Monday, October 6, 2008

Setting the Mood

Do you set the mood? No, I don't mean with candles, flowers, and soft music. I don't mean setting the mood for others. I'm talking about consciously setting your internal mood.

When I was entering my teen years, my Dad habitually woke my brother and I with his rendition of the bugle song: "Oh how I hate to get up in the morning! Oh, how I'd rather remain in bed…" At some point in those teen years I remember thinking what a stupid song that was to start the day with. I didn't want to begin the day hating the fact that I was awake. So I began a habit of singing my own tune in my mind. The first was:
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

(It's impossible to sing that song without smiling-- I dare you to try.) Later, when my obsession with the Beatles began, this was my wake-up song:

I also ended each day by listing in my mind all the people who I was most grateful for. Granted, the list was recited by rote memory, but nevertheless, it worked. I always fell asleep with a sense of belonging and peace because I felt fortunate to have people to love.

Sometime as I was entering adulthood, getting married, and finishing my education, I stopped. I no longer set the mood. In the early years of my career I tried to affect a similar start to the morning. As I believe happens with most professions, the first year or so was particularly challenging because my clinical skills were still developing. So starting the day on a positive note was essential. I remember creating a positive mood with little details. Perhaps I had a new pair of socks to wear, or a favorite cereal that I hadn't bought in some time. Sometimes I would treat myself to a cup of tea (which I didn't usually leave time for). Or I would look forward to something planned later in the day. Then, as my career became second nature, those efforts fell away.

Now as I reflect on my past, I marvel at how wise I was during my teen years. (Oh no! Does that mean that I'm developing backwards?! Ha!) How lucky we are to be human. Really! We can change our mood consciously. We can turn on the brain chemistry that makes us feel good by simply having a thought. We don't have to react to our environment. We can create our environment.

So, do you set the mood? What works for you?


Sarah Hina said...

Okay, I'm a little freaked out, because I was thinking of this internal mood setting just yesterday.

I was thinking of it in terms of music, too. How I so often fall back on music to reinforce my mood, instead of trying to lift myself out of a bad place. And--I swear this is true--I was wishing I had "Good Day Sunshine" on my iPod! :)

I think our posts today are very much related. People's happiness is fed by their choices, and focus, to a large extent. That requires work and discipline, but it's also incredibly empowering to recognize that free will is within all of our grasps, if we choose to exercise it.

Great post, and video, Aine!! Loved it. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I've used songs too, but not these. For a long while it was Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh, and sometimes "when the levee breaks," or carry on my wayward son, or well, you get the picture. Something to get the blood pumping.

Anonymous said...

Inspiration really did strike you this morning! :)

Great post. Tons of truth there. I don't know that it's always as easy as choosing happiness, but I do think there is an undeniable benefit from deciding on a mood in advance and working toward it. I've felt the effects of positive choices and will try to do it even more.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

When I am in a rotten mood, especially on those mornings when I have to go in to work and don't feel like it for one reason or another, I start smiling right when I get out of my car. I don't feel like smiling - I force myself to do it. Then, I say good morning, or hello, or have an excellent day, etc. to everyone I meet going into the school. By the time I get to my classroom, my mood has turned around some. Then, when the students come in and I start smiling at them and talking to them, my mood does change. I pretend that I am in a good mood - and before I know it, I am.

Aine said...

Sarah~ What can I say? Great minds.... ;)

Happiness "feels" so simple to my INFJ intuiting. It's nice to explore it with you. Loved your post today!!

Charles~ Your song choices are more in line with my brother's taste. Must be a guy thing. ;)

Jason~ I had a lovely muse... ;)

I agree that it's not always as simple as choosing. I know that too well. And, of course, negative feelings are necessary for us to appreciate the positives. But I also see how creating a habit of making happiness more of a norm in one's life (kinda like the background music to the day) can have far reaching effects on those around us.

k.lawson gilbert~ now that's what I'm talking about!! Excellent point about how behavior can create emotional response. We need more people like you in our lives.

SzélsőFa said...

You are right about it, Aine - an enormous part of the world around is how we percieve it.
If we set ourselves to a gloomy mood everyting turns out to be failing.
I can not smile when I'm unhappy, but the way I see (understand) things does help me to cope.
When I have to do something I don't like, I just can not smile, like k. lawson gilbert describes above... No I just can not.

But if I remain gloomy and complain-y about how miserable I am, than...I am miserable.
If in the same situation I search for things that uplift my mood, to search for some reason to be happy. Be it a little baby smiling in a cart, or a dog bouncing happily for a ball, or a friendly relection from kind people like k.lawson gilbert...
Those do turn my mood for the upwards :)

We do need people like you :)

uhm..sorry for the flow...

Precie said...

I've done that mood setting for job interviews. But I don't do it on a daily's hard...I find it taxing. But I think my little happiness journal is helping. :)

Miladysa said...

I do this automatically but never realised before this post that I was doing it - does that make sense?

I have a good morning song, something my father made up when I was a child. My children and grandchildren also sing it! LOL

I also do the opposite as well, I try to wipe out a negative mood. I try not to read/listening to any news article that I know will upset me. I avoid dwelling on the negative.

I listen to specific pieces of music when I want to be creative. My last post for Refuge Of Delayed Souls was written while listening to the Lullaby by The Cure.

Anonymous said...

My first thought when I wake up in the morning is the same thought I've had forever..."what do I get to do today?!" As a writer, it's sometimes necessary to tamp down my natural hype to properly create mood in a scene, and it's always music that makes that happen. I have CDs marked "gloom" "tears" "furious".

Aine said...

Szelsofa~ Believe it or not (and one may not believe this based on many of my posts) I struggled with post-partum depression, so I totally understand when someone says "I just can't smile." There are times when our brain just can't be tricked. But the fact that you can feel better when you focus on something positive in your environment is powerful. I'm glad you've found that way to cope.

And yes-- it is so important to have people like Kaye around at the right time. It can make all the difference in the world!

Precie~ I'm so happy that the happiness journal works for you! :)

Miladysa~ That makes perfect sense. I believe that we are often least aware of our strongest coping skills-- they just feel natural, like common sense (as in, doesn't everyone else do that?) Thanks for sharing! :)

katcampbell~ I love your attitude! How energizing you must be for others! LOL on the need for "gloom, etc" CDs. I bet many folks would love to live with your brain for a day. :)

Geraldine said...

What an excellent post Aine and plenty of great advice to ponder. I think it's so interesting that you can look back on your days as a teenager and find wisdom that is still valid for you today.

Setting the mood for the day...what a great idea. I'm going to have to make a conscious effort to do just that, every day.

"Zip a dee do da....." I feel better already. :<)

Hugs, G

Chris Eldin said...

Aine!!! You have one of my favorite songs below, by one of my favorite singers---I LOVE John Denver. His songs give me the inspiration and reflective mood that you're talking about.
My husband and I saw him at a concert right before he died. It was awesome. I love his music. And that song really touches me as well.
And you know, I'll share something corny. When I sang my babies to sleep, it wasn't the nursery songs. It was John Denver songs.

Aine said...

Geraldine~ Thanks! That song is a gem, isn't it?! Can't help but smile... and you can even feel it when just humming... genius!

Chris~ :D Glad I'm not the only corny one! I've harbored my secret love of John Denver for years-- it wasn't too popular for teenage girls here on the east coast when I was growing up.

You should hear the list of songs that Jason and I sang to the girls. From Puff, the Magic Dragon (my personal favorite lullaby) to Don't Cry for Me Argentina (really! Jason...) and even Whiskey in the Jar (ha! we're such traditional parents... LOL).

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Unfortunately I am not a morning person. You will find me singing Broadway ditties at night but all you will hear from me in the morning is snarling. In fact, the whole Oh household is a late rising one. No early birds here. And of course for some reason my girls do their best singing in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet. Don't ask me why they get their inspiration there it still kind of freaks me out!

Anonymous said...

Gladys Knight sets a positive mood for me every single time. She makes me believe that life really is wonderful!

JaneyV said...

I have a very lovely Hubby who brings me tea in bed in the morning and just leaves me alone to wake up gently. I find if I have 20 minutes chill first thing in the morning my mood stays even for the entire day. If I get rushed or bombarded by hassle it has the opposite effect. It took me till a couple of years ago to realise that I can take 5 minutes to calm myself and re-set my mood. It works every time.

I think it's amazing that you figured this out in your teens.

Vesper said...

Great post, Aine!
It's music that does it for me, in the car. I normally choose it according to what I'm writing...

Lena said...

i usually just tell myself today it is gonna be a great day and i will be happy and usually it works :)

Sometimes i just think about people i love the most and start text messaging them, makes me always feel better :)