The Mood Congruence Effect and the Benefits of Toxic Positivity…? | #RTYBTips Episode 7

The Mood Congruence Effect and the Benefits of Toxic Positivity…? | #RTYBTips Episode 7

Aloha and welcome back to the Retrain Your Brain series! Today I am going to teach you about the mood congruence effect and how something as simple as being sad, for example, can lead you to be more sad. Following that, I am going to share a tip to help keep your mood as positive as you possibly can.

Watch the video instead!

According to the 2nd Edition of Affective Influence on Cognition by Forgas and Eich, the Mood Congruence Effect is when your current mood promotes the processing of information using a similar mood. For example, if you’re sad, you are more likely to interpret and process new information as sad.

Jim Kwik describes this theory well in his newest book called Limitless. In the book he likens our minds to social media algorithms. Think about how an algorithm works: if you starts liking pictures of cake decorating, you are going to be shown more content related to cake decorating. If you like content on habits, the algorithm will show you more content on habits. Now, think about how your mind works — if, for example, you are sad, you are more likely to interpret feedback at work or on the ports field as sad.


Click here to get a free chapter from Limitless! *This not a sponsored link*


The Mood Congruence Effect is something I tried to take advantage of with music a few years ago. You see, I noticed, the more I listened to sad music, the more sad I became. And the more sad I became, the more I saw “the sad” in every situation. I became incredibly pessimistic and my mood depressed greatly. One of the things I did to raise my mood again was stop listening to sad music. Anything that was even remotely sad sounding or had sound lyrics was replaced with cheerful and joyful music.

It’s not just music you can become congruent with – you can become congruent with anything you do, experience, and think. That said, as you go into the new year, think about who you spend time with, what you spend time listening to, and what you spend time watching – you have the potential to become congruent with each of those things, so make sure they influence you in a positive way.

In fact, a 2005 study by Koester and colleagues showed that “depressed psychiatric patients tend to selectively pay greater attention to negative information”. Another 2005 study by Watkins and colleagues showed that depressive patients showed “better learning and memory for depressive words.” And finally, a cornerstone study from 1983 published by Bradley and Mathews showed that depressive patients showed “a selective mood congruent bias in sensitivity to negative facial expressions, a bias that disappears once the depressive episode is over”.

As I previously mentioned, when my mood was depressed, I believe it was because I surrounded myself with negativity. So when I processed new information, I always focused on the negative. To reverse this effect, I engaged in something very helpful — something you might know as toxic positivity, and something I simply call positivity.

First I want to explain the difference between positivity and toxic positivity.

Positivity is self explanatory — it when you are positive in your thoughts and actions.

On the other hand, toxic positivity has nothing to do with how positive you are — it has to do with repressing negative feelings.

Now-a-days I see a lot of main stream media relating positive mantras like “all is well” and “I am worthy of achieving my goals” to being toxically positive or unrealistically positive. I personally think those people are judging someone’s words without knowing their situation. First of all, if you remember that toxic positivity only has to do with repressing negative information, you can’t make a determination about positivity being toxic unless you know the person is repressing negative information. Second of all, if you keep in mind the mood congruence effect, if you repeat positive mantras in order to think more positively, you will interpret and process new information using a similar positive affect.

It was this practice of being constantly positive that actually helped me raise my mood up and “un-depress” myself, if you will.

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As always, I hope you learned something new today, I hope you have a great rest of your day, and I hope you make 2021 the #YearofYou!

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.

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