Have you ever waited until you were in the right mood?
Have you ever waited until it felt right, or until you were in the right mood before you did something? For certain things – such as doing something new, writing, sex, taking exercise, etc – I used to think I needed to be in the right mood, or if I wasn’t in the right mood I would decide, in advance, that my mood was going to affect me. Are you with me?
If I wasn’t I the right mood, whatever I was doing (or hoping to do) could feel like pulling teeth as I slogged away, waiting to be inspired, seeking the feeling – inspiration, excitement, joy, productiveness, creativity. And if I didn’t feel it, I would try to summon up the feeling, telling myself what I wanted to feel, managing the feeling I was in.
If I wasn’t in the right mood I would worry
I would worry – that I wouldn’t be creative, or I was too depressed, or that I wasn’t feeling sociable enough, that I wasn’t ‘feeling it’. In the past I’ve avoided social gatherings because I felt in a low mood. I questioned my relationship because I felt in a low mood. I’ve turned down exciting opportunities because I was in a low mood. (By low mood I don’t just mean depression I mean the whole spectrum of the more difficult feelings – anxiety, insecure thinking, depression, self-doubt etc).
Sometimes in my previous role as head of a large university department, if I was not in the right ‘confident’ mood I would internally struggle, working hard managing my feelings so I could outwardly perform well despite state of mind I was in. If I had to give a presentation and I was in a low mood I would battle with shame and insecure thinking. I still showed up (I had to) but indulging in the content of my mood meant I was only half in the room, the other half of me was battling a low state of mind wishing I was under the duvet. Consequently, the experience was exhausting and later I would get stuck in shame thinking, and this would re-confirm my thinking that not being in the right state of mind had affected my performance. But did other people notice? I don’t know but I’m not convinced it was that that noticeable!
I don’t get to control what happens in the future
I see my human experience differently now. But these innocent misunderstandings about our human experience are like habits that are hard to break. For example, I’m about to deliver a workshop next week to a new group of people and I caught myself yesterday wondering whether I’ll be in the right mood or not. I caught myself saying to myself, ‘if I’m in the right mood, it will be fine and I will perform well, if I’m not in the right mood – it won’t’. In reality, the extent to which we believe our thinking will influence how much hard work it will be, but it won’t influence the success of the workshop/presentation/meeting. I don’t get to control what happens in the future and I don’t get to control how other people experience this moment.
The way I see it now – is that our mood (or feeling) is an energetic expression of the kind of thinking we are having in that moment. That’s it! This is useful – not to tell us that we shouldn’t do something (such as whether to hide under the duvet or not), or not tell us that we are flawed, or a bit damaged – but to let us know that the quality of our thinking may be affected by our mood.
Our thinking can give rise to all sorts of powerful feelings – comfortable and uncomfortable, but there is no essential truth about ‘you’ or ‘me’ lurking in a mood. Being in a low mood purely tells us what state of mind we’re in.
In a low state of mind our thinking will be influenced by ‘low state of mind thinking’
If we notice our thinking when we are in a low state of mind, we’ll be aware our thoughts will be influenced by ‘low state of mind thinking’ – we’ll harbour ideas that we are not clever enough, good looking enough, talented enough, articulate enough – that these thoughts must be true (because we ‘thought’ it), and that perhaps this low mood is the ‘real’ me.
So when I’m in a low state of mind I find it a helpful reminder to know the following
- Your mood (or your thinking) is not ‘you’
- You mood is not telling you are broken or deficit in any way.
- Your mood is not telling you your thinking is true.
- Moods will hang around the more they are indulged.
I am not advocating that we try to change our thinking by ‘faking it until we make it’ OR thinking alternative / happy thoughts instead. Trying to change or manage our state can become exhausting. So rather than trying to change your thinking OR engaging in the content of thinking in a low mood I would suggest the following.
We don’t need to engage in the content of low mood thinking.
When I’m in a low mood I’ve found it helpful to acknowledge it compassionately, knowing it will pass. This is because I now understand that;
- Moods in all their forms are part of the human experience.
- Moods change like the weather. They pass through like clouds and storms.
- We all have insecure thinking and our moods can be an expression of this.
- We can perform well even when we are not ‘feeling it’.
Once I acknowledge what feelings are passing through me, and I stop analysing the content of my thinking, I open up the possibility for a new state of mind to appear. I know there’s no need to wait for my mood to change. Just knowing that I’ll be okay, even if I’m not in the ‘right’ mood for a workshop, a talk, writing, coaching etc is a relief. It means I don’t need to ‘do’ anything apart from show up.
The bonus? Low moods that are not indulged don’t stay around forever. When a low mood clears it makes way for a higher mood. In the feeling of a higher state of mind we feel peace of mind, feel settled and/or more connected to inspiration and creativity. When we are in this state, we are in flow it feels anything is possible.
When we are not ‘feeling it’ it’s because we are often seeking a higher flow state.
Often when we are not ‘feeling it’ it’s because we are seeking this ‘high’ flow state. The feeling of flow is compelling, like a habit we want it more of the time because we feel we are at our best in this state. It feels good. When we are in a state of flow we are engaging in less thinking about ourselves. We are showing up to the moment. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for it to happen to us. I have noticed that I might have low mood thinking before a forthcoming event but when I’m in it, connecting with others, I move quickly into the moment, into flow showing up to the present moment.
Even if my mind is ‘low’ being available for connection to others helps me to get over myself in that moment. We create the possibility for flow when we show up. What I know now, is that flow available to me when I need it to be and if I’m open to this.
Flow is available to you right now whether you are in a high mood, a meh mood, an even mood, a low mood. The energy of flow, or of being in the moment is what we do best, is there at all times. It’s our natural resilience and capacity to bounce back in the moment. Flow feels illusive when we seek it but it’s available to us if we show up to the moment, and when we forget ourselves. And when we forget ourselves we find that our mood inevitably shifts to our natural state of wellbeing.