Have you ever woken up with a pit in your stomach that feels so deep you can’t tell if there’s a bottom?
- “Being in a rut.”
- “Feeling down.”
All are synonyms in varying degrees of the same problem: a bad mood.
A bad mood may sound trivial, but if you’ve ever experienced one (and I’m 99.999% sure everyone has) then you know just how debilitating it can be, and how hard… no… impossible, it is to be productive once that dark cloud engulfs your consciousness.
Your mood is, without a doubt, the number one most effective productivity hack that nobody talks about.
Truly, all of the tips, tricks, and tools in the world can’t save your productivity from the grasp of a full-on bad mood. Similarly, it’s almost impossible to not be productive when you’re in a great mood.
In this article I briefly discuss the nuances of mood, and how to hack yours so that you can climb out of that pit and get back to being productive.
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The Happier My Smirk The Harder I Work
First, we should establish that happier people are indeed more productive.
A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Labor Economics found that individuals who were made to be happier had “approximately 12% greater productivity.”
Because when you’re in a bad mood your mind is trapped in-between invisible barriers, forcefields that reflect your thoughts back on themselves, turning them negative and sour.
“I’m so sad, life is pointless”
“Why am I depressed?”
“How can I escape?”
This is one of the most vicious cycles in human existence because although you want to escape the negativity, all you can think about is how bad of a mood you’re in, which only creates more negativity, which then reinforces your bad mood.
It’s very similar to the Bad Break Vigilance Decrement Cycle that explains why you get fatigued and stressed and thus have poor task performance.
I like to think of the concept as a tall castle tower that’s reaching towards the sun. The tower is your mind and the sun is the happiness it’s trying to reach.
But when you’re in a bad mood it’s like your tower is stuck between two layers of thick clouds that hide the sun.
Your thoughts are trapped, and it’s nearly impossible to do anything but wallow in your own negativity and think about how bad of a mood you’re in.
The goal, then, is to build your tower high so high that it pierces through the clouds and reaches those warm rays of sunlight.
In other words, the key to being more productive is to escape your bad mood and then to stay in a good mood for as long as possible.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done.
Bad Moods Are Inevitable
I experience the vicious “good mood bad mood cycle” on about a monthly basis. Sometimes I can prolong it for a few days or weeks, but inevitably the bad mood always comes, causing more damage than Thanos when he snapped his fingers.
I’ve accepted this as a fact of life because, truthfully, there’s not much I can do to stop it.
So if you happen to be in a bad mood right now, or if you feel the dark clouds forming, take solace in knowing that you’re not alone.
Even greats like Jerry Seinfeld — the second highest earning comedian of 2019 and the wealthiest comedian of all time according to Forbes — suffer from bad moods.
In the documentary Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian, he says that:
“it just comes and goes. There’s just like glimpses, little moments where I feel really like myself and I feel comfortable. And then the rest of it I’m like in my father’s suite with these huge sleeves and legs and I’m thinking ‘what, what am I wearing, what am I doing here?’”
Conan O’Brien, one of my favorite, and in my opinion the best, late night talk show hosts once said this at a commencement speech at Dartmouth College:
“Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”
Simply put, bad moods are inevitable (as debilitating and paralyzing as they may be.)
The key, then, is not to avoid bad moods (which was always my first instinct) but to fully embrace the bad mood and then make it pass as fast as possible.
In other words, to be more productive you must embrace your bad moods and then actually accelerate them so that they pass faster. To do this you use “bad mood accelerators.”
Bad Mood Accelerators
Be forewarned, these bad mood accelerators are not instant fixes. But, if you use at least one of these every day during your bad mood then it’ll pass much faster than if you tried to white-knuckled your way through it.
1. Revisit A Familiar Movie Or Book
In the midst of a bad mood even the smallest amount of new stimuli, like a text message or email, can be utterly overwhelming and exhausting.
Rewatching a movie, or rereading a favorite book, however, is like the soothing Vicks Vaporub that puts your mind at ease.
This is because the underlying cause of a bad mood often comes from anxiety or fears about the future.
Revisiting a familiar classic gives your mind the structure and predictability that it desperately needs.
The movie Thor: Ragnarok is my go-to right now, I’ve probably watched it at least two dozen times.
2. Spend Time In Nature With a Journal and Without Your Phone
I find this accelerator to be especially useful because it helps me understand and articulate my feelings.
Simple pleasures like the light touch of the wind on my skin and the “chirp” “chirp” of the birds give me a sense of peace and tranquility that I can’t get by staying inside, even from a familiar movie or book.
Leaving my phone at home ensures that I’m not bombarded by exhausting stimuli.
And my journal helps me capture any thoughts or revelations.
When you use this accelerator, try bringing one of these 35 journal prompts along as well. They’re designed to disperse the pent-up negative energy in your mind (the clouds surrounding your tower.)
3. Confide In Someone
In other words, vent.
As we’ve discussed, trying to escape a bad mood when you’re in the middle of one is the most difficult thing you can possibly do in that moment.
It’s like trying to steer a canoe in the middle of a hurricane, you’ll exhaust yourself and ultimately go nowhere.
You might think it better to submit to the storm and ride it out, but your best option is actually to use this accelerator and throw a rope to the nearest tugboat and let it tow you to safety.
Here’s how: take out your phone and send a trusted friend or family member the following text message:
“Hey [name]. I’m having a bit of a rough go at life right now and need to get some stuff off of my chest, do you mind listening to me vent for 10 minutes?”
In my experience, the answer is always something along the lines of:
“Of course! What’s up? Are you ok?”
Alternatively, I’m always just an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to vent, shoot me an email any time.
Overall, bad moods are an inescapable part of life. But, that doesn’t mean they have to last forever. Use these accelerators to speed boost through them and get back to your normal, happy self.
Now, as you get back to your day, keep this aphorism in mind:
“Life is like a piano: the white keys are happiness and the black keys are sadness. Don’t try to avoid the black keys, though, because they also make music.”