Applying curiosity to a ‘bad’ mood – whether it’s teenage-like sulking, ugly, loud crying or the kind of red-faced rage that only a loved one can inspire – is something that seems to work, time and time again. Often, by the time thoughts, emotions and feelings have become a mood, we’re so lost within the emotions; so invested in our own inner-monologue, that we just can’t see a way out. This isn’t helpful. It isn’t accurate. But more than anything, it just doesn’t feel very good.
When you notice that your internal weather has become more than a little cloudy, ask yourself these questions to gain a little distance and perspective:
- What am I doing to maintain this ill feeling?
- What can I do to change how I feel?
If you’re tempted to reply that you’re not doing anything to maintain the feeling, then you’re kidding yourself. Yes – you may be feeling blue or angry following the actions of another person, but it’s entirely within your control whether you choose to create and maintain discomfort within yourself as a result.
- What thoughts are going through your head and how invested in them are you? Are you watching from a distance, as if the thoughts are clouds in a sky, or is your seat right in the middle of a storm cloud? Might it be beneficial to take a step back, spending a few moments listening to your breath along the way?
- What pictures are you watching in your head? What movies? Are these helpful or even true? What kind of emotional sensations are you experiencing as you watch these movies? Could you make the picture black and white, or smaller? Could you watch something else?
- When your inner voice speaks and tells you that you’re right to feel this way, that you should be outraged, what does the voice sound like? What’s the tone like and the volume? Where do you hear it from? Could you change the volume, tone and even position of this voice, so that it’s easier to ignore?
- What’s your body language like? Head down and shoulders slumped? Couldn’t you just lift your head up and put your shoulders back, noticing if this might make you feel happier?
- Lastly, consider the situation that you’re facing and ask yourself if there’s anything at all you can actually do, to semi-resolve the problem; anything that is within the realms of your control? Like apologising. Or turning your phone over. Or asking a question. Or practising/preparing something. Or letting someone win a trivial argument.
When negativity overwhelms us, it really can feel like we’re in sinking sand, thrashing about in panic and sinking deeper. But with a deep breath and a curious mindset, you’ll find that slowly but surely, you can calmly step out to dry land at any time.