The Undeniable Importance of Your Mood
How do you start your day?
I woke up this morning to one thing on my mind drowning out all else – a song actually – the voice of the late great Chris Cornell. “Please mother mercy, take me from this place. And the long-winded curses I hear in my head”, the song, Say Hello to Heaven, off the 1991 album Temple of the Dog. One of my all-time favorite albums! For those unfamiliar with Temple of the Dog, this was the band Chris Cornell formed with members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Mother Love Bone, as a tribute to his late friend, Andrew Wood (lead singer of Mother Love Bone). This though put me in a strange predicament. Listening to Temple of the Dog was a far cry from my usual morning routine. I had a decision to make. I could not help but want to hear this song, but this was a particularly risky selection given my history. The album, his voice, even having had a chance encounter with Cornell a few years before he passed away, meant this was definitely not our first rodeo together. God only knew where this song, this album, might take my thoughts and my emotions ….and first thing in the morning too! A key time of day for those of us who work hard to live our lives mindfully. We know however we feel now, this state of mind, will pave the way for the rest of the day.
How often do you think about it?
Normally I start my day with inspiration. I know that if I don’t, if I leave it up to chance and just let my brain do what it wants, I might be paving the day ahead with fear, anxiety, self- doubt…etc., A big risk for someone launching a new business. It also might not be long before I am back to starting my day in fear, anxiety…unhappiness all the time. That’s why I turn to motivational speaking tapes, inspirational podcasts, or my “happy” play lists as soon as I open my eyes. Leaving nothing up to chance, I quickly glance at my phone, ignoring any temptation to check texts, emails, or anything else, to make the appropriate selection as I get into the shower every day. I then switch to listening on my earbuds as I am getting myself and my daughter ready for school. You see knowing what I know, I would have to have my head examined to live any other way. I know way too much at this point!
What don’t you know is impacting every aspect of your life all the time!
Like it or not, and despite popular sentiment, your thoughts matter! Your inner voice, your thoughts, are the only thing, the only constant, that will remain with you every waking moment for the rest of your life. They are the governor of your experience, narrating to you as you go along. You might think that it’s your circumstances that set the tone for your life, but that is simply not true. It’s your thoughts, your perception, your interpretations that drives what you say, what you do, and what you believe. That then ultimately determines how you feel at any given time and will frame and shape what you see, and how you see it – in accordance with what you believe.
More will be revealed
Most of us see ourselves as passive observers of the world around us, but that is simply false. It would be far more accurate to say that we are selectors, seeing the world around us in accordance with how we are, not how it is. We are all the products of very bad information. We’ve been taught that because thoughts are invisible, they don’t matter…that action, what others can see, is what matters. I promise you having studied the mind/body relationship for 20+ years, this is inaccurate.
Making the situation even more challenging is the brains love affair with automation! It habituates absolutely everything! Think back to your first few days learning something new. Tying shoes, making spaghetti, or finding the light switches in a new office or apartment. Within just a few days we master these simple tasks and never have to think about them again. In order to maximize efficiency, conserve energy, the brain looks to commit new things to memory as a way to conserve energy. It looks for the path of least resistance! This is in part why change is just so difficult!
Great! Now what?
When you think about what anxiety and depression actually are, they are simply bad habits of thought that people can’t find their way out of. All it takes is to continually look at what you don’t want, don’t have…things that happened in the past that you think were wrong in some way, things you worry you won’t get to experience, or that won’t go the way you want. This then causes feelings of anger, frustration, powerlessness. If you keep doing this day after day, before too long you have an automated pattern of thought and emotion. Thoughts activating emotion, the emotion activating the same old thoughts. Round and round we go.
Finding a Way Out
That said, sure if you want to hedge your bets to live the best life you possibly can, one strategy is to try and monitor, like a super warrior gatekeeper, every thought you have, selecting which thoughts are in your “best interest”, and which are not. This though won’t be easy! With between 50-75,000 thoughts per day, monitoring every single one in an effort to control what you think, will become overwhelmingly difficult fast. Trust me, I have tried it! Not to mention you’re truly up against years of negative programming – automated thought patterns that will undermine your efforts every chance they get. The good news is there is a much easier way.
All you really need to do is attend to your mood.
It’s so obvious, is it not?
Think about a time in your life when you were in a really lousy mood. Maybe you and your partner just finished a World War III type argument, or you find out that you owe an obscene amount in taxes even though you were expecting to get a return? Imagine soon thereafter, the phone rings. Your best friend in the world is calling. Normally you wouldn’t pick it up at a time like this, but you think, Hmnn, that’s strange? They never call me at this time of day. Maybe something is wrong. I should pick it up… just in case. Concerned, you take the call. On the other line you hear your friend giggling, giddy, bursting with excitement. Amidst their enthusiastic screeches they say something like, “I just had to call you to share the good news! You won’t believe this, but I just won $500,000 on a scratch ticket! Can you believe it?” Now, as much as you love your friend, and as much as you want to be happy for them, at this moment it would take everything in you to sound even the slightest bit enthused. In fact, while you muster a halfhearted, “Wow. That’s amazing.”, you’re likely to be thinking something quite different. Something like, F*CK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HATE YOU RIGHT NOW! THIS KINDA SH*T ALWAYS HAPPEN TO THEM. HOW COME I NEVER GET LUCKY? WHY DOES MY LIFE SUCK SO BADLY?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Admitting this does not make you a bad friend. In fact, at that moment you have very little say in the matter thanks to your human design. With the nature of thoughts dependent on the nature of your current emotional state, and your current emotional state intensely negative, a positive reaction is really not even possible.
And the Oscar goes to…?
So now you see my dilemma. After 20 years of waking up, more often than not, unhappy, anxious, afraid…I know there’s always a chance my brain could relapse back into those “old tapes”, an old network of neurons (of circuits). By waking up with the voice of Chris Cornell, a voice of a very different time in my life, any number of possible memories could come to mind. None the less, instead of beginning the day with the likes of Neville Goddard, Earl Nightingale, Les Brown, Jim Rohn, etc., I couldn’t resist Chris Cornell’s soul filled, one of a kind, singing voice – a very risky move indeed.
As I jumped in the shower, serenaded by the great Cornell, many memories did pop into my mind. Memories of high school mostly. My best friend and I in 9th grade Connie Easton, crammed into the back of her cousins Ford Escort drinking Bud Light cans. Getting in trouble for this massive house party I threw the weekend my Mom and sister were visiting a family friend in Ohio. A festival where my friends and I saw Soundgarden at some motor speedway. A memory of being in an old friend’s Iroc Z Camero, windows up, the car filled with smoke, him having kidnapped me on a school night to ride around with him because he didn’t want to be alone. All good memories! Memories that made me smile. Memories that made me happy.
And yes, I should have known that is what would have happened. After all, thoughts are mood dependent and I was in a perfectly positive mood.
About the Author
Samantha Benigno is the CEO of MYND MVMT, a program that offers an alternative approach to mental health & addiction treatment. MYND MVMT uses an integrated, health & wellness model where mindfulness, nutrition, fitness, and long term goal attainment are built into the rehabilitation process. Mind Mvmt specializes in the treatment & recovery of depression, anxiety, substance use & abuse, behavioral addictions, and working with those who struggle to feel fulfilled in their lives. Samantha is a career mental health professional, educator, and consultant.