Mood regulation is the ability to manage your emotions, as well as the things that you do in response to such strong feelings. It requires acute awareness of your own emotional state during highly charged or intense situations, as well as consciously acting in response, rather than acting without thought. A lot of people describe mood regulation as having control over our emotions, but I think this is impossible and unrealistic. We can’t always help the way we feel. There are certain emotions so biologically ingrained in us, like feeling fearful in the face of confrontation or feeling upset after losing a well-loved person or thing. Rather than trying to control our emotions, I believe that mood regulation is taking action to process and work through our emotions so that we can express and cope with them in ways that benefit us the most.
We start learning mood regulation as young children. The problems we encounter, though simple and easily sorted, are new to us. Whether a child spontaneously bursts into a fit of tears or shows signs of a building outburst over a prolonged period, these grand displays of emotion take a lot of effort to handle. As we get older, the environment around us continues to get more and more complex, and we encounter new physical, mental, and emotional situations. Not having the skills to regulate our mood, especially when in a negative mood, has the potential to harm either yourself or others
The first step of mood regulation is simple. What are you feeling? Try to pinpoint it, try to express it. Can you write it down or talk about it to someone else? Whatever you’re feeling in that moment is valid, so give yourself a moment to accept your emotions. Then you can start addressing the actual situation. What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? Answering these questions can help us work through our emotions while guiding us to find appropriate solutions. But what if you can’t find the answer to any of these questions? Perhaps you’re feeling upset for seemingly no reason. In that case, it might be beneficial to find another perspective. Speak with someone close to you or seek professional counseling.
Mood regulation is an active process that isn’t easy or simple at times. It needs to be practiced repeatedly before becoming an unconscious habit. Here are some tips to help put mood regulation into action:
- Find commonalities between situations that cause negative reactions. Is it a specific person or place? Are you able to find alternatives or avoid these situations altogether?
- Put a stop to behaviors that escalate your emotions past the point of no return. For example, arguments can make us really angry. If an argument keeps going in circles, and you feel yourself getting more and more upset, there’s nothing wrong with putting it on pause. In fact, taking a second to calm down will probably help to find a compromise and put an end to the argument sooner.
- Physically calming down your body helps to calm down your emotions. Cold showers lower your body temperature and reduce irritability. Stretching relieves tension and stress in your muscles. Breathing exercises also help.
- Sadness is one of the hardest emotions to regulate. What is required most of all is patience with yourself. To cope with sadness, try doing one thing a day, like a good deed, for somebody else that might need help. You might even try spending time outside, on a walk or picnic in the park. Mostly, remember to be gentle with yourself.
- To encourage feelings of happiness and content, learn how to surround yourself in positivity. Listen to an exciting playlist while doing boring chores. Schedule time to hang out with friends or family after a tiring day of school or work. Take a picture of yourself that won’t be seen by anyone else. You’d be surprised how less critical you are of yourself without the pressure of being exposed to other people.
Whatever strategy you try, find the one that best fits you and the situation. Taking action with our emotions helps with decision making, relationships, daily interactions, and self care. Best of all it helps to express yourself and cope no matter how you are feeling.