A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

A New Way of Responding to Bad Moods


In the past few years I have learned a new and more mature way of responding to my bad moods. I suppose it’s something most people go through as they transition from being a teenager to being an adult, but I don’t hear much discussion about it, so I can’t be sure. It comes down to this: how seriously I take my moods.

I used to take every mood and feeling extremely seriously. One factor was simply being a teenager (and my teenage years lasted until I was roughly twenty-four), with a brain that was developed less in executive functioning than in emotional processing. Did I feel a prick of unsatisfaction? Then, after expressing my unexamined feelings in some vague way to the people around me, I had to go off and probe my inner thoughts and feelings to minute detail, filling my journals with pages upon pages of navel gazing, often trying to reason myself into a better frame of mind.

Another factor in this tendency was my hyper-spiritual environment: with so much detailed emphasis put on one’s relationship with God, I couldn’t help but interpret every last fleeting thought and feeling as something to be seriously evaluated in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Did my connection with God feel distant? Then I would spend extra hours in prayer—when really what I needed was a nap.

When I finally discovered that my moods were usually physical in origin, my life calmed down immensely, as you can imagine. It wasn’t an immediate switch; I had to gradually change my habits of thought. Being a person who’s always played little games in my head, I made up a thing I called “Code Songbird.” If I noticed myself heading downhill fast in my thoughts and mood, I would say to myself, “Code Songbird!” and that meant that I was supposed to stop thinking altogether and do whatever I could to relax, take care of my body, and distract my mind until I felt better (which was back to “Code Pigeon”—beebopping along, business as usual; there was also “Code Falcon” for times needing extra alertness and attention, such as moments of sleepiness while driving). That technique served as a helpful stepping stone in my transition from being a slave to my moods to working cooperatively with them. 🙂

Now, I see my moods as messages from my body telling me what it needs. Am I feeling down, cranky, frustrated, anxious, touchy, stressed, etc.? Then, rather than futilely trying to talk myself out of it, I just ask myself what I need—rest, food, medicine, exercise, sleep, solitude, relaxation, social connecting, intellectual stimulation, fun? After I figure out the answer, I take the necessary steps to care of myself. If there are any legitimate problems that had contributed to my bad mood, I can deal with them when I’m feeling better. This way is much more effective!

Don’t get me wrong—I think extended introspection and self-talk can be wonderful tools for personal growth; I still turn to my journals when I need to think through or vent about a problem in my life. But these days, happily, my journals contain less introspective thinking and more diary-style recording of events and thoughts from my days.

Ah, peace. It sure is nice to grow up!


6 comments on “A New Way of Responding to Bad Moods

  1. Godless Cranium
    July 10, 2014

    Makes sense to me.


  2. emilievardaman
    July 10, 2014

    I, too, have some bad moods. I’m not sure what causes them. I surely recognize and attempt to control them, but sometime to no avail.
    Thanks for your insight on this.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      July 11, 2014

      Thanks for commenting, Emilie. I’m sure each person is different when it comes to handling moods. For me, it’s not about trying to control my bad moods anymore; it’s about using them as cues for what I need.


  3. Rose
    July 10, 2014

    Interesting thoughts on mood and body. In my brain, the two are far more separate than they probably should be. Food for thought, many thanks!


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      July 11, 2014

      Thanks, Rose. It’s an interesting subject to ponder, at least for me it is. I like to try to understand myself and what goes on in my mind and body, as far as I’m able to anyway.


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