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Have you got the New Year blues?

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How you can manage bad moods at work

Most people hate being in a bad mood, it affects their relationship with family, friends and co-workers, and it can persist for days.

Worse, it can even take a toll on their physical health, leading to more negative emotions.

A destructive cycle is definitely set in place which can significantly lower one’s quality of life.

Having a bad mood once in a while, however, is inevitable. No-one is immune to it.

So, should you resign yourself to its negative consequences?

Actually, no.

According to a study published in the journal Emotion, while a bad mood cannot be avoided, it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.

The difference?

Some people find meaning in their bad moods, they value them and even take satisfaction from experiencing them every now and then.

As a result, they suffer fewer negative consequences from their bad moods.

Researcher Gloria Luong and her team, conducted research on 365 participants from Germany, with an age range from 14 to 88 years.

The team looked at the participants’ mental and physical health and how they viewed negative and positive emotions. 

They then monitored the participants' moods for three weeks using a smartphone. Six times a day in nine days, participants were asked to say how good or bad they were feeling at that time, self-rating their happiness, anger, sadness or disappointment (among other emotional states).

The team then took the average to evaluate each participants’ level of positive or negative moods.

Results showed that how often the participants experienced bad moods and their negative consequences depended on how they viewed negative emotions.

Those who looked at them negatively suffered mentally and physically.

Those who held a positive attitude towards negative emotions, however, did not suffer as much. In some participants, the negative effects of bad moods were completely absent.

While the study certainly has limitations - a correlation between one’s attitude towards bad moods and the negative consequences on one’s mental and physical health, for example, hasn’t been established. The researcher posited that having a positive attitude towards negative emotions, for example, seeing it as something with value, leads to a reduction of the negative consequences of such emotions.  

The EBW View

The Luong, et al. study has practical implications for managers suggesting they can manage the negative impact of bad moods by using positive psychology.  

These ideas are not new - think about top athletes, such as Andy Murray, Roger Federer etc., and how they use their mood and positive psychology to change their performance.

But the research is a useful reminder of what can be achieved by training leaders and teams to think and manage negative emotions in a positive way to avoid being drawn into a negative cycle.

It is worth noting that while this study focuses on bad moods and their effect on the person who’s experiencing them, they obviously can also spread and contaminate others. Previous research has shown that emotions affect workers’ focus, decision making, job performance, teamwork, and of course, productivity. 

If you are having to deal with bad moods or negative emotions, here are 7 quick ways to foster positivity at work to counteract the impact of negative moods when they arrive:

  • Set silly goals that can be achieved. Even small successes can have big mood payoffs. Toss a crumpled ball of paper into the waste paper basket Michael Jordan style, win a game of Solitaire, pick up a pencil off the floor using only your toes - in moments you’ll be basking in the glory of accomplishment.
  • Laugh. Laughter can cheer us up and decrease anxiety - and the best news is research shows it doesn’t have to be “genuine” to have a positive effect. So even when it seems like there's absolutely nothing funny in all of this world, busting out a big guffaw might just change your mind.
  • Do something nice for somebody else. Yep, being nice can help us feel nicer. Small actions - holding the door for the person behind you, sending a quick love text to a partner or friend, or donating to a favourite charity will make you feel more positive.
  • Eat. Being hungry impacts our mood far more than we realise. If it’s been a while since you last ate...have a snack.
  • Learn to put your mood in perspective. Remind yourself of the big picture. Use the one year question: Is this something you will remember in a year? If not, it’s not worth getting annoyed about.
  • Use the silly voice technique.  According to Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, swapping the voice in your head with a cartoon voice will help take back power from the troubling thought. When you start thinking about the interview that went downhill, do it as Bugs Bunny. Sound ridiculous? It is. That’s the point.
  • Finally manage yourself. We know our self-esteem tends to fluctuate. When your self-esteem is in a slump, do something to make you feel good about yourself. Work out and release some endorphins, wear something you feel good in, plan something you’ll look forward to doing or call someone who truly appreciates you and makes you feel good about who you are.

What is your strategy for overcoming bad moods and negative emotions this year?

If you have an individual or a team that needs help dealing with negative emotions and needs a motivational boost contact an EBW Licensed Partner for a demonstration on how the EBW Emotional Intelligence System and approach builds successful, positive and motivated workforces.


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