If you’ve spent any time working on yourself and how you think and feel, you’ll know that one of the hardest things to do is to change your feelings by changing your thinking. If you’re in a shitty mood and you decide to ‘think positive’ it will rarely make a dent in it. Why?
Quite simply, it is because the power of your mental state plays a large part in determining the strength of your thoughts. If you want to change how you feel, changing your thoughts while you’re in the middle of the feeling rarely works.
So, if that doesn’t help, what does? To me, there are three key ways to start feeling good when you feel bad.
The first is physical. Do something physical that changes your physiology. This could be anything from going for a run to a cold shower to dancing to walking around the block. It could involve breathing techniques or ice cream or power naps or even a punching bag.
The second way to feel good is to interrupt the pattern and change where you are putting your attention. This is about giving yourself a completely different problem to focus on. Why a problem? Your brain tends to default to focus on problems. This is known as the ‘negativity bias’. The idea is that as a hunter/gatherer, you needed to be better at spotting the dangers lurking in your environment if you wanted to survive. So, our brains orient us toward problems and threats. If you want to change your state, change the problem you’re thinking about. Focus on something else that you’re struggling with but that you can actually do something about. By focusing on something else that you can solve, you put yourself in a far more resourceful state.
The final way to feel good when you’re feeling bad is to learn how to reappraise what is happening to you. This is not positive thinking. Instead, it is about giving a different meaning to what you’re experiencing. If you feel stressed, instead of trying to tell yourself to calm down, simply label the stress and ask yourself what positive benefits or lessons you can get from it. How can this stress be a good thing? You are finding value in the experience as opposed to fighting it or denying it.
We often feel like we can think our way out of a bad feeling but soon find ourselves caught up in it. The next time you want to change your mood, change things up physically… interrupt the pattern and focus on a different problem that you can solve and reappraise the meaning of what you’re feeling. By doing this, you’ll find yourself feeling a lot better a lot more often.