I have been working with a wonderful time management/organizational (that doesn’t even cover it — she’s just frickin’ amazing, especially if you’re creative enough to be really messed up) person who has been helping me keep the many moving parts of my life from grinding me to powder.
One of the things I’ve appreciated the most is this exercise she does, where you come up with ten things that will help you shift your mood when you sense that all hell is about to break loose.
(She also has you write down “ten signs that all hell is about to break loose” — so you can recognize when you’re about to jump the tracks. I now know that when I can no longer see my kitchen counter for the mounds of dirty dishes, or when I reach for a third cup of coffee, or when I start yelling about really small things, that I’m basically on the merry road to catastrophe.)
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what little things instantly make me even a touch happier… and which ones can’t easily become abused. Chocolate can calm the beast somewhat — actually, anything sugary and indulgent can take the edge off. TV can be a balm of sorts. Video games that force me to concentrate (and thereby numb or block out anything that’s stressing me) have been helpful.
The only problem is, I don’t simply do something long enough to shift states: I tend to sink into it. One square of chocolate is fine. A whole bag of Oreos… not fine. Especially when a sugar migraine follows.
There are the zen recommendations: ten deep breaths, a tall glass of water, a walk in nature. These take a little effort and investment — they’re not sexy quick fixes.
Then, there are the sensual recommendations. This was the most surprising for me. I had fun thinking of songs that I love that make me happy. When in a bad mood, I usually went straight for “I hate you world!” music, either hip-hop or punk, with a bass line that could give you a concussion. I’m starting to see that probably fed the problem more than alleviated it. Goofy songs that made me smile (and made me want to dance) were infinitely preferable, and not as much of a stretch as doing the zen ten breath thing.
So far, I’ve got the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Skinny Sweaty Man” as a go-to. The Chemical Brothers’ “Block Rockin’ Beats” and Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” were others — especially the video for that last one. I’d always thought of Christopher Walken as a highly entertaining psychopath until I saw that video, and I swear, I fell a little in love with him. (And then I saw the cowbell sketch on SNL, and fell the rest of the way. Which reminds me, that clip will also go on my “emergency bad mood lifters.”)
As it turns out, the other secret weapon for shifting my mood came from a really unexpected sense: smell.
Everyone always says smell is the key to memory. The smell of a garage can remind you of your grandfather, fresh cut grass can remind you of summer camp. Hell, apparently the smell of baking cookies can help sell a house.
For me, the smell of tube rose or jasmine is very evocative, lemon and mint are uplifting. But the one go-to scent that never fails to make me happy? Almond. I kid you not. When I’m gritting my teeth mad, I force myself to go to my kitchen, unscrew the cap to the almond extract, and just take a sniff.
And damned if I’m not feeling a little better… at least, enough to do the ten zen breath thing or go for a tromp in the woods or whatever’s next on the list.
So what about you? What sort of things help snap you out of bad moods? What songs, what scents, what actions?