How are you? Hope you’re doing just fine. Perhaps more importantly, I hope you’re feeling fine. I don’t mean to sound intrusive. I just want you to be aware, for a second, how you’re truly feeling right now.
Because if you’re feeling anything but great—or at least fine—you probably woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
But what does “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” mean?
Well, it means being in a grumpy or grouchy mood…sometimes without apparent reasons at all. In many cases, however, there are subtle reasons you may not notice and collectively they secretly push that huge mood button of yours.
The term “wake up (or get up) on the wrong side of the bed” came from the ancient Roman times in which people had the superstition that anything “left” had to do with bad luck. They believed that putting on their left shoe first, or walking into a house with their left foot first, was a bad idea. In fact, the Emperor Augustus Caesar made sure that he got up on the right side of the bed in this irrational observance.
Recently there’s a study “concluding” that the left side of the bed, ironically, is the right—proper—side to wake up on. Stats and figures came out, but I couldn’t find the real reason why the left side is the proper side. I thought it was possibly because of the heart’s relative position in our body. No, I couldn’t find the reason.
Unleashing the Grump
You know how laughter can be contagious? It turns out that grumpiness can be a real bitch, too.
Take this report by The Mirror from a poll of 2,000 adults, for example:
- 56% admit they’re not morning persons, with 7 in 10 admitting their mood leading to an argument with someone
- 47% said their partner picked them up on their bad mood
- More than 1 in 5 dealt with comments in their workplace
- More than three-quarters said a bad mood affected their work
- Almost 1 in 10 admit taking their frustrations out on people around them
- 44% are more anti-social than usual when they’re feeling tired and grumpy
- 28% have less patience with their partner or children
It’s pretty safe to say once you’re in a bad mood, everything looks worse.
Our moods also affect transfer (the application of a skill learned from a situation to another one that’s different but similar), and learning. A good mood helps us perform better on our tasks. The idealistic mantra makes sense: “Avoid the negative at all costs”—maintain a better mood if you want to accomplish awesome things in life.
I think I say this often here, but it’s worth repeating, anyway: Negative feelings stick more than the positive. Knowing this, you can be more careful—and mindful—of your daily emotions so that you avoid getting caught up. Moods can be sinister, but you can turn them around if you know their nature.
However, you might think it’s impossible to maintain your cool especially when you’re in highly stressful environments (and with toxic people).
Let’s take this research conducted with 149 call center employees. When a customer mistreated an employee, the employee ruminated about the conversation at night, which led to a worse mood the next morning. I can only imagine myself talking to ill-tempered customers every day!
So how can we wake up on the right side of the bed? Is there such a thing?
1. Sleep Is Still Underrated
I know there are people who sleep for four hours—almost every day—most probably due to life circumstances…but I still don’t get why some people claim, despite other healthier choices, that four hours is perfectly fine. I can’t do that for two days in a row…doing so only makes me act like a zombie, and I miss out on the beauty of the present.
Make sure that you’re getting enough, quality sleep. That means including the preparation, too.
- Exercise regularly.
- Nap for no more than 30 minutes, and no later than 3 P.M.
- Watch the caffeine. Don’t consume caffeine after 1 P.M., for example.
Optimize your sleeping space.
- Maintain temperature at around 18.5 C.
- Keep your hands and feet warm.
- No TV or computer in the bedroom.
- Keep your pets out of the bedroom.
- Have a calming pre-sleep ritual.
- Don’t check your phone or tablet when you’re already in bed. Aside from stimulating your brain with stuff work-related or whatnot, “light-emitting” digital devices suppress melatonin (the hormone that lulls you to sleep) and alter your circadian clock.
- The bed is for sleep (and sex). Your mind and body gets confused when you do otherwise and thus it becomes harder to sleep.
Make sure that your sleeping space allows for uninterrupted sleep, even if it’s short (if you can’t do anything about it for the moment). An on-and-off sleep can have a stronger effect on dampening a good mood than on increasing negative emotions.
But still, nothing beats the complete seven to eight hours of sound sleep.
Sleep inertia can cause a bad mood. It’s a state of heightened drowsiness right after waking up that lasts from one minute to four hours, but rarely takes more than 30 minutes unless you’re chronically sleep-deprived. Normally it takes us 15 minutes to warm up from sleep inertia.
Sleep patterns require a bit of discipline. Except maybe for the occasional party, avoid sleeping in on weekends. I’m guilty of succumbing to bedtime procrastination at times. It is nice to do something out of the routine, but there could be something else that’s actually worth our time.
When your body clock is set, you may want to take advantage of it by enjoying the perfect sleep it prepares for you.
2. Regular Exercise
Moderate and intense workouts can have the same effect on your mood as taking an antidepressant pill every day, but with better side effects.
In fact, exercise, according to this study, is rated as the best mood-regulating behavior. The best strategy to change a negative mood is a combination of relaxation, stress management, cognitive and exercise techniques.
Tired and grumpy from the day’s work? Try setting a nap schedule, and exercise after work hours! (This is what I do.) Of course you can do it first thing in the morning if you’re an early bird.
3. Distractions of the Right Kind
Worrying too much, or brooding, can trigger negative vibes. That’s why distractions—the healthy ones—can immensely help.
Encouraging distractions can be chores, a hobby, fun activities, shopping, reading or writing.
Among the less effective kinds are TV, and avoiding the object or person that caused the bad mood.
So perhaps this is how we stop worrying—by dealing with what or who caused the bad mood in the first place. It most probably pays to face, head-on, exactly what makes us feel uneasy. And that’s the point: There are healthy ways to distract ourselves from a bad mood, but ultimately the only way we can move forward is by dealing with it.
4. Thank You, Universe, For the Music
Getting a music player and a nice headset can be a great investment you can make in braving daily life.
Forty-seven percent of the respondents in this study reported that they used music to reverse a bad mood. Listening to music was the third most reported activity among a wide variety of behaviors.
In a second similar study, 41% of respondents reported that listening to music raised their alertness and energy level, following other activities such as sleeping, taking a shower, getting some fresh air, and drinking coffee. In a third study, 53% said they listened to music to reduce nervousness, tension, or anxiety, following talking to someone, and trying to calm down by thinking about a situation.
Music can be our mood’s best friend anytime.
Avoid Limit Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant. Even though you’ll feel better at that moment, it may bring your emotions back down later…at least when you’re having a bad day already. It might be better to have someone with you, you know.
Just take it easy, okay?
One thing I’ve learned about alcohol, or “drinking you’re problems away,” is that it disguises itself as a magic potion that would help you reach ultimate consciousness. In vino veritas, they say.
But of course it’s not a magic potion. When you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s actually a nice opportunity, believe it or not, to think things through. And alcohol (or having too much of it) when your heart’s as heavy as Jupiter, won’t help you have the clear and critical mind to contemplate an interesting and bad mood.
6. Beware of Things Your Mind Consumes
I “somewhat” frequent Reddit. Among the subreddits I visit the most are those of quotes. I realize I’ve been going there whenever I’m not in a good mood…or when there’s nothing else to do. It’s a great reminder that there’s good material for us to take in, aside from TV shows or gossip Mary overheard or the usual complaints we entertain because entertaining them is the “kind” thing to do.
In this information age, we can choose what to watch, read, listen to, play, or learn—for free. We can choose those that can help us become better, and consequently make us feel better.
Whenever you’re caught up in a bad mood, remember that it’s just a mood. The world is a huge place and you can always look for timeless wisdom and inspiration if you want to.
Be mindful of what catches your attention.
7. …And Then Concentrate
It may be helpful to look for a task or project that requires your focus.
Now you might think this is just about temporary distraction (as discussed above)…
But you can concentrate on a task if you know why you’re in a grumpy mood…and know you can do nothing about it. It might be best to just let it go and move on…although this is definitely easier said than done.
It’s called acceptance.
“A bad mood is like a snowball careening downhill,” says a cognitive behavioral therapist. “You can pinpoint what pushed it off the mountain, but it’s what’s keeping it rolling that really matters.”
Alternatively, you can think about how a stressful event could have gone differently—a study shows that this may help you feel better.
You have to be mindful of your energies. Unpleasant events are normal. The best way to deal with them is through a calm state of mind because this helps you gain control over your thoughts and in turn your actions.
If some hostile person tries to annoy you, try to maintain your cool and know that they are causing the fuss, it’s not your problem. You can deal with it by, say, confronting the person, and then moving on. Be done with it and remind yourself that there are far better things that need your finite concentration.
8. Fleeting Feelings for the Critical (or Philosophical) Thinker
One way to handle a bad mood is to acknowledge that feelings are fleeting. That may sound mumbo jumbo, especially in explosive moments.
But you are bigger than your emotions. You are more powerful.
Are you feeling overwhelmed right now? Because if you are, I can assure you that things can change. Even people can change. Just remember that every time you feel like you’re about to burst, you can channel those negative feelings into something positive. If you let your (fleeting) emotions rule you, you might only end up doing something you’ll regret. There are better ways to deal with emotions.
You can think of a bad mood like a bunch of flies having a picnic on your dining table. (And that’s an idea that just popped out. Gross? Bear with me.)
Now imagine that there are flies keeping you company. You can start dealing with it by two ways:
- Ask the universe why the world is unfair and that among the few dining tables flies can poop or lay their cute little eggs on, why my table?
- Or just ask, What happened? What can I do?
These are two different sets of questions.
The first set is like asking why there are problems in life (and why they’re happening to you).
The second is oriented to the future. You learn by examining what went wrong, and coming up with solutions so that hopefully they won’t happen again…and without the drama.
You answer the first couple of questions by coming up with all of your “unfortunateness.” It will most likely make your mood spiral further down. It highlights “unfortunate” reasons, which impel you to dwell on the past, killing the motivation to take action.
You answer the second set by looking for sometimes immediate (or easy) solutions you can start doing now.
Maybe there’s decaying garbage inside the house. Maybe the windows are open. Maybe the backyard needs a bit of cleaning. Maybe they’re coming from the neighbors.
Notice that the solutions to the latter questions are quite manageable.
Life is about solving problems. A bad mood indicates that there might be a problem. It’s a paradox, then. A bad mood can be good for us; we can come up with questions we may never ask when we’re otherwise in a better mood.
Instead of giving in, see it as a learning opportunity. You might even be surprised by the answers you’ll find.
Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” you can ask:
- What should have I done?
- What’s the lesson learned?
- What’s the best approach, for everybody’s good?
- This situation demands a better part of me—what is it? Patience, grit, love?
- How can I be productive now?
9. Journaling Doesn’t Appeal to Everybody But…
…you still have to write it down. I recommend writing it down.
You can do it on your phone or your laptop or even a physical notebook.
But why do we need to write stuff down anyway? The simplest answer to that is that we have unreliable brains.
Journaling allows you to:
- Record what’s in your mind (and heart) at the moment
- Crystallize what’s in your mind. Writing is imposing order on the chaos in your brain.
- Review what you’ve written one, five, ten years from now.
- Know yourself more.
At least that’s how I see journaling. To me its biggest takeaway is that it should make you a better person, and to do that, you need data—your personal “experience” or “consciousness” data. You don’t need to hold that data in your head (that’s not the best use of your head)—a journal will do the job (and so much better).
You think the same bad mood bugs you at 2 P.M. every day? Contemplate more productively—write it down!
10. Healthy Food for a Healthy Mood
First, don’t allow yourself to get hungry. Hunger sure does make you cranky.
Second, choose healthy foods! Here’s a handy list:
- Leafy greens: Spinach, chard and other dark leafy greens
- Dark Chocolate
Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid sugary junk foods; they make blood sugar rise but later crash, which can cause mood swings.
11. Deep Breathing
When in a bad mood, it would seem that we’re out of control. Emotions rule the world. It’s a bad case of proclivity towards increased chaos, which means that the next thing we’ll do will probably irk those around us.
That’s why we need to get ourselves together in a negative mood. Deep breathing can help.
Breathing helps improve a physiological condition called coherence that helps with mental clarity, focus, emotional stability, and decision making. During coherence, our nervous system works gracefully, and in turn achieves the balance we need.
12. Spark Off a Positive Feeling
Think of (your) kids when they were annoying-but-still-overall-adorable toddlers. Or your dog that knows how to human-smile. Or memes. You can even meditate and imagine the best ever nature you’ve seen during that hike. Or perhaps the reaction of the person you helped recently.
The idea is to have those nice feelings so that your body releases neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and hormones such as oxytocin. They help bring around the good mood.
A couple of powerful ways to do this is through appreciation and gratitude.
You can use the fingers of your “gratitude hand”:
- Pinky: Be grateful for the small things you may easily take for granted.
- Ring finger: Signifies your relationships. Be grateful for the people (sometimes even the evil ones) in your life.
- Middle finger: Instead of flipping someone off, give them a compliment.
- Pointer finger: Point to something around you that you’re grateful for.
- Thumb: Appreciate something nice about you—a skill, a talent, a trait, whatever! You. Are. Awesome.
Notice that it’s hard to hold on to negative thoughts while being grateful at the same time.
13. Is It the Weather?
The weather can have a little effect on our mood. There have been studies around this.
The biggest published study was in 1974. It involved 16,000 students in Basel City, Switzerland. They found that 18 percent of the boys and 29 percent of the girls responded negatively to certain weather conditions. They showed symptoms of fatigue, dysphoric moods, irritability, and headaches.
A 1984 study showed that humidity, temperature, and hours of sunshine had the greatest effect on mood. High levels of humidity lowered scores on concentration while reports of sleepiness increased.
A 2005 study showed that a pleasant weather (of a higher temperature or barometric pressure)—during the spring wherein subjects spent more time outside—was linked to higher mood, better memory, and “broadened” cognitive style.
Did you know about Weather Personality Types? A 2011 study showed that half of the 415 respondents were impacted by changes in weather, while the other half were not.
Summer lovers (17 percent) – “Happier, less fearful, and less angry on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures. More hours of precipitation was associated with less happiness and more anxiety and anger.”
Summer haters (27 percent) – “Less happy and more fearful and angry when the temperature and the percentage of sunshine were higher. With more hours of precipitation they tended to be happier and less fearful and angry.”
Rain haters (9 percent) – “Angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. By comparison, they were more happy and fearful, but less angry, on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.”
Unaffected by weather (48 percent) – Largely unimpacted by changes in the weather.
14. I Don’t Like Mondays
One researcher said there’s nothing wrong with Mondays—it’s just that Sundays are so much better than Mondays by contrast, which I think we can all agree on.
Just imagine it’s Sunday. You decide to go out and you get to see most of your closest friends. It’s a trance, but you wake up the next morning and remember that you’ll have to go to work again for ten hours every day until Friday (or Saturday). Of course you may not like Mondays!
Remember that your brain might be playing tricks with you again, as usual. Mondays are real. Work is real. It’s just part of life. And you can find beautiful things around you if you want to. (Remember your gratitude hand!)
15. The Last Straw Syndrome: It’s Not about You
Imagine coming home from work, exhausted with no more energies to muster. You’re tired, perhaps hungry, and confused about some work-related stuff you have to deal with tomorrow…and suddenly your (moody) spouse bursts because you forgot to buy your baby’s milk.
Enter the last straw syndrome: You’re not really in a bad mood; you’re simply tired out of the routine, but then someone just (loudly) reminds you, “Hey, you’re about to lose it! Let me help you with that!”
It’s not about you. Most probably the other person did wake up on the wrong side of the bed. It’s okay. You’re okay. And you know better.
Maybe you’re having some sort of a moral dilemma. Perhaps you’ve been holding off something important you’ve been meaning to do (for a week now). Maybe you made a mistake that probably hurt someone.
Kill the guilt by doing the right thing.
If you want to accomplish something that especially would give you a sense of meaning and happiness, then make time for it. Nobody can say you have to finish it all now. But you must take the tiny first steps.
If you think you hurt someone, especially if they’re important to you, then go say sorry and mean it.
Just do something. Do your best and if it’s not enough, at least you can have peace in knowing that you did your part.
One fatal mistake is thinking what could go wrong that it paralyzes you. Doing nothing strengthens guilt. I’ve realized that action overcomes a lot of those ugly feelings.
Don’t let it ruin your day. In fact, guilt can be a guidepost that says you need to do something that may set everything back on track—including your mood.
17. Stick to a Plan
Want to feel better? Discover your purpose in life, make plans that align with it, and stick to them.
Making plans is interesting. It’s an activity that gives me mixed feelings: it makes me fantasize a better future, but also helps me foresee obstacles. It makes me feel good, because even though I know there are inevitable problems along the way, planning pushes me to be realistic. It’s a bit of a mess, but it’s the better kind of mess because it’s only in my head.
You wouldn’t want to get lost throughout your life, which is the real and concluding “mess.” You need a plan.
And when you’re in a bad mood, you can refer to this life plan. Do what you’re meant to do, even in smaller and slower ways. You’ll still move closer to your goals despite dynamic emotions.
Keep going, but stick to your plan. Not only will you be productive even in rough times, but you’ll also develop emotional resilience.
18. Meet Someone
A study pointed out that trying to be alone is among the less effective ways to deal with a bad mood.
In many ways being social is great for our mental health. I’ve even written that we are genetically wired to connect, empathize, be fair, and give. We are social creatures after all.
When you’re feeling quite off, it’s safe to say you can simply do what you’re biologically supposed to do. Be the social being you already are and you’ll likely feel better.
Take note, though: Don’t vent it all on the other person. Talking to someone—about nicer things—should be enough. Your aim is to feel better, not become other people’s emotional burden.
Self-compassion comes after realizing you’re only human and mood changes are natural. Getting to experience different emotions is about being human and alive.
Remember that fighting an unpleasant mood might only make it worse.
If someone important to you is having a hard time, what would you tell them? Tell yourself that.
Nothing Wrong with It
Here’s the thing: You want to enjoy…well…pretty much the whole day—with your family, colleagues, friends, doing your life work…even with commute, the dishes, or the weather.
Getting up on the wrong side of the bed is a nudge that asks for a response, thereby compels you to act and hopefully holds a lesson for you.
When you’re in a fussy mood, it’s not that you’re the most unfortunate person in town. Something about your character might only need to be tested. You’re making progress, but you’ve gotta keep up. Maybe you just need to work on a part of yourself so that next time, it’s not much of a big deal anymore.
Have you thought about it that way?
It’s really easy to get stuck in a negative loop if you’re not being careful. That’s how strong negativity is. The next time you’re not feeling right, stop, take a deep breath, and realize there’s no right or wrong side of the bed after all.
Maybe you simply are getting better. It comes with the territory.
Speak Your Mind
How do you deal with a bad mood that catches you early in the day? Let me know about it in the comments!