I wonder how often I attribute my choices to my mood? “I wasn’t in the mood to do the dishes,” for example. Or, “I’d exercise more, but I’m just not in the mood.” When I think this way, it is almost as if my mood is something outside of me, or something that comes over me without my awareness, knowledge, or permission. And then I give it the power to decide whether I’ll do the dishes or exercise.
Or maybe (MAYBE) I let my mood dictate my behaviors because I don’t want to take responsibility for my choices. Somehow it would not be as okay to claim the choice to sit on my couch and not do something.
We often feel like we are subject to the whims of our internal lives, as if our moods and emotions rule us. I don’t think we were constructed that way: I think that moods and emotions are information for us but they are not masters and we their slaves. But when we just react our way through our days without even really noticing our inner life, then it may feel like our feelings are running US.
How do we get out of that? How do we get to take charge of our own lives?
We first have to have awareness of our thoughts, our feelings, and our body sensations. We need to be able to notice our vitality affects, for example (energy level), and notice sensations of prickling, tightness, openness or lightness, whateer sensations are present. We need to be attuned to our own selves as well as to the world around us, and that means that sometimes we have to turn down the stimulation and just check inside ourselves.
Pay attention to the shift in your emotion, no matter how small. When you notice yourself getting more upset or distressed, ask yourself, “What am I telling myself right now?” or “What is making me feel upset?” It is likely a thought which has occurred to you. But how might you feel if that thought had not occurred to you?
In other words, how would you feel if you didn’t believe that thought?
Ah….maybe I’d feel just fine, thank you very much.
Conversely, the body can give us messages that we interpret to mean something. The other day, I felt fabulous…had just finished a long walk with a little running, was working a positive inner dialogue about my progress, was able to notice the trees, the air, the birds…all those things that contribute to my personal sense of well-being (your list will be different). Suddenly I found myself irritated at some minor frustration, very irritated. Wait! How did I get from feeling fabulous to feeling irritated? I checked in on my thoughts, my experiences, and by body sensations and yes, there it was…the tiniest little bit of aching in my groin from running. The endorphin flow had slowed, I could start to feel the work that my joints had done, it was painful though only slightly….and suddenly I was easily irritated. And probably underlying that body ache was some automatic thought…”Oh, this again,” or “Ugh, I hurt,” or “I don’t feel so good,” and so irritation happened.
Mood is a number of things but whether we let our moods dictate our lives is a personal choice. If I only did things when I felt like it, well, I’d have some pretty severe limits on my life! So I choose to watch my thoughts and remember that thoughts, mood, and feelings are all part of my body, and they all are fluid and shifting…so I might as well live my life and let my mood catch up with me.