Your emergency mood kit

By Martha Beck
March 21, 2008

Think of 20 things for which you are grateful, and name them out loud


Everyone experiences mood variations — while you may feel cheerful and optimistic most of the time, you might occasionally feel grumpy, anxious, or dejected.

Such fluctuating mood states are both inevitable and, to some degree, controllable*.

One thing that won’t rescue your mood is simply putting on a happy face, trying to will yourself into constant cheerfulness. In fact, you may drive your darker feelings underground, reemerging later as temper tantrums, depression, or stress-related illness.

Changing your own mood requires methods that gently refocus your attention in ways that genuinely improve your inner life, not just slap behavioral Band-Aids over your pain or frustration. Try being fully present in every moment of experience. Look around you right now at all the things that are supporting your well-being: the chair you’re sitting in, the sunlight, the electric lines that help make your life more manageable, the clothes you’re wearing.

Once you’ve anchored yourself in the present, try one or more of the following practices to nudge your brain activity into the zone where your mood is cheerful, calm, and appreciative.

Lift your spirits with these 10 mood menders!

Visualize the inside of your head as a round room lined with many large toy chests. In each box, you store memories of different things. Imagine a shiny new empty box, and picture yourself writing the word “Favorites” on it. Now, search your memory for the most beautiful memories you possess — a celebration with friends, your daughter’s birth, falling in love. Picture each situation vividly, and then imagine yourself putting it in the “Favorites” box. Go to a new memory and repeat the process.

Spend time each day going to the box, “opening” it, recalling the times you’ve stored there, and adding new favorites.

List five things you love with each of your senses. Start by writing five endings to the sentence, “I love the smell of_” Then go on to “I love the sound of__. ” “I love the sight of__. ” “I love the feel of __. ” “I love the taste of __ ” and “I love the sight of__.” See how your mood improves as you simply list these 25 things.

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*If you experience severe or bad moods, you may have a biochemical imbalance that can and should be treated medically. Since mood disorders are both serious and very treatable, you should do whatever it takes to get good medical care.

Next Steps

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