How to improve performance by managing your mood.

Why? Well, nobody likes being in a bad mood. But bad mood is more than just an unpleasant feeling. Mood matters – a lot. If you learn to manage your mood better, it can make a dramatic difference to your life.

What causes a mood?

  • Time of the day
  • Natural sunlight
  • The weather
  • Hormonal changes
  • Positive/negative ions
  • An unpleasant/unpleasant environment
  • Personality
  • A specific event

Unlike emotions, which are at the front of your mind, and carry with them a very specific urge to act in a particular way (anger=fight back, fear= withdraw, like=”approach” interest=”explore” further etc), mood is more diffuse, more free floating, hovering at the back of your mind, with no particular urge to ‘do anything. Rather, moods are capable of affecting everything you do, affecting you in a more total way.

How long does a mood last?

On average 2 hours – quarter of working day. Practically the whole time per day you spend with the people you care about. Everything you do during that 2 hours will be affected by your mood.

Mood affects the way we think;

  • Positive mood .Think & decide fast and effortlessly – higher quality of thinking. More confident about decisions so more likely we will follow through on. Use gut instinct & intuition more.
  • Negative mood – opposite. Less judgments about people, less able to read nonverbal behaviour
  • Positive mood – pay more attention to positive feedback and find it more informative.
  • Negative mood –give more weight to negative information, harder on themselves.

Mood affects what we remember;

  • Negative mood – flooded by negative memories which make you feel even worse.
  • Positive mood – more mental access to positive memories
  • Judge most things are working well. Have to try harder to remember any negative things.
  • Effects of positive mood on memory are even more powerful than negative. Altering perception of what’s now going on around you.

Mood affects our ability to achieve what you have set out to do for the day – or in your life.

  • Positive mood – most goals seem possible so you feel more confident and act more effectively. You want to get things done and so you engage more vigorously with what you have to do – even when all you want to do is relax, in a good mood you are more likely to organize yourself to relax more effectively.
  • Find it easier to decide when you have done enough & to be more comfortable with what you have done. Better sense of what is actually required.
  • Negative mood – opposite happens.
  • Negative mood – want to be alone, more focused on yourself. More at risk of worry and rumination, less inclined to actively engage with the situation and solve the problem.

Mood affects our relationships with other people;

  • Positive mood – better company, more cooperative, helpful, better at managing, motivating and inspiring people, more trusting, but not in silly way – more alert to information and cues about the other person that tell you whether the other person is trustworthy or not.
  • Negative mood – more irritable, uncooperative, distrustful, demanding, needy.

The role mood plays in productivity

A study carried out by Ohio State University suggests that the mood you have at the start of the day will be vital for having a productive day. The study found that mood had a significant effect on the productivity of employees. If employees were in a good mood, the quality and quantity of their work improved, however if they were in a bad mood, they did less work and the work they did was of lower quality. Another finding showed that the mood an employee was in when they checked in affected how they felt all day. If you start the day in a bad mood, more than likely you will feel down for the whole day and vice versa. Another very interesting finding was that turning a bad mood into a good mood is easier and happens more often than turning a good mood into a bad mood.

A different study by the University of Warwick found that unhappy workers were 10% less productive than their co-workers. Happiness however, led to a 12% increase in productivity. The researchers came to the conclusion that “human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.” Other research has suggested that there is a link between mood and procrastination. We tend to procrastinate more when we are in a negative mood

When you are in a positive mood all your goals seem attainable and as a result you feel more confident and can act more effectively. You are determined to get things done and so you engage more energetically with your tasks. When you are in a negative mood the opposite happens, you want to be left alone and are more focused on yourself than your tasks and are less inclined to actively engage with the issue and solve the problem.

Six strategies to help improve your mood

Make sleep a priority – Sleep has a huge impact on your mood. Studies have shown that if you are sleep deprived you will be more stressed, sad, angry and mentally exhausted. If you are lacking sleep, you will also have lower willpower and energy and as a result your productivity will suffer. It is vital that you get enough sleep, this might mean doing things such as keeping a sleep schedule.

Create Momentum in the Morning – Try to be as disciplined and productive as possible in the first couple of hours of the day. We should try to create positive momentum in the first couple of hours. This means getting up and getting as much done as we possibly can. The objective here is to make some progress on meaningful goals. Making progress on these goals will boost your mood as well as your motivation. Teresa Amabile calls this the ‘Progress Principle’ she states:

“Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress — even a small win — can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.”

If you can make some progress on your life goals at the start of the day, then you will be in a more positive mood for the rest of the day.

Exercise in the morning – It is no secret that exercise is good for your mood as chemicals released during exercise boost your mood, and so exercise is one of the best ways to increase your mood. Doing this in the morning as we have already mentioned, will put you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Celebrate small victories – As we have discovered, making progress increases our positive mood and motivation. However, our brain is not wired to pick up on progress, only things that could be a threat. The brain filters out all the positives and focuses on the negatives. Rick Hanson a neuroscientist has said that “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” This is not good from the perspective of our moods as we then overlook all the progress we have made and focus on the setbacks we have encountered, which puts us in a negative mood. By making a list of our daily accomplishments we can try to lessen the effects of the brain’s negativity and give your mood and motivation a boost.

Get some sun! – One study compared 2 groups of people. Both groups did a 90-minute walk however, one did it in the city whilst the other did a nature walk. There were very little changes reported by the city group, however the nature group reported a lift in mood and had fewer negative thoughts about themselves. MRI scans showed that there was less activity in the area of the brain responsible for negative thoughts and mood regulation in the nature group. This was not the case with the city group.  A different study also found that just 5 minutes of ‘green exercise’ such as walking, gardening, cycling etc is enough to increase your self-esteem and mood.

Label Negative Emotions – Everyone has some off days where they feel anxiety, fear, anger etc. What else can you do to counteract these feelings. Neuroscience has suggested that by just putting a label on your emotions can help reduce the power they have over you. David Rock has stated that:

““To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.”

It is clear that your mood has a serious affect on your productivity whether that be in a positive or negative way. Once you start your day in either a positive or negative way you will more than likely stay in that mood for the rest of the day. This is why being able to manage your mood is a hugely important skill in relation to productivity. It is important that you try as best you can to put yourself in a positive mood as it not only affects your productivity, but also the people around you. In the workplace people don’t always know what puts them in a certain mood or don’t feel like they can discuss it with their manager or boss and could benefit from talking this through with a coach outside of their company. For more information on our leadership/team coaching click here or email info@rfc.ie

Gaffney, M (2012) Managing your Mood [Online] https://www.rte.ie/radio1/marian-finucane/features/2012/0915/351652-maureen-gaffney-moods/

Salzgeber, N (2017) Want to be more productive? Manage your . . . mood! [Online] https://medium.com/@nilssalzgeber/want-to-be-more-productive-manage-your-mood-666e94bf9024

Ohio State University, (2011) Got up on the wrong side of the bed? Your work will show it [Online] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/osu-guo040411.php

Warwick University, (2014) Happiness and Productivity. [Online] https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/

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