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Mood is a Choice

My mood affects my entire day – the conversations I have or do not have, the activities I choose to do, the food I eat, and all the decisions I make. So how do I make sure I am in a good mood?

Mood is a choice. What are you talking about? A choice to make all my other choices?

I used to work with someone whose mood is so obvious that, as an unspoken rule, colleagues know not to engage him in conversation when he is in a bad mood -- which seemed often! It is so uncomfortable for the other person because it feels like that person deliberately did something to make him unhappy! Anything asked of him will surely be met with a NO. The mood of the conversation with him is almost always dread, nervousness or even fear. Do you know anyone who is like that?

Eventually, I found out how to effectively engage him and even became really good friends. Although I don’t always get a yes, I certainly always get a considerate answer. Then he started consulting with me on some issues he had, and dare I say, sought peer coaching. So how did I do it?

I managed my mood. I realized that I am half responsible for how the conversation turns out, no matter how he shows up. I have the choice to be just reactive and get carried away by his current, or to show up with my own positive charge and get the results I want.

A few things to understand about mood:

Mood is a function of your physical sensations. The neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett says that simple pleasant and unpleasant feelings come from an ongoing process inside you called interoception – all sensations from your internal organs and tissues, hormones in your blood, and immune system. It can be easy to attribute that an unpleasant feeling is coming from an external stimulus (i.e., a disagreement) rather just our internal state saying we are hungry, tired, sleepy or in pain! So before speaking with him, I take two minutes to quiet down and listen to the sensations I’m experiencing. Do I need to grab coffee or a small snack for more energy? If the room where we’re having a conversation in is going to be cold, I’ll take a shawl. What else do I need to do to make sure I’m calm and collected? This process is part of my preparation.

Mood is contagious. Rapport is built when there is shared attention, a positive feeling or mood and a coordinated timing or synchrony in conversation or action. Every time I had a conversation with him, I made sure that I gave him my full attention (phone on silent) and deeply listened to what he was saying. I would ask more clarifying questions about what he said rather than come up with a rebuttal. And when it is my turn to speak, I make sure that I give him enough context and examples.

Mood affects results. Positive mood states combined with a relaxed body state influences learning. A study by Fredrickson and Losada showed that positive mood states are predictive of high team performance. Positive mood inspires more inquiry and advocacy among team members. I manage my mood by making sure I perform some self-care activities first thing in the morning – be it exercise, a good breakfast, an upbeat song or a great outfit – I feel more ready to engage, learn and support others.

Managing your mood requires listening to your own sensations, addressing self-care needs, and paying attention to the other people around you in order to connect deeper. It takes daily practice, discipline and commitment to reach a level where you are choiceful about your mood, instead of being influenced by others.

"Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or believe you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself." - E.E. Cummings

If you would like some help to design a personalized practice, email me at or visit Until next time!


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