances, it’s important not to take things personally. People often check social media on the fly; while waiting for the elevator (or the doctor), stuck at a traffic light (or in a meeting), or while sitting on a bus (or on the can). If someone close hasn’t responded, you can assume they were too busy to do so, and send them a text or message asking them to take a look at your pics if you’re eager to share (or get the response you want).

3. Outstanding tasks. Our mental to-do lists can sit in the back of our mind, nag at us, and bring down our mood. But you don’t have to complete every outstanding task to improve your mood. Studies have found that just making a plan for tackling tasks is sufficient to eliminate the mental nagging and improve your mood. So decide when you’ll do the task, set a reminder on your phone or put up a post-it, and watch your mood lighten.

4. Brooding. Many of us can get stuck replaying upsetting scenes that occurred days, weeks, or even months ago. (See The Seven Hidden Dangers of Brooding.) When an upsetting short film keeps playing in the back of your mind, use distraction techniques to reduce the intensity and frequency. Studies show that even a two-minute distraction (such as doing a crossword or playing Candy Crush or Sudoku) is sufficient to disrupt the distressing thought and restore your mood.

5. Having a low self-esteem day. Like the proverbial bad hair day, sometimes we just wake up feeling bad about ourselves, for no apparent reason. Our self-esteem tends to fluctuate but it is also important to prop it up when it is low. Therefore, when your self-esteem is in a slump, do something to make you feel good about yourself. Work out and release some endorphins; wear something you feel good in; plan something you’ll look forward to doing; or call someone who truly appreciates you and makes you feel good about who you are.

6. Fearing failure. We can worry about an upcoming marathon, a presentation at work, or an important exam for days or even weeks beforehand. To get out of that fixation, focus on things that are within your control: Beefing up your road work, creating support among colleagues by being supportive and encouraging of their work (which will make them more likely to be supportive of yours), or making a detailed study schedule can help reduce fear of failure and the lousy moods that go with it.

7. Feeling disconnected. We can get so caught up in life we neglect our emotional and social needs and begin to feel disconnected from the people around us. To move past this feeling, give a loved one a call or take a break and play with your pet. Studies have also found that even brief social interactions with acquaintances can improve mood. (See Why We Need All the Acquaintances We Can Get.)

8. Getting caught up in small annoyances. As we go about our busy lives, small annoyances—incorrect charges on a phone bill, cable service on the fritz, the car stalling—can become exaggerated and ruin our mood. To restore it, get perspective and remind yourself of the big picture. Use the one year question: Is this something you will remember in a year? If not, it’s not worth getting annoyed about. To balance your mood further, do a quick gratitude exercise: Make a list of 5 things you’re grateful for that really matter—your kids are healthy, you have a good job, you have friends who care, etc.

9. Hunger. This one is pretty obvious but it’s amazing how often we forget to consider it. Being hungry impacts our mood far more than we tend to realize. If it’s been a while since you last ate…have a snack.

10. Exhaustion. This also falls in the obvious-but-often-neglected category. Children aren’t the only ones who get cranky when they’re tired. When we don’t get enough sleep it significantly impacts our thinking, creativity, and especially our general mood. If you can, take a 15-minute power nap. Even a brief nap can be sufficient to recharge your batteries and bump you out of the doldrums.

Check out my website and follow me on Twitter @GuyWinch

Copyright 2014 Guy Winch


Over the past six years or so I have suffered from complete tiredness.

I can sleep all night but still be tired in the daytime – except when I am away on vacation where the sun is shining.

I have bad mood swings, mainly around the people who mean the most to me – my husband and my son.

Sometimes I feel dizzy which I put down to my blood pressure being quite low (around 72/94).

My memory is very poor, meaning I always have to write things down.

Our sex life is almost nil, due to me never really wanting it.

Sometimes I feel so down that all I want to do is cry. What is wrong with me?

I do not take medication because I prefer to take natural alternatives if possible.

Please can you give me some help?


I do not think there is any doubt you are suffering from a clinical depression here and probably have been for a long time.

All the symptoms you describe fit with this, including feeling better when you are in sunshine.

The dizziness is probably due to your low blood pressure, but everything else fits.

I certainly think you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor as treatment will help you, but if you initially want to try an alternative treatment then St John’s wort would be the preferred choice here.

This usually has few side effects and is effective in mild depression, but I have to say it may be too mild in your case and more conventional antidepressant medicine may need to be considered here.

The first step is to see your doctor – they would want to know how you are feeling and will listen to you carefully.

Take your husband along with you if this will help.

Yours sincerely

The NetDoctor Medical Team

Last updated 11.02.2015

How To Snap Yourself Out Of A Bad Mood

Sarah Kay, a Phoenix-based CPA, says knows her worst moods are most often triggered by stress, or feelings of being overwhelmed, especially at work–and especially as she prepares for tax season. First her neck starts to ache and then her mouth gets a metallic taste. The next thing she knows, it hits her: a full-blown bad mood.

A bad mood can be a tricky condition to treat, says Simon Rego, PsyD., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center. “Like pain, it’s very subjective since there’s no accurate or agreed upon scale to define it.”

For some people, a bad mood takes the form of depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, panic or anger, he says, and all are perfectly normal. And because everyone’s definition of a “bad mood” is different, it can be particularly tricky to dole out advice on combating it.

Gallery: 12 Fool-Proof Ways To Shake A Bad Mood

Should you attack the root cause of the bad mood head on? Distract yourself? Take the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach to bouncing back?

Rego says that because a bad mood rarely has a single cause, there is no single treatment. But as a cognitive behavioral therapist, his best advice is to forget about the cause and focus on the mood itself.

“A bad mood is like a snowball careening downhill,” says Rego. “You can pinpoint what pushed it off the mountain, but it’s what’s keeping it rolling that really matters.”

No matter the cause–stress from an aging parent, romantic loneliness, a terrible, horrible boss—there are three modes of attack: distract, diffuse or deal with it.


A 2010 study by psychologists at Harvard University tracked subjects’ happiness levels during different activities. One key finding was surprising: bad moods were most likely to strike when the subject’s mind was wandering. “We hypothesize that it is a cause ,” said Matthew Killingsworth, the lead author of the study. The moments of highest happiness were when the subjects were most focused on the task at hand.

With that in mind, when the beginnings of a dark, depressive mood take hold, stop brooding. Snap out of it and focus your attention elsewhere. Erika Oliver, author of Three Good Things: Happiness Every Day, says “snapping out of it” can be as easy as changing your physical space. “Sit on the floor,” she says. “When we change our physical position, we can snap our mental position to a new location.”

Other expert suggestions for distraction include dancing, shopping or calling a close friend.

Gallery: 12 Fool-Proof Ways To Shake A Bad Mood


Rego’s camp of cognitive behavioral therapists focuses more on diffusion than distraction. Their goal is to help people deal with their emotions rather than to put them off. To that end, he suggests finding finding ways to talk yourself down from the bad mood ledge. For example, he says, “If the thing that’s getting you down is a problem that you can solve, then solveable problems shouldn’t put you in a bad mood anymore.”

You=master of your own mood universe.

But a lot of life’s problems are unavoidable and unsolvable. That’s when it’s time to “suck it up,” says Rego. So while you may not be able to solve the cause of the funk, you can correct your behavior in the mean time.

“Don’t wait for your mood to improve,” he advises. “Start acting opposite. People’s moods often drive their behavior, so if in a bad mood, people will be predisposed to engage in negative behaviors, such as isolating themselves, listening to sad music or looking for signs that life is unfair.”

The result is often a much darker, depressive mood. Instead, Rego says the task is to do, read, watch or listen to things that generate an opposite emotion. Tell a joke. Shake someone’s hand. Go out into the world and be social.

Rego says that data suggests a two-way street between physiology and mood. We smile when we’re happy, but the act of smiling has likewise been shown to improve happiness. Other diffusion methods include aromatherapy, light therapy and the half-smile approach.

Gallery: 12 Fool-Proof Ways To Shake A Bad Mood

Deal With It

First, get to the root of your doldrums by asking yourself what is really bothering me? Think about what might have happened earlier in the day, week or month that could have triggered your irritable or depressed feelings. Keep thinking back in time until you hit an incident that really resonates with you—and can be connected with the way that you are feeling. Pinpointing the cause is the first step in solving the problem, says author Larina Kase.

In her book, Anxious 9 to 5: How to Beat Worry, Stop Second Guessing Yourself, and Work with Confidence, Kase says that acknowledging the root of your anger can help to alleviate your bad mood. We all know it’s easier to blame your boss’s bad attitude than your own role in the bad relationship with him or her.

Is there a nagging problem—growing credit card bill, resentment towards a family member that’s been building since Christmas—that you’ve been loathe to address? There’s no time like the present.

“Write it down,” says Linda Haneborg, an Oklahoma-based marketing professional who’s had her own share of bad moods. Her sound advice: “Make a list of good versus bad of everything that is going on in your life. No doubt the good will outweigh the bad. Seeing things on paper can have a magical influence.”

“Remember when you feel yourself doing in the direction of a foul mood, ” says Rego, “that as quickly as you can be sucked into that negative vortex, with the right decisions you can just as quickly spin yourself right back out.”

Gallery: 12 Fool-Proof Ways To Shake A Bad Mood

Readers: What’s your method of choice in kicking a bad mood—distraction, diffusion or dealing?

Get Out of a Bad Mood: 3 Science-Based Strategies That Really Work

None By Derrick Carpenter, MAPP

We’ve all been there. You’ve got a laundry list of tasks to finish for the afternoon or you’re starting to get ready for an evening out with friends, but you just can’t shake your bad mood enough to get yourself moving. You’re in a funk. And the more you sit around being unproductive, the worse you feel. It’s a vicious cycle. What you need is a quick fix to lift your mood so you can feel like yourself again.

But before we talk about how to feel better, let’s hit the pause button for a moment. When you catch yourself feeling moody, a helpful initial step is to take a moment to reflect on what’s causing you to feel what you’re feeling. Our emotions are often an outward sign of what’s going on for us internally, and sometimes, the internal stuff justifies the bad mood. If you catch yourself feeling irritated today, maybe it’s because your sister recently offered some unwanted critical feedback. Or you’re feeling guilty for bailing on a friend the other day. Whatever it is that’s going on for you, recognize what might be causing your mood and accept that these emotions may be serving a purpose. Your irritation could be a sign that your big sis is right and you know you need to make a change. And guilt can motivate us to take steps to repair relationships we feel we’ve neglected. Embrace those emotions and take the action you know you need to take.

There are other times, however, when bad moods pop up from nowhere. Maybe you waited too long to eat lunch or woke up today feeling grumpy. If you need to shake it off, here are three powerful ways to turn your bad mood around.

Focus on Someone Else

A bad mood usually forces us to become overly focused on ourselves. Shifting our attention to others can trick our minds into forgetting our own little world, as we remember everyone else has their ups and downs too. Dacher Keltner, psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Born To Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, borrows the word jen from Confucius to describe the extent to which we bring out the best in other people and avoid bringing them down. Individuals with a high jen ratio are more likely to commit an act of kindness and compassion and less likely to use a derogatory remark than someone with a low jen ratio. And research by Sonja Lyubomirsky has shown that performing altruistic acts for others reliably increases positive emotions. So help a neighbor. Offer to buy a cup of coffee to the elderly man in line behind you. Take time to really listen to a friend’s problem and help them see the way through. Building them up will lift your mood up.

Get Yourself Moving

Psychologist Robert Thayer and colleagues identified a number a strategies people use to self-regulate their moods. Physical activity and exercise, while not the most popular, proved to be the most effective. John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, argues that we evolved to move, and the health of our brains—and the moods our brains experience—rely on physical activity to stay healthy. Since it’s hard to motivate ourselves to head out for a long run when we’re in a bad mood, focus on small steps. Watch an aerobic video and commit to the first five minutes. Or put your shoes on and just walk. The effects of exercise can happen so quickly that you might decide to keep going once you’ve started. A bonus technique: move outside. Research by Richard Ryan and colleagues shows that being in nature significant increases our sense of vitality.

Think More Like An Optimist

In his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman discusses the thinking styles that differentiate optimists from pessimists. When an adverse event happens, like receiving an unexpected bill in the mail, pessimists are likely to think of it as being permanent and pervasive. In other words, they say to themselves, “I’m always going to be behind on bills and my life sucks.” Optimists, on the other hand, are more likely to describe the event as temporary and to compartmentalize it. An optimist would say, “I’ll have to cut back for the next month to pay this off, but it will be OK, and at least I’m great at what I do for a living.” If your bad mood stems from a challenge or obstacle you’re dealing with, try to focus on the control you do have to change it, and be realistic about how much of your life it affects. And if all else fails, smile. It sounds almost too easy, but research by Robert Zajonc shows that the simple act of smiling can improve your mood. For the greatest effect, give yourself a big authentic smile by finding something that genuinely makes you laugh.

Derrick Carpenter, MAPP, coaches individuals on living engaged and inspired lives, runs experiential corporate leadership programs, and trains US Army personnel on resilience. He’s researched what makes people great in psychology labs at Harvard, Yale, and UPenn, where he received his Master of Applied Positive Psychology.

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Photo by r.f.m II

Well, it happens sometimes.

I find myself in a lousy mood. Hard to say where it started, but it certainly has something to do with not getting much sleep Saturday night. I had big plans for Sunday, but the day was compromised by my zombie state. I think my IQ shrunk about thirty points from normal, for the whole day. I did everything wrong. I cooked badly, I conversed badly, I wrote badly.

My funk cruised on through today too. Work was a real slog, even though everything I needed to do was easy. I was working outside, which I normally enjoy. I wanted to go home. I wanted some Belgian chocolate. I wanted the Sun to f**k off.

Today I was going to write a more in-depth post on another topic, but when I sat down to do it, it was like pulling teeth. I know I could have churned out something, but it would have been a crusty, callous little post. I just couldn’t resonate with what I was had planned to write about, so I asked myself The Big Question: “Given my dreams and goals in life, what is honestly the smartest way to spend my next 30 minutes?” My answer came: Write about what you can resonate with right now. So I decided to put my crap mood to good use.

The Nature of the Beast

Low moods are a bizarre animal. They’re like a nasty drug that hijacks your thoughts and robs you of your intuition and perspective. They make bad things look bigger and good things look smaller. It’s as if they have their own demented gravity, drawing annoyances and inconveniences — not to mention the crappy moods of other people — out of the woodwork towards you. Foul moods don’t seem to emanate from any particular source, or line of thought, they just waft into your headspace when you’re disappointed and vulnerable. They cast a pervasive dullness on the people you meet and the places you visit, and the things you think about.

Mine is currently sucking the excitement out of certain upcoming events that normally thrill me to think about. My big travel plans, my growing new blog (which is, as I type, having its busiest traffic day ever) and my newly blossoming friendships are all lending me very little joy at this particular moment. Because my mood sucks. C’est la vie.

Thankfully I’ve learned to recognize what it means to be in a bad mood, and usually I can remember what to do about it. Above all else, a bad mood means I’ve lost perspective. I can’t see clearly, and I know it.

In a bad mood, the thinking mind sticks around (sometimes it even goes into overdrive) but wisdom seems to slink away when you’re not looking. The highest properties of the mind — intuition, compassion, patience and acceptance — slip quietly out the door like bored houseguests. Today, even when I looked for them in my head, even when I knew they were exactly what I needed to get back on track, I just couldn’t locate them.

Simply understanding this “wisdom-loss” phenomenon inherent to bad moods goes a long way. It explains why everything looks so bad. Perspective becomes impaired, but you can’t actually see that while it is happening. You just have to remember that bad moods bend things towards the negative end.

Part of the impairment is that your mind tells you your negative outlook is completely warranted. When you simply remind yourself that you are temporarily missing certain important mental qualities, you can consciously defer any bigger decisions and actions until you have your whole mind working for you again.

The most important thing I ever learned about moods is this:

Your mood does not represent the state of your life, but it pretends to.

Looking objectively at the state of my life right now, it’s spectacular. I’m young, in good health, I have friends coming out of my ears, I’ve finally got a long-needed creative outlet, I’m gearing up for an epic trip this fall, I’m generally unfettered by debt, and I even don’t mind my day job. But my bad mood doesn’t care. It doesn’t see any value in those things. I feel no swell of excitement when I think about them. I still want to lay down and put my head under a pillow.

Emotionally, it feels like my dreams have plowed into the guardrail. Bottomed out and spewing smoke. Wrecked. In the past I would have trusted this feeling, and made decisions based on it. I would have pictured an unrealistically bleak future, convinced myself it was well on its way towards me, and panicked accordingly. But now I know bad moods make for unreliable assessments. Tomorrow, all the same things will look different. This I know from experience.

The Role of Physical Interference

I have learned a lot about how to be calm and patient under normal circumstances, but I find physical interference erodes this very quickly. By physical interference I’m referring to any physical discomfort (such as an upset stomach, excessive heat or cold, or hunger pangs) or any mental impairment (such as lack of sleep or the effects of alcohol.) When your body is screaming for something, patience and acceptance are much more difficult to achieve.

Have you ever had someone trap you in a long-winded conversation when you have to pee really bad? No matter how patient a listener you are normally, you probably aren’t going to be too receptive. Physical bodily distress overrides all of your other priorities. It’s just mother nature looking out for you. No time for the luxury of a good mood when you’ve neglected your body.

For this reason, I found it very difficult to be mindful and appreciative at work today because my head was sluggish and heavy and I desperately wanted to be horizontal. Physical interference will probably undermine pretty much anything you do to recover from your mood, until you can satisfy the body’s needs.

The other day I caught the end of a segment on CBC radio where they were discussing happiness. The guest was familiar to me: blogger Gretchen Rubin, from The Happiness Project. As a parting question, the interviewer asked for the one most important tip she would give people for achieving happiness. Her answer was to get adequate sleep. If I wasn’t convinced then, I am after today. The body’s fundamental needs have to be taken care of before one can hope to be stable emotionally.

Recovering from bad moods

The first step is simply to acknowledge you are in a bad mood. Here’s a litmus test: if you can’t get excited about something you are normally excited about, you’re in a bad mood. Remind yourself that your perspective is currently limited, and that your faculties of wisdom are currently impaired or dormant. Remember that any visions you have of the future are going to look unreasonably bleak, any assessments you make are going to be distorted towards the negative. As a bonus, other people are going to seem more annoying than they really are. So take all your judgments with a grain of salt.

Attending to your body’s needs is a sensible first step to responding to a bad mood. Understand, though, the difference between what your body needs and what your mind wants. Your weary body might want sleep, while your flustered mind wants Häagen-Dazs. There is a fine line between mental wants and bodily needs, but it can be hard to see.

To determine what your body is asking for, focus your attention on the physical sensations in your body: observe what your stomach feels like, what your breathing feels like, what your head feels like. Scan the body by closing your eyes and noticing the sensations. Any needs should become apparent, and while your attention is on your body, your mind will be quiet.

A Warning

It is very tempting (and common) to treat bad moods by indulging one’s wants. The Häagen-Dazs approach is self-comfort, not self-love. Beware of this phenomenon: bad moods make you wanty. I say wanty instead of needy because often wants masquerade as genuine needs.

In my experience, bad moods usually spawn a very strong want for comfort. This can be a spectacularly intense desire — it is crucial to handle it sensibly. If we choose to respond with some sort of indulgence, addiction is a very real danger. Most of us have a favorite way of responding to this comfort-lust, and depending on how conditioned we are to it, it can be a killer.

Some people shop themselves into hopeless debt. Some drink themselves into ruined health and relationships. Some eat until they are ashamed and sick. Some throw tantrums and punch walls. Some stare into the television for four hours straight. All of us do something to respond to the desire for comfort, and most often it has some sort of cost.

Once a pattern emerges, it can become more and more insidious and even completely derail someone’s life. The shame of indulging in a comfort habit can reinforce a bad mood, and very often it becomes self-perpetuating. Lives can be taken over and destroyed by it. Watch an episode of Intervention if you don’t know what that looks like.

Think about how you normally respond to the desire for comfort. What does it cost you? What could you do instead that doesn’t have such a cost? Bad moods will come and go your whole life. Don’t let them rob you each time. There is no limit to the number of bad moods you can have, so there is no limit to the amount of money, physical health and self-respect you can lose.

Find another way to behave in those situations. Take a walk, visit a friend, pick up a book, work out, go learn something… anything but give up money or health to this bad mood. In any case, indulging the lust for comfort usually just prolongs the funk by making you feel like you need more of that indulgence to push it away again.

Ugly moods pass more quickly when you acknowledge them, let them visit you for a bit, and avoid chasing them away with indulgence. Remember some guidelines: Defer big decisions until you’re in a better headspace. Take all of your assessments — of people and of situations — with a grain of salt. Do not trust any visions you have of the future, or any assessments of your ability, worth or potential. There is just so much there you just can’t see. Beware of assigning blame. Similar to “Don’t drink and drive” is “Don’t fret and decide.” Wait until you sober up. Sleep it off.

The main rule of thumb is this: know it will be gone soon, and do as little harm as possible in the mean time.

And now I feel fine again. Look at that.

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Homo sapiens is a very moody species. Even though sadness and bad moods have always been part of the human experience, we now live in an age that ignores or devalues these feelings.

In our culture, normal human emotions like temporary sadness are often treated as disorders. Manipulative advertising, marketing, and self-help industries claim happiness should be ours for the asking. Yet bad moods remain an essential part of the normal range of moods we regularly experience.

Despite the near-universal cult of happiness and unprecedented material wealth, happiness and life satisfaction in Western societies has not improved for decades. It’s time to re-assess the role of bad moods in our lives. We should recognize they are a normal and even useful and adaptive part of being human, helping us cope with many everyday situations and challenges.

A short history of sadness

In earlier historical times, short spells of feeling sad or moody (known as mild dysphoria) have always been accepted as a normal part of everyday life. In fact, many of the greatest achievements of the human spirit deal with evoking, rehearsing, and even cultivating negative feelings.

In earlier historical times, short spells of feeling sad or moody were accepted as a normal part of everyday life.

Greek tragedies exposed and trained audiences to accept and deal with inevitable misfortune as a normal part of human life. Shakespeare’s tragedies are classics because they echo this theme, and the works of many great artists such as Beethoven and Chopin in music or Chekhov and Ibsen in literature explore the landscape of sadness, a theme long recognized as instructive and valuable.

Ancient philosophers have also believed accepting bad moods is essential to living a full life. Even hedonist philosophers like Epicurus recognized living well involves exercising wise judgement, restraint, self-control, and accepting inevitable adversity. Other philosophers like the stoics also highlighted the importance of learning to anticipate and accept misfortunes, such as loss, sorrow, or injustice.

Why do we get sad?

Psychologists who study how our feelings and behaviors have evolved over time maintain all our affective states (such as moods and emotions) have a useful role: They alert us to states of the world we need to respond to. In fact, the range of human emotions includes many more negative than positive feelings. Negative emotions such as fear, anger, shame, or disgust are helpful because they help us recognize, avoid, and overcome threatening or dangerous situations.

But what is the point of sadness, perhaps the most common negative emotion, and one most practicing psychologists deal with?

Mild, temporary bad moods may serve an important adaptive purpose by helping us to cope with everyday challenges and difficult situations.

Intense and enduring sadness, such as depression, is obviously a serious and debilitating disorder. However, mild, temporary bad moods may serve an important and useful adaptive purpose by helping us to cope with everyday challenges and difficult situations. They also act as a social signal that communicates disengagement, withdrawal from competition, and provides a protective cover. When we appear sad or in a bad mood, people often are concerned and are inclined to help. Some negative moods, such as melancholia and nostalgia (a longing for the past), may even be pleasant and seem to provide useful information to guide future plans and motivation. Sadness can also enhance empathy, compassion, connectedness, and moral and aesthetic sensibility. And sadness has long been a trigger for artistic creativity.

Recent scientific experiments document the benefits of mild bad moods, which often work as automatic, unconscious alarm signals, promoting a more attentive and detailed thinking style. In other words, bad moods help us to be more attentive and focused in difficult situations.

In contrast, positive moods (like feeling happy) typically serve as a signal indicating familiar and safe situations and result in a less detailed and attentive processing style.

The psychological benefits of sadness

There is now growing evidence that negative moods like sadness have psychological benefits.

To demonstrate this, researchers first manipulate people’s mood (by showing them happy or sad films, for example) then measure changes in performance in various cognitive and behavioral tasks.

Feeling sad or in a bad mood produces a number of benefits:

  • Better memory: In one study, a bad mood (caused by bad weather) resulted in people better remembering the details of a shop they just left. Bad mood can also improve eyewitness memories by reducing the effects of various distractions, like irrelevant, false, or misleading information.
  • More accurate judgements: A mild bad mood also reduces some biases and distortions in how people form impressions. For instance, slightly sad judges formed more accurate and reliable impressions about others because they processed details more effectively. We found that bad moods also reduced gullibility and increased skepticism when evaluating urban myths and rumors, and even improved people’s ability to more accurately detect deception. People in a mild bad mood are also less likely to rely on simplistic stereotypes.
  • Motivation: Other experiments found that when happy and sad participants were asked to perform a difficult mental task, those in a bad mood tried harder and persevered more. They spent more time on the task, attempted more questions, and produced more correct answers.
  • Better communication: The more attentive and detailed thinking style promoted by a bad mood can also improve communication. We found people in a sad mood used more effective persuasive arguments to convince others, were better at understanding ambiguous sentences, and better communicated when talking.
  • Increased fairness: Other experiments found that a mild bad mood caused people to pay greater attention to social expectations and norms, and they treated others less selfishly and more fairly.

Counteracting the cult of happiness

By extolling happiness and denying the virtues of sadness, we set an unachievable goal for ourselves. We may also be causing more disappointment—some say even depression. It is also increasingly recognized that being in a good mood, despite some advantages, is not universally desirable.

Feeling sad or in a bad mood helps us to better focus on the situation we find ourselves in, and so increases our ability to monitor and successfully respond to more demanding situations.

These findings suggest the unrelenting pursuit of happiness may often be self-defeating. A more balanced assessment of the costs and benefits of good and bad moods is long overdue.

If feelings of sadness persist, please contact your national suicide-prevention lifeline.

Being in a Bad Mood Could Actually Make You More Productive

Unhappy vibes could help power your productivity – new research has shown that for some people, being in a bad mood can help focus attention, manage time, and prioritise tasks better.

It appears to depend on what kind of person you are though. Some people have high-reactive temperaments, and their emotional responses are intense and last a long time. Others are low-reactive, which means that even if they get angry, it doesn’t last long.

In this study, low-reactive individuals weren’t helped by being in a bad mood. In fact, their productivity and efficiency dropped.

The researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada say their findings offer more insight into how emotional mood affects executive functioning, that important group of skills including memory recall, quick thinking, attention to detail and more.

“Our results show that there are some people for whom a bad mood may actually hone the kind of thinking skills that are important for everyday life,” says one of the team, psychologist Tara McAuley.

The study used data from 95 participants asked to complete nine distinct tasks and answer questions on their mood and personality type. For high-reactive individuals, a worse mood was associated with better performance.

Being in a more positive mood didn’t seem to have any impact on the cognitive performance of either high-reactive or low-reactive individuals.

Exactly why this happened is outside the scope of the study, but the researchers think high-reactive people are more accustomed to feeling negative emotions, and might be better able to deal with bad moods.

Be wary of getting yourself In A Mood on the way to work though.

“People shouldn’t interpret the results as saying it’s fine to fly off the handle or overreact, or to be grouchy,” says McAuley.

“We know that emotional reactivity differs from person to person starting at a very early age and that these individual differences have implications for mental health later in development.”

With a relatively small number of students as the sample in this study, plenty more research is going to be needed to better understand what’s going on here – more people, across more ages.

There is previous research looking at the good that can come out of a bad mood though: as long as those feelings are temporary, psychologists think they can help us better deal with everyday challenges and hard situations.

And now, for some of us at least, it appears a bad mood really can lead to a good day – as far as getting through tasks is concerned.

“We believe that this line of research is well poised to broaden our understanding of how individual differences in mood shape the effective application of executive skills, thereby shedding insight into an important yet relatively understudied area of human function,” conclude the researchers.

The research has been published in Personality and Individual Differences.

22 Ways to Get Rid of a Bad Mood

Dave CornthwaiteFollow Mar 20, 2017 · 8 min read

Waking up in a funk a little too often, or finding it hard to kick those negative vibes? Look no further…

It’s International Day of Happiness, and quite perfectly spellcheck turned this into Internal Day of Happiness, which I think sums it all up, entirely!

That said, a little nudge isn’t a bad thing so I’ve decided to create three blogs about happiness today, as my contribution to one of the best arbitrary days of celebration around.

A big thanks to the YesTribe for throwing ideas my way. TribeSourcing is better than Wikipedia. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments.

Many of these are really obvious but sometimes we can’t see things when they’re right in front of us. This blog is best saved for when you’re in need of a lift, so reach for that bookmark button.

So, without further ado, here are a few ways to get rid of a bad mood or morning funk…

Physical touch

Kisses and cuddles release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone. If you don’t have a partner, ask your bestie for a good hug. I’m lucky enough to have a girlfriend who has a Hug-o-Meter, and she reminds me that if it’s not topped up enough she gets ill. This is a brilliant thing to tell your friends if you need some squeezes! Now, I’m off to give my woman a hug.

Have a chat

Call up someone who you know will listen without judgement. If they are a friend with a sense of humour, even better. If there’s no friend around, smile and say hello to strangers on the way to work. Go on, I dare you, how many replies can you get on your commute?

Remind yourself that you’re lucky

Gratitude is a wonderful tool. Write down a few things you’re grateful for and remember that there is always someone having a harder time than you. Yep, if you have to just guilt yourself into feeling better!

Get Outside

Get that blood moving and breathe in some fresh air. The better the view, the greater you’ll feel. The outdoors is a perfect reset button and connecting with nature is scientifically proven to improve health, happiness and self-esteem, reduce frustration and approach meditative states with much less effort. Got a big decision to make? Never, ever make it in a room.

Get moving

Let your heart do what it’s good at and get that blood pumping. Exercise, especially outdoors, will put everything in perspective and make you feel alive. Go for a jog, a fast walk or a cycle. Or choose another way to travel without a motor.

Get wet!

Beyond the feel-good factor of cleaning yourself, dunking your head under water, taking a swim or having a shower will activate your mammalian reflex, which literally optimises your respiration by spreading oxygen levels around to all the best places, especially the heart and brain.


You don’t have to get all cross-legged and zen to reach a higher state of consciousness. The simple act of slowing down, focusing on one simple action (like gardening, reading a book or painting a wall) and actively switching off (your brain, as well as devices) lessens potential for distraction, stress and anxiety.

Give yourself happiness, don’t seek it

Detox from the digital. Social media is a pain in the ass if you’re predisposed to morning funks. It releases dopamine, a natural drug connected to motivation and reward. Basic gratification through likes or watching fluffy kittens making friends with elephants activates the ‘pleasure’ pathways in our brain, but your brain ain’t stoopid, and knows you can have a more healthy choice-based dopamine session — satisfying a curiosity, for example.

If you put your happiness in the hands of others, you’ll never be in control of it yourself.

Treat Yourself

Doing this in the morning isn’t necessarily the best way to activate the satisfaction that comes from earn and reward (which is why we turn to our phones when we wake up, hello Dopamine!), but in periods of rest like evenings and weekends, don’t forget to look after yourself. Mmm, chocolate.

Create your mood

Another great way of setting the tone for your day is to control your inputs. Turn off notifcations. Get your desk and surroundings in order. Make your bed. Create a playlist of delicious songs that just make you happy and sing along to them. And yes, before you say it, music is another Dopamine switch. Want even more? Sing in a group!

Go to bed calm

Banning screens from the bedroom will help you sleep better. Going to sleep happy will mean you wake up happy (even if you have a bad dream, you’ll be better placed to deal with it). Soak in the tub or have a shower before snoozes, and don’t go too hard on the sugar after the watershed (although a little chocolate is definitely not banned).

Be kind

Ok, you have to look after yourself first (cue the old put your own oxygen mask on before helping others analogy), but our lovely friend Oxytocin also comes to say hi when we demonstrate emotional warmth. A smile or small gift, listening to a friend in need or simply opening a door for someone else will trigger the good stuff. Did you know that Oxytocin also protects your heart by lowering blood pressure and reduces inflamations. Kindness is literally good for the heart (and the rest of you!).

Eat outside

Seriously, try it. Grab a sandwich (or fish and chips) and sit on a hill or by the river. Savour it. Tastes better than in the office, doesn’t it?

Remind yourself that you’re small

This isn’t advice to boys, that’s just depressing. But remember, we’re wonderfully insignificant. Look up at the stars, embrace wide open spaces, close your eyes and imagine you’re in the middle of the ocean. We’re a tiny blip in the scheme of things but we’re also lucky enough to understand just how incredible it is that we’re here. Appreciating this rather than getting caught up in the small stresses of being human puts our days in a magical perspective.


The greatest tool for self development is our imagination, and it functions best without distraction. As adults our creativity is drilled out of us unless we give it space to grow. Teach yourself an instrument, learn to draw or make a film, all the while imagining just what beauty you could create. Or visualise yourself crossing a finish line of that marathon, or a longer, larger self-set challenge. And don’t stop there, go do it!

Give yourself something to look forward to. Sometimes we can’t dump everything but having a goal or carrot to pull us through the mud is crucial at these times.

Open up the memory bank

Is it worth doing anything if we can’t recall it? Look through photos of good times (although not ones with that ex that made you distinctly not happy!) or read a journal. A reminder that life has its awesome moments will get you thinking about the next ones.

Choose positive over negative

You choose your mindset, not anyone else. Life is simple when you get past the complications, and most of the complications are in our heads. However hard it is, ask yourself ‘how do I want to feel right now’ and then give yourself the right environment to find positivity, fast.

Be a journalist

I realised when I was paddling the Mississippi that even when something crap was happening, if I embraced a journalistic attitude and realised that I felt that way for a reason then I’d feel better, because I could make sense out of the negativity.

Living with a journalistic attitude has limited my funky periods since then, because the down times are just part of a wider story. Negative thoughts, moods or actions are ultimately just lessons. Although of course, it helps if we’re conscious enough to learn from them.

Create something

Paint, draw, scribble, jot, plan an adventure, write in a journal (“Just get my ‘Shitty First Draft’ on paper, as Brene Brown says, then sit with my thoughts and allow the muddy water to settle.” — Thanks Siobhán for this!)

Use an app

There are lots of apps that if used well can encourage meditation, mindfulness and plenty of the other helpful tips in this article.

Two popular options are Headspace and Buddhify

Shiny and New

Do something new. We’re stimulated by new sights, feelings and experiences and the subliminal sensation of growth is a core factor in human satisfaction.

And finally, laugh!

Really, does anything feel better than having a giggle? Make a little YouTube playlist of your favourite comedy clips, read a funny book (Bill Bryson is my fave) or just Google those gorgeously sarcastic postcards.

Of course, you could forget all of the above and just remember to stand up straight!

Thanks Nico for sharing this!

Finally, some golden nuggets from the YesTribe:

“I ping a message in to my family to say hello and that I love them. Reminds me that I’m so incredibly fortunate and that’s like a defib style jolt on my mood and brings me back to happiness.”
– Jason

“Some mindful thinking & counting out loud things I’m thankful for that day. A look at a few photos on my wall of friends & family to remind me of all the amazing people in life, then send a message, or write a little postcard to remind one of them how important they are to me. Plus, a little 30 second dance party to some cheesy pop works wonders.”
– Amanda

“When things suck for me, I immediately look for ways I can help someone else. I put a post in my FB group asking what I can do to support someone that day, then I do everything everyone asks of me. And then I feel AWESOME.”
– Crystal

“The very cheesy song — ‘Hold on’ — Wilson Philips, had a huge effect on me — ”No one can change your life except for you”. So i think of that song when I am down…”
– Tracey

“I believe people often forget what makes them happy, so creating a list of 100 happy words is a good place to start — and often what makes us happy is much simpler than we think and right within our grasp. My own list included everything from time with my husband, to my family, to red nail polish and climbing mountains.”
– Esther

“I try and do something I have never done before. No matter how small it might be. It could be as simple as cook something new or try to run a PB (the physical achievements work particularly well to lift my mood).”
– Tee

“I watch Jeremy Kyle and that always reminds me how lucky I am!”
– Carolanne Waters

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