Low Mood- What it feels like
Most people experience low moods often in their daily lives. You know you’re feeling low when you wake up and your head is full of thoughts that are negative. Your mind drifts to the things that are worrying you. You find yourself making lots of judgements about any number of aspects of your life. You could be finding fault with yourself or with someone else. Thoughts about work feel heavy or you aren’t in form for the routine that lies in front of you for the day. You feel lethargic and your energy is low. It’s hard to think of positive things in your life because your mind just seems to want to focus on the negative. You are thinking about all angles of a problem that’s bothering you and you can’t make yourself focus on any solutions.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Most of us experience low moods at some point in our daily lives. Some experience it more than others but either way, no one finds it pleasant and it can feel hard sometimes to lift our mood even when we make an effort to think positively.
One common way to deal with low moods is to try to distract ourselves from them. Depending on our personality, we will have different things that we like to do to try to get ourselves out of our low mood. Which of these do you use?
- Get out of the house and go shopping
- Exercise, go for a walk, run or to the Gym
- Eat something sweet or salty
- Reach for a drink
- Have a cigarette
- Put on the television
- Go online
- Check Facebook
- Call a friend
Distraction is a very normal way to try to get out of a low mood. Sometimes it works, but often it just pushes the low mood down the road, leaving it to be faced in a few hours or a few days time.
Moving through a low mood
I find that it is more productive to actually admit to myself that my mood is low. If I want to really lift the low mood, or move through it, I’m better off facing it and coming up with productive ways of dealing with it. It’s fine to go with distraction but if it doesn’t actually lift our mood, it’s better to try something else.
1. It’s just a feeling
A low mood is just a feeling that is ‘passing through’. When you think about it like this, it removes some of the sense of being burdened by it. There’s less urgency to make it go away when you remind yourself that it’s going to move on of it’s own accord, even if you do absolutely nothing about it!
If you can offer yourself a little compassion, it will often lift more quickly. It seems that the part of the mind that is experiencing the low mood responds well to being spoken to kindly. We aren’t used to offering ourselves compassion, often preferring to berate ourselves and tell ourselves to ‘cop on and get over yourself’! If you were talking to a friend, which would you find more helpful, kindness or harshness? Self soothing is the most helpful attitude for dealing with most difficult emotions. This takes a little practice but I invite you to try it and see for yourself how helpful it is.
Try sitting and closing your eyes. Feel your feet on the ground and your hands in your lap. Focus on your breath and feel the sensation of the in breath and the out breath. Continue to breathe slowly. Now notice your thoughts. Don’t judge them, just observe them. Your low mood will float into your awareness. See if you can just let it be, without trying to fix it. Other thoughts will come and go. This is a way of using mindfulness to deal with your low mood. When you’re ready, open your eyes and slowly move your gaze around the room.
Focus on shifting your attention away from the negative thoughts and into the present moment. See if you can think of something you appreciate or are grateful for. Gratitude has been shown to have a positive effect on our mood. Do this in a relaxed way. If you still find it difficult to be positive, just let yourself off the hook. The more your argue with yourself, the more you will stay stuck in the bad mood!
Low mood, particularly if it happens regularly, can be a challenging thing to deal with. I hope you find some of the suggestions I’ve made about useful in helping you to move through your low moods.