“There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.” 
Charles Dickens

                        “The advantage of emotions is that they lead us astray.” 
Oscar Wilde

“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not ‘myself’ today.”

“Wow!  Was she grouchy at the meeting?  You never know what to expect with her and those mood-swings.”

“Honey, let’s go out for dinner, tonight.  What are you in the mood for?”

Emotions rule!  So it would seem to many people.  It’s as if all behavior occurs under a huge cloud called a mood.  Some clouds are white, billowy masses that float along; others are dark, ominous and rain terror upon those below.  Moods are sort of barometers that tell us how we feel about what we are doing or what is going on.  

Technically, moods result from a complex interaction between brain chemistry (neurotransmitters) and events in our environment.  The production and balance of neurotransmitters in the brain is not completely understood.  But they are affected by external stimuli such as food, scents, exercise, visualizations (internal and external) and dialogue.  Thus, our on-going behavior can lead to feeling lighthearted, capricious, jocular and gay; or grumpy, short-tempered, depressed and angry.  

But what determines which emotions (moods) occur?  And how can one control or alter the choice of emotion to maximize self-enhancement?    

Sometimes people act as if their moods are completely out of control.  A sort of “Russian Roulette” in which they spin the barrel of their lives and up pops a capricious emotion—which could change next time in that situation!  Sure…you know individuals like that: What’s “blue” on Monday could easily become “orange” by Tuesday.  They are unpre-

dictable.  Emotions bang around inside them like electrons in a particle accelerator.  Their moods seem to be at the mercy of the shape of the moon, the tides, and other electromagnetic or chemical reactions.  This, as opposed to their occurring systematically as a function of purposeful, behavioral intervention.  In other words, “manipulation.”

There’s a dirty word.  In our society, “manipulation” is often viewed pejoratively--a psychological four-letter word!  It unfortunately implies behaving unwittingly out of control under the direction of another person or…“hypnosis” (another misunderstood term).  A more useful interpretation, “manipulation” refers to operating on the environment to produce a positive change.    

Few among us prefer capriciously occurring emotions to those which can be predicted and occur under our control.  Most people would prefer to know their “buttons”, the precursors for bad moods.  Similarly, it is generally preferable to understand how to change such moods and sustain pleasant emotions.  

Thus, where moods are concerned, it is considered better to be able to 

have choices; to predict and control which emotions pop out as we negotiate our daily lives.  However, the way we go about doing that may not always be useful.  For example, sometimes those who feel totally ruled by their emotions may adopt “obsessive-compulsive” behaviors to bind the anxiety that results.  By ordering their lives carefully, succinctly, they corral their emotions so they occur as a function of a highly compartmentalized lifestyle (lest one escape).  Needless to say, this strategy limits choices of behavior and plays havoc with such ideas as “spontaneity”, “flexibility”, and “compromise.”   

There are more self-enhancing ways on Heaven and earth, Horatio, for monitoring moods and altering the anxiety-producing ones, which accompany our behaviors:

  1. Pay attention!  Mood shifts require adequate planning.  To really feel like crap, you need to stack up all those bad internal pictures or recite the litany of dialogue related to experienced loneliness, disappointment, failure to achieve goals and boredom.  You then “fire” these internal experiences which interact with your brain chemistry and, voila!  A bad mood happens. This often occurs quickly, unconsciously and therefore, seemingly out of our control.  Try to consider what thoughts you had just prior to having shifted moods.  Then.
  2. Change your focus.  Make an internal list—visualizations and dialogue—of positive events in your life.  Be sure to get in touch with a feeling for each of these.  When you stack, then fire positive internal experiences, your mood will shift accordingly.
  3. Add power to positives with exercise.  Recall, the last two months the importance of exercise in physical and mental health was highlighted. After shifting contexts by considering more positive experiences, exercise will stamp in the change.  Physical exertion produces endorphins—natural chemicals in the brain—that are responsible for good moods.  And as a bonus, over time, exercise will likely improve your appearance and health…another mood enhancer! 
  4. Add new people and things to your day.  Isolation allows more time to plan misery.  Associating with other people, exploring interesting places, and the arts and entertainment can be enriching and mood elevating.