Pause and think about this: What is the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
Take a few minutes to think of an answer.
Got it it?
Well here’s my answer:
This year, one of the most important things I’ve learned is how to manage my emotions. And particularly, how to bring my mood back up to my baseline when I become sad.
If you watched this week’s YouTube video, then you already know the three important ways you can regulate your emotions. But if you haven’t watched yet, be sure to do that first by clicking here or on the video above .
Am I at My Baseline?
In order to regulate your mood, you have to understand where your current baseline lies as well as what a sustainable mood baseline looks like. Your mood baseline is your normal or usual mental state (and this is different for everybody). Depending on what your current baseline is, you may need to adjust it slightly in order for it to be sustainable long term. Finding and maintaining the optimal mood baseline is one of the keys to mental health endurance.
Through my own experimentation, I found the optimal mood baseline to be just over the “neutral point” (aka the JON Baseline). Firstly, being at the JON Baseline is realistic because being incredibly happy or incredibly sad will not always be possible during different situations in life. And secondly, the JON Baseline is sustainable because it still allows you to remain on the positive side of life. By remaining on the positive side, you become more willing to (i) be happier, (ii) learn from challenges, and (iii) make changes to improve yourself. Think of the JON Baseline like a catalyst for improving your mood. So, if you can picture your mood like a spectrum with sad being on one side and happy being on the other, the Jon baseline looks like this:
“Makes sense so far, Ella! So how exactly do I get to that JON Baseline?”
Great question! You need to adjust your baseline according to your current mood. You can figure all this out by following the 4×4 Mood Stabilizer and asking yourself a few important questions. The Stabilizer looks like this:
Quadrant 1: Sad + Not at Your Baseline
I want to start by reminding you the sad and happy are on a spectrum, so when use the Stabilizer to identify your baseline, keep in mind that the word sad means anywhere below neutral and the word happy means anywhere above neutral.
So if you’re feeling blue but that feeling is out-of-the-ordinary for you, start by figuring out why that is. You must get to the root of your unhappiness by analyzing your life circumstances and you can do that by conducting a life audit.
Once you identify the problem(s), ask yourself: Will this problem last? Is fixing this problem out of my control? Will being sad over this problem fix it?
If you have any sort of control over the problem, then create a list of pros and cons and figure out how to implement that control. Once the problem is fixed, your mood will begin to raise again. But if you have no control over the problem, at least figure out how to respond to it better. You see, management of your emotions lies in your ability to respond to problems. Changing your focus within the problem, adopting new perspectives, and letting the problem go completely are, in my experience, the best ways to respond to problems in life. If you want to master these skills, I highly recommend reading the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson and try this quick exercise for releasing meaningless anger.
Quadrant 2: Sad + Baseline
If you’re sad like usual, I want you to ask yourself if you genuinely enjoy being sad.
Growing up, I used to opt for feeling sad because I thought it was easier – that was true. Being sad became both easy and comfortable because I created habits that made it so. However, if I asked myself the following simple question, I know I would’ve tried to change my tune … And this question is, Even though being sad is easy, isn’t being happier more enjoyable?
uhmmm f*ck yeah it is! Being happy, even though it might be few and far between, is a better experience than being sad.
So in order to start being happy, you need to start making tiny tiny positive changes in your life. My biggest recommendation here is to make changes so small they seem stupid (actually). Figure out what these changes are by asking yourself questions like, are you reaching you goals? Do you do things you love? Do you love yourself? So for example, if you’re not doing things you love, pick something (maybe that’s reading). Now to make stupid-small changes to integrate reading into your life, I’d recommend the following: start by buying a book you love (the first goal), put the book in a place you like to read (goal 2), read 1 paragraph max of the book per day (goal 3,4,5, etc). And yes you heard me correctly – I said one paragraph. By creating such a silly small change in your life, you are going to be a lot less likely to quit reading daily and a lot more likely to build self-discipline.
Once you start making these tiny changes, you will notice your ability to endure more change increases over time. And with that increase comes the ability to bring your mood “up” quicker, when you are feeling “down”.
Quadrant 3: Happy + Not at Your Baseline
This one is a bit of a weird scenario. Because if you’re happy but happy is not your baseline, then that means sad is your baseline. And that means you need to re-read the section above.
Also consider whether your current situation is making you even happier than your usual happy baseline (because remember that “happy” and “sad” fall on a spectrum). And if that is the case, try to recognize why exactly you are so happy and see if you can replicate that scenario when your mood falls below neutral.
Happy + Baseline
If you’re happy and at your baseline, the most important thing you can ask yourself is whether you are prepared for when bad things happen… because they will happen.
Is this happy baseline sustainable for the long term? Will you be able to endure mental hardship?
What do you want?
What sort of mood you have ultimately depends on what sort of mood you want. And more importantly, your mood depends on whether or not you actually put in the necessary effort to achieve your optimal mood.
So..are you willing to do the work?
As always, Happy Monday.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional health advice.