When you stay within the confines of a negative mind, you’re being unkind to yourself. It also impacts your co-workers. Research confirms that a dark mindset has a ripple effect. A 2013 Harvard University study proved this point. It showed that contact with a contented person boosts one’s happiness by 11 percent. The likelihood of catching a sour mood increases by 100 percent.
Pessimistic thoughts are like lead weights. They pull you down and mire you in muddy feelings. The key to breaking free is shining the light of awareness upon your mind. When you identify the source of discontent, you can take steps to resolve it. Below are common causes of bad moods and how to give them the boot.
THE THREE MENTAL THIEVES
Negative thoughts generally fall into three categories – fury, fear, and failure. Be on the lookout for these three thieves. They steal your positive energy and leave you feeling low.
The first step to releasing negative thinking is to name the associated emotion. Research by the University of California shows that naming the feeling dilutes its effect. This action frees up brain regions that work on finding solutions.
CAUSES OF SOUR MOODS
1. Workplace Annoyances
Do your office mates have habits that grate on your nerves? We each have unique personality quirks. We have different dispositions. Tolerance is needed to keep the peace. Here are three easy ways to develop an easygoing nature:
- Instead of focusing on aggravating qualities, be mindful of a co-worker’s pleasant traits.
- Put yourself in your co-worker’s shoes. This increases compassion.
- Treat others with the same respect you’d like to receive.
Idiosyncrasies are one aspect of work that requires patience. Other examples are waiting to use the copier, being put “on hold,” and computer glitches.
To prevent the inevitable from getting under your skin with your co-workers, try to smile and laugh. Have the following mood changers at the ready:
- happy photos
- fun screen savers
- comic strips
- amusing video clips
Diversions provide a breath of fresh air.
For a hilarious video clip to brighten your day, click here.
Also, use flower power to cultivate a cheery demeanor. A 2005 study by Rutgers University showed that flowers are natural mood moderators. They immediately summon happiness. Posies inspire gratitude and confer delight. They elicit positive emotions on sight. Flowers make the work environment welcoming. They create a bright and rosy atmosphere.
2. Fretting over the past
Ruminating over past events sabotages the present. Three steps can bring you back to the here and now:
- Get Grounded – This exercise is termed “Feeling With Your Feet.” Sitting or standing, place your feet firmly on the floor. Stomp each foot once. Then feel the sensation of your soles pressing into the ground.
- Breathe Deeply – “Equal Breathing” helps you press the “pause” button in your brain. Inhale for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Breathe through the nose. Repeat the sequence until your mind quiets and you feel calm.
- Take a Brisk Walk – Walking at a quick clip for 10 minutes releases tension and energizes your body.
Guilt locks up good feelings. Regret keeps you from enjoying this moment. It’s similar to fretting over the past. The difference is that fretting involves fear and guilt includes depression. Resolve guilt with these practical steps:
- Trace the guilt to the triggering event. As an example, let’s say you made a curt comment to your co-worker.
- Assess if there’s something you can do to remedy the situation. Continuing the above scenario, apologize as soon as possible.
- If damage control isn’t feasible, accept your shortcoming and move on. Vow to yourself that you won’t repeat the behavior.
- Determine how to avoid the circumstance in the future.
- Forgive yourself. Remember that no one is perfect.
- Let time soothe your emotional wound. Guilt fades with time.
There’s no doubt that getting a verbal “kick in the teeth” or “slap in the face” leaves a sting. Even a silent cold shoulder hurts. Unfortunately, these are inevitable in the workplace. If you develop a thicker skin, rejection can slide right off you. Console yourself with the following thoughts:
“I’m not going to take this personally. The person who snubbed me has emotional issues. I won’t let their problems become mine.”
“I’m worthy of respect. I have these strengths.” [Name your abilities and talents.] “I’m good at doing this.” [Remind yourself of your gifts.]
“Maybe I can improve the relationship.” Think of compliments and kudos you can offer. Turn the other cheek, if you can. You might change the tone of the relationship with a kind gesture. Try buying your co-worker’s morning bagel or lunch.
5. Looming Tasks
Feeling pressured by deadlines and demands can make you snippy. Looming duties can make you gloomy. Sidestep work stress by being more efficient. Here are some suggestions:
- Focus on one thing a time. Multitasking scatters energy and hinders productivity.
- If there’s more on your plate than you can manage, delegate. See if you can assign some tasks to others. If you’re a one-person show, speak to your supervisor about obtaining help.
- Think before communicating. Unclear communication wastes time. Before you craft a memo or email, organize your thoughts. Prior to getting on the phone, clarify your objective. This way, you can quickly get to the point.
- Create routines. It will help you work methodically. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Give everything its proper place. Hunting down lost items is frustrating and distracting. A foul mood is sure to follow. Have a home for each object.
- Time activities. Estimate how long it will take to do a task. Log your appraisal. Then try to stay within that time frame. This will help keep you on schedule.
6. Feeling Less Than Your Best
We all have days when we don’t feel good about ourselves. We may be unhappy about cheating on our diet. Perhaps we snapped at our spouse. Fluctuating self-esteem is an emotional roller coaster. To get off the ride, pat yourself on the back. Reward yourself for a job well done. Credit your co-worker, too. A 2012 Japanese study showed that receiving a compliment has the same positive effect as a cash award. The striatum of the brain is activated when both praise and money are received. This region is part of the reward pathway, a network of brain processes that spur positive responses.
For sample workplace compliments that foster teamwork and morale, go to:
7. Eating Unhealthy Food
Junk food can quickly sour your mood. Although sugar, fat, and caffeine may be initially elevating, they set you up for a subsequent crash. Healthy eats help you breeze through the day. Following are seven wholesome foods to boost your mental outlook:
- Green Tea – The amino acid L-theanine has a calming effect. It also partners with caffeine to improve focus and attention.
- Dark Chocolate – Antioxidants in cocoa lower the stress hormone cortisol. Choose chocolate with a cocoa level of 70 percent or more.
- Fruits and Vegetables – Antioxidants in produce pare down depression. Folate in beans and leafy greens makes chemical messengers that elevate mood.
- Salmon – Omega-3 fatty acids ramp up circulation, energy, and brain function.
- Nuts and Seeds – Magnesium and fiber stabilize blood sugar. Excellent sources are almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
8. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression that occurs annually during the fall and winter. Some people are prone to SAD at this time due to dwindling amounts of sunlight. If this strikes a chord with you, invest in a light box. This is a lamp that simulates outdoor light. Scientists believe it triggers a chemical change in the brain to upgrade mood. Sit before the lamp for 30 minutes each morning. Enjoy breakfast or seated activity while the full-spectrum light illumines your mind.
For guidance on how to select a light box, go to:
9. Feeling Disconnected
We can get so caught up in our work that we neglect to connect with others. It’s important to stay in tune with emotional and social needs. If you start feeling like a robot or machine, take a minute for casual conversation. Share a happy remark with a co-worker. Have a brief chat while convening at the water cooler. Exchange pleasantries while waiting to use the copier. Break up your day with ways to stay connected.
10. Fear of failure
To overcome anxiety about reaching a goal, focus on what you can control. Break down the project into simple steps. Identify any obstacles you could encounter. Then visualize yourself surmounting the challenges. Now your mind will steer you in the right direction.
If a fast-approaching event is giving you palpitations or sweaty palms, calm your fear with these thoughts:
“These jitters are not a forecast of failure. They show I care about what I’m doing. I’m going to excel. I can do this.”
Also, realize that failing is a stepping stone on the path to success. Consider the initial setbacks of celebrities who went on to achieve their dreams:
Actor Sidney Poitier was refused acceptance by the American Negro Theater due to his Bahamian accent and difficulty reading. He refined his language skills while working as a dishwasher. Six months after being rejected, he was welcomed by the Theater. Subsequently, he became the first Black man to win an Oscar.
Oprah Winfrey was fired from a Baltimore radio show for getting too emotionally involved in the stories she covered. One of the reasons for her current popularity is her ability to empathize and connect with people. The success of The Oprah Winfrey Show testifies to this.
For further inspiration to combat fear of failure, scan the list of “50 Famously Successful People Who Failed At First.”