Quick Tip for Getting Out of a Bad Mood

This is a tip for when it seems like things keep going wrong.

Try thinking of 3 or 4 things that went right in the last 24 hours.

When people feel unhappy or stressed these emotions tend to lead to thinking biases – we pay extra attention to negative events and overlook positive events.

When we pay extra attention to thinking about what’s been going wrong for us, we tend to overestimate how likely it is that our future will be filled with negative events. Which in turn leads to us feeling worse. Thinking about “what’s gone right” has the opposite effect – we start to expect good things will keep happening to us.

A good and easy self experiment is to

a) try doing this next time you’re in a bad mood, or

b) try doing this at the end of each day for a week,…

…and see how it affects your thoughts and feelings.

In the long term it might be better to use this technique once a week rather than everyday to avoid getting bored with it. For example, each Wednesday try writing down 3-4 things that went right during the past week. An easy way to do this if you use email a lot is to write your list in an email and send it to yourself.

It’s also a good experiment for couples to do together (if both people are interested in doing it) – briefly tell your partner 3-4 things that went right during your day, and they tell you 3-4 things that went right in their day. Expressing positive emotions to partners tends to make us feel closer to them even when the “things that went right” aren’t relationship related. If you try this experiment with your partner, see whether doing it makes you feel closer to your partner and happier with your life.

If you like it, you might make it a weekly relationship ritual. For example, each Friday night tell each other 3-4 things that went right in the past week (to reiterate: they don’t need to be relationship related, just things that went right in any area of your life).

Written by: Christchurch psychology PhD, Dr Alice Boyes.