One of the sneakiest things about bad moods is that we often don’t recognize when we’re in one. Instead, we start drawing dangerous conclusions: I’m just unlucky. Things are never going to work out for me. Everything’s wrong. These dark thoughts are powerful, and can have real consequences in our lives. If you find yourself defaulting to a bad mood over and over again (in the shower, on your commute, at work, etc.) you might want to consider doing some work to raise your mood set point.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of a mood “set point”, it’s a popular idea that’s been floating around psychology for the last 35 years. The theory arose from a study conducted on a group of lotto winners in the late 1970s, which revealed that the winners (after the initial high of winning wore off) weren’t any happier than a second group of people who had suffered spinal cord injuries. Point being, research supports the idea that we each have a set level of happiness we tend to return to over and over throughout our lives, regardless of circumstance. Say hello to your mood “set point”.
So, what factors decide where your set point falls on the happiness scale? Researchers say we have our parents to thank for our unique mood set point, which (in theory) is 100% genetic. From that perspective, a mood set point is unchangeable. It’s as absolute and predestined as your fingerprint. The good news is that even those experts who believe in the genetic set point think that it probably only accounts for about 50% of our overall mood at any given time. Which means there’s a lot you can do to change your day-to-day happiness levels, no matter what Mom and Dad were like.
Personally, I inherited my sensitivity and a large emotional range from my mother. But I believe that where I tend to hang out within that spectrum is totally up to me. I’d describe my natural demeanor as calm, relaxed, and cheerful — I tend to return to that state over and over after (sometimes extreme) emotional highs and lows. Some might say that I’m genetically lucky, but the truth is I work at maintaining the mood I want to be in. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the past decade that I’ve found to be highly effective when it comes to catching a good mood and riding that wave:
featured image by wit&delight