I firmly believe that you have the power to choose how you feel. This is a new concept to most of my clients when we first discuss it in coaching sessions. “If I can choose my mood, why am I in such a bad mood?” I have heard more than once.
It’s a good question.
Sometimes it’s sparked by something as small as a rude comment or someone cutting you off on your way to work. Other times the catalysts are serious — you get news that a family member is sick or you lose your job.
Whether you have a large or small reason for being in a funk (or no reason at all), you have the power to shift your attitude. Do you really want to let external circumstances and factors dictate your mood? How you feel will affect your perception of situations, your productivity, and often it will affect the moods of others you come in contact with.
In order to choose your mood or emotion, you must have an understanding of what emotions are helpful and in what circumstances. I’ll give you some examples of situations from my own life where certain moods were / are helpful.
Situation: You’re about to step into a meeting that you don’t want to go to
Common emotions: Irritation, dread, heaviness
Helpful emotions: Curiosity, lightness
If you step into the meeting with irritation, dread, and heaviness, you likely won’t contribute anything helpful and you’ll sink deeper into your heavy mood. If you embody curiosity for your meeting, you may discover something new.
Situation: You are back-to-back with meetings and don’t even have time to eat
Common emotions: Stress, overwhelm
Helpful emotions: Calm, confidence
When you have a full schedule, it doesn’t help you accomplish more when you stress out. Maintaining a sense of calm will help you get more done and focus on priorities amid the chaos.
Situation: Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow (This is actually my current day’s scenario)
Common emotions: Worry, anxiety, dread
Helpful emotions: Optimism, enthusiasm
If I tap into the desire I have to heal and the faith I have in my surgeon, the worry seems to fade and I begin to look forward to kicking off the healing process.
Situation: Working on a task you don’t want to work on
Common emotions: Boredom, dread
Helpful emotions: Motivation, ambition
If you can cultivate motivation to finish the task, it will help you power through it. If you lean into boredom, the task may linger on longer than needed.
Situation: Getting ready for a date
Common emotions: Nervousness, anxiety
Helpful emotions: Confidence, lightness
Dating can bring up nerves and vulnerability. Embodying a sense of confidence will help you overcome the nerves, and make you more magnetic to the person you are meeting. Taking the entire situation in stride with a sense of lightness would be helpful, too. After all, it’s just a date. What do you have to lose?
Moods Are Contagious
One way to shift your emotional state is to strategically plan the people you spend time with. Researchers have found that people have a tendency to mimic emotional expressions of those they are with, and often they actually feel the emotions just by being exposed to them in social situations. It’s called “emotional contagion” (EC), and it happens in any kind of group dynamic — personally and professionally.
So if you want to feel more optimistic, spend time with a person or group of people you consider to be optimistic. If you assess that confidence would be helpful to practice, spend time with those who embody confidence. If you feel curiosity would serve you well, spend time with anyone under the age of 5.
The same theory goes for negative moods and emotions. If you find yourself being weighed down by complaining coworkers or depressed family members, consider creating some boundaries and getting some distance to keep your mood in a more positive place.
Exercise: 4 Steps to Choose Your Own Emotion
When you notice that you’re in a bad mood or that you are feeling emotions that aren’t helpful to you or your goals, follow these simple steps:
1. Pause and breathe
Stop what you are doing and take a few deep breaths. Notice the thoughts or feelings that may be entering and swirling around your mind — the good and the bad. Name them, i.e.: “Anxiety,” “Fear,” “Excitement,” “Stress.”
2. Describe your situation
Where are you and what are you doing or gearing up to do? Step out of your current emotions and stick to the facts of your current situation. Name your location, what you’re trying to accomplish, and anyone involved. What is your goal right now?
3. Decide what emotion, mood, or attitude will serve you at this moment
Which mood(s) or emotion(s) would best support you in your situation? What mental state will help you move closer to your end goal?
4. Embody that emotion
Find inspiration to help you practice feeling the emotion. Here are two ideas:
- Choose a memory or time where that emotion was present for you in life; it could be recent or long ago. Visualize this time when the emotion or mood was present for you — what did it look like, feel like, smell like? Visualize through all of your senses and see if you can reconnect with that feeling physically and emotionally.
- Think of a person (or pet) in your life that embodies that mood or emotion. Visualize them — or even better, give them a call! After all, emotions are contagious.
Like anything in life, as you practice mood selection, you’ll become more adept at becoming the master of your emotions.
Join my monthly newsletter!
If you loved this article, join the monthly newsletter — featuring tips and reflections on leadership development and stress management in the modern world. Join the 5,000+ leaders who have it delivered straight to their inbox each month.
Join the monthly newsletter!
If you’re an executive, leader, or entrepreneur, you’ll love our monthly newsletters.