Marian Finucane

Marian Finucane

Saturday, Sunday, 11 - 1pm

Psychologist Maureen Gaffney on moods

Managing your mood

Why? Well, nobody likes being in a bad mood. But bad mood is more than just an unpleasant feeling. Mood matters – a lot. If you learn to manage your mood better, it can make a dramatic difference to your life.
What causes a mood?

• Time of the day
• Natural sunlight
• The weather
• Hormonal changes
• Positive/negative ions
• An unpleasant/unpleasant environment
• Personality
• A specific event

Unlike emotions, which are at the front of your mind, and carry with them a very specific urge to act in a particular way (anger=fight back, fear= withdraw, like="approach" interest="explore" further etc), mood is more diffuse, more free floating, hovering at the back of your mind, with no particular urge to ‘do anything. Rather, moods are capable of affecting everything you do, affecting you in a more total way.

How long does a mood last?

On average 2 hours – quarter of working day. Practically the whole time per day you spend with the people you care about. Everything you do during that 2 hours will be affected by your mood.

How does mood affect us?

Mood affects the way we think;

• Positive mood - think & decide fast and effortlessly - higher quality of thinking.
• More confident about decisions so more likely we will follow through on. Use gut instinct & intuition more.
• Negative mood – opposite. Less judgments about people, less able to read nonverbal behaviour
• Positive mood - pay more attention to positive feedback and find it more informative. Negative mood –give more weight to negative information, harder on themselves.

Mood affects what we remember;

• Negative mood - flooded by negative memories which make you feel even worse.
• Positive mood - more mental access to positive memories
• Judge most things are working well. Have to try harder to remember any negative things.
• Eeffects of positive mood on memory are even more powerful than negative. Altering perception of what’s now going on around you.

Mood affects our ability to achieve what you have set out to do for the day – or in your life.

• Positive mood - most goals seem possible so you feel more confident and act more effectively. You want to get things done and so you engage more vigorously with what you have to do – even when all you want to do is relax, in a good mood you are more likely to organize yourself to relax more effectively.
• Find it easier to decide when you have done enough & to be more comfortable with what you have done. Better sense of what is actually required.
• Negative mood - opposite happens.
• Negative mood - want to be alone, more focused on yourself. More at risk of worry and rumination, less inclined to actively engage with the situation and solve the problem.

Mood affects our relationships with other people;

• Positive mood - better company, more cooperative, helpful, better at managing, motivating and inspiring people, more trusting, but not in silly way – more alert to information and cues about the other person that tell you whether the other person is trustworthy or not. Negative mood – more irritable, uncooperative, distrustful, demanding, needy.


Moods are highly contagious;

• Moods transfer to people around us & and can have the same far-reaching effect on them as they do on you.
• You don't even have to know somebody else for their mood to affect you. Just two mins being with a stranger
• Just listening to somebody speaking in sad/cheerful tone of voice can put you in same mood as person speaking.
• How? Mirror neurones in brain. When we see somebody in sad/angry/delighted mood same neurons start to fire in our brains as are firing in the other person. Primitive form of empathy – immediate and instinctive reading of another person’s thoughts, feelings, intentions and reactions. And it explains how we ‘pick up' others' feelings and moods so readily.
• Closer, more intimate and more important the relationship the more powerful the contagion.
• The more negative & and stressful the interaction with somebody close, the stronger the link. E.g couple having a row. At the beginning, each partner’s body is operating to its own individual rhythms. Within 15 minutes their physiological profiles (heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones) begin to resemble each other more and more - become physiologically linked, as if they were hooked up to some Mad Max machine.

Emotional contagion in groups and at work -

• Emotional contagion happens at meetings; among people working in the same department or work team; among committee/board members; sports team . Skill and discipline are important for team success, but ability of team to feel ‘as one’ is probably even more important. A wave of determination, optimism and courage sweeping contagiously through a team lights a fire that will carry them through a tough tournament. Similarly, a wave of defeatism can spread in a team like a virus.

• The more emotionally interconnected a group is, the stronger the contagion. Observed among policemen, teachers, nurses, accountants, people who work in call centres or on assembly lines. The more the group members depended on each other to get the work done and for social interaction or support; the longer they had worked together; and the stronger the moods expressed by individual members – the more contagion there was

• Mood at work counts – not just to people working there but to productivity. When people in a positive mood at work, more cooperative, generous with their time and expertise, more attentive and helpful to colleagues and to customers, less interpersonal conflict, better at creative problem-solving, less absenteeism and staff turnover. As a consequence, the people they serve get better service and are more satisfied.

• When negative mood sweeps through a group the performance of an entire department or team can be affected. For example, in a cardiac unit where the nurses’ general mood was described as depressed, there was a death rate among patients four times higher than on comparable units.

• Mood affects how you manage & lead any group – including your family7 mood of leader/most important person/person we depend on most the MOST contagious. Their mood cascades down the organization. When positive – everybody more, more optimistic about getting things done, better at absorbing and understanding information; more creative and flexible; and more effective decision-makers

Mood affects the culture of an organisation - school, a hospital, a government department, a business, a voluntary body. A positive work culture was what differentiates high- performance organisations from less successful ones. The formula is quite exact. The emotional style of the leaders accounts for between 50 to 70% of an organisations work culture (how people feel about working for a company) which in turn accounts for 20 to 30% of the organisation performance

How to manage your mood;

1. Overall principle - learn to increase the frequency of your positive moods and reduce the frequency and intensity of your negative moods.

2. Learn to savour your positive moods . When in a positive mood –resist temptation to analyse why you are in this good mood. And never ask ‘Why can’t it always be like this?’, instantly reminding you of all the reasons why it can't. Essence of savouring is to live fully in the moment and to relish it.

3. I try occasionally looking at or listening to something as if it is the first time or the last time I will ever see or hear it. When you do this, that something reveals itself to you in a wondrous way and you see and hear it like never before.

4. Sometimes negative moods are necessary and useful. If you’ve had a recent loss or set-back, it is natural and useful to feel down and it helps you to conserve your resources and take stock. But what you have to actively manage is the intensity and duration of the mood so that it does not become counter-productive and self-perpetuating.

5. Become aware of your mood so you can take its effects into account in what you are planning and doing. For example, use good mood to get things done, particularly difficult things. When you are in a negative mood, do the opposite. Try to put off difficult tasks, particularly those involving interactions with other people. Negative mood makes you more likely to misread neutral responses from the other person as negative and to overreact. Your mood is also likely to infect the other person, making the whole interaction more fraught. Good idea to have a few holding sentences ready like, ‘I’d like more time to think about this’ and then return to the issue later – hopefully in a better mood.

6. Awareness of being a in a bad mood actually decreases its effects on your behaviour. Less likely to act out your mood.

7. Count the resources you have available to you. Your mood is a readout of how resourceful or depleted you think you are and what perceived resources you can muster to get done whatever it is you need to do (inc, practical, mental, emotional social resources). Important word here is ‘perceived’ resources. We can, and regularly do, misread the resources available to us because we don’t go to the trouble to consciously count them. So developing the habit of doing a conscious, systematic counting your resources is an effective strategy to manage your mood.

8. If you are facing into a difficult situation in a negative mood, take a few minutes to make a mental or a written list of all the things you have going for you: What you know. What special knowledge or experience you have. Who can offer support to you - practical or emotional. Recall the last time you handled a situation like this really well. What about you made it a success? Think of one person who loves you and thinks highly of you Imagine them at your back as you enter that situation. Make a habit of asking ‘What is still going right in the situation?

9. Learn the habit of being grateful - ‘an interior attitude of thankfulness regardless of life circumstances’ - important word here is ‘regardless’. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well and you are in a good mood. But it is when things are going badly and you are in a negative mood that gratitude is most important. Happy people seem to have the knackof being able to appreciate over and over again the good things in their lives and as a consequence to feel that their lives are fulfilling, meaningful, and productive. When you develop a habit of gratitude, notice other’s generosity, more inclined to reciprocate


10. Use distraction. Distract yourself for 8 minutes by doing something mildly positive. Highly effective in breaking up cycle of worrying and rumination

11. Kindness exercise - do five kind things a day.

12. Make a plan- Planning a new exercise regime, organizing to meet your friends will immediately boost your mood and vitality.

13. Make a list - something very soothing about lists. Gives you a sense of control, feeling that you are back in charge of your life. Better still, tackle something on the list immediately, particularly some job that you have been putting off for a while

14. Take exercise.

15. Always remember that you can’t be driven crazy without your full cooperation . No matter how trying, stressful or difficult the situation in which we find ourselves, no matter how little real power and control we have, we always have some choice, some freedom to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. But we often hide from ourselves the actual choices we are making. That is at the core of the self-defeating behaviour that often triggers very negative moods.


16. Sometimes, you will not be able to change your negative mood. You may be trying too hard. Better to ask yourself ‘In what way, even small way, can I help myself function better while I am feeling like this?


Also, Maureen recently wrote a piece for the Sunday Times Style Magazine on how to stick to your Summer holiday resolutions and beat the back to work blues;

- Maureen wrote about how when we’re on our two weeks holidays we relax and have the head space to resolve problems or come up with new resolutions for our lives – ie: eating healthier, making more time for your other half or, having a bit more time for yourself

- However, usually the minute you get home the resolve goes out the window

- On holidays you are doing the things you want to do and not what you have to do, so you are in a reflective mode of living and full of proactive choice

- In life we are mostly in a reactive mode and responding to have we have to do

- So how do we make time and escape the cycle of all the things that take up our time?

- 1) Focus your attention – realise that you don’t have to be a slave to all the daily tasks
- 2)Trigger Happiness – think of all the positive emotions you feel when you’re away – love, joy, gratitude and contentment, interest, hope, good humour, awe and inspiration – and when on holidays begin to notice what triggers each one. In your ordinary life try to build in such triggers,ie – make time to visit an art gallery once a month
- 3) Accentuate the positive

Studies in Psychology and neuroscience show that the optimal ratio of positive to negative in life is about five to one. In other words, for every annoying or upsetting thing that happens, we need five positives to balance it. Think about an ordinary day, the car starts, the kids settle in school, you complete some tasks from the to-do list, - some bad things might happen too like a long meeting or an argument at work. The events do not hold equal value – the negative usually outweigh the positives. So you must find a way to maintain the ratio - you must build some positives into the ratio and give them the priority they deserve.

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Presenter: Marian Finucane

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