This morning, after running through my normal routine, I felt a bad mood descend on me. In the moment, I felt powerless. Even though I had plenty of resources at my disposal that historically have made me feel better (like doing something easy and indulgent) none of those activities appealed to me. This is the inherent danger of the bad mood-- a temporary aimlessness can quickly morph into a larger feeling of emptiness and despair.
If there's one thing that always makes me feel better, it's exercise, so I went out for a jog. The kind of focus required for exercise helps clear the brainspace needed to better understand emotions (Duh). While I was out there, I was struck with the random urge to make progress on some creative projects that have been sitting on my to-do list for awhile.
But if I feel like garbage, I thought, I should pamper myself, right?
Well, over the holiday weekend, I had gone swimming, read by the pool, drank cold beers, and watched gobs of TV. In short, I had done my fair share of relaxing (and then some). It was then that I realized that the only cure to my bad mood was to buckle down and get some shit done. I was feeling listless because I hadn't been attending to my projects.
The common thought is that when you feel bad, you should pamper yourself. Generally, I am totally in agreement. Typically, the last thing you want to do is be hard on yourself and make a laundry list of all the errands you need to run. Sometimes, doing this overwhelmes you and makes you feel worse. I get it.
But sometimes, your bad mood can only be alleviated by working on something you've been putting off-- be it a creative project, or cleaning out your closet, or having That Conversation. Sometimes a bad mood is just a impatient inner sign that you need to quit ignoring the shit you need to do, and do it.
It is easy to get a short-term mood boost. And let's face it, we're all well-versed in those: watching Netflix all night long, making a stiff drink, scrolling social media. But long-term mood boosters are often more involved, and rightfully so, because it is the effort that makes the task worthwhile and makes the mood boost linger.
If you find yourself in a bad mood, reflect back on what you've been occupying your time with for the past few days. If you notice you've been spending your time doing things that are fun and relaxing, but you feel unhappy, maybe what will make you feel fulfilled and content is to push through and do something productive.
The ironic thing about this approach is that once you've faced the Hard Thing and conquered it, you can turn back towards the fun stuff. But this time, you'll be able to unfurl completely and enjoy the activity for what it is. With the Hard Thing behind you, your relaxation will actually feel fucking relaxing. Who knew?