How to Switch Your Emotions from Glum to Glad
When you’re upset, how do you cheer yourself up? Maybe you go for a run, talk to a friend, or lock yourself in a room and yell.
My level 3 Pathways project prompted me to reflect on how my emotions impact myself and others. I have seen how destructive my negative emotions can be, so I reflected on how to quickly regain a positive, balanced state of mind.
Below is a speech I recently presented about how to switch from glum to glad.
Recognize Your Emotions
“I’m upset because you’re upset, and now I don’t feel like hanging out.”
That’s what I said to my friend as we got out of the car. We had argued while driving to meet our friends and play badminton.
“I was upset, but I’m not upset anymore. We need to stop the cycle,” my friend said.
That was true; our argument was resolved and I just needed to let go of the residual emotions. Also, our friends were already inside the gym expecting us. I didn’t want to disappoint them or be a downer.
I needed to cheer up ASAP. But it’s not so easy to flip my emotions; there’s no quick switch.
Code-switching is the switching of language or behavior to suit a social situation. Can we also learn to switch our emotions from negative to positive?
For myself, I know there are certain ways to snap out of an emotional funk. I know what can cheer me up – good food and music, for instance.
But to change my emotions, I can’t rely on any particular thing; it’s more about applying a set of principles.
Change Your Surroundings
One principle is to change my surroundings. When I’m upset, it’s best to remove myself from my little corner of misery and just get a change of scenery.
Since there was nothing more to say, my friend and I left the isolation of the car and entered the busy badminton gym.
My senses were quickly overwhelmed:
Here were bright lights flooding the warehouse. There were rows and rows of green courts, and a constant flurry of movement on every court.
The air inside was thick and warm from all the sweaty, panting players. Birdies pinged back and forth; sneakers squeaked as players lunged side to side.
This change of scenery provided a change of perspective.
In the car it was just my friend and I; here, it seemed, was the rest of the world.
While we two were caught up in our little argument, the rest of the world was busy hitting birdies. Time to get with the program!
Fake a Smile
Another principle of how to cheer up is to be around people with whom I can’t be upset. This requires putting on a smile, whether or not I feel like it.
Studies show that faking a smile can actually make you feel happier. A fake smile can actually become a real smile!
As we navigated the gym, our friends waved us over. I couldn’t look glum to see them so I smiled and waved back.
I realized I was glad to see them, and feeling glad didn’t allow me to feel quite so sad anymore.
Focus on an Activity
Another sure way for me to escape a depressed mood is to absorb myself in some activity that requires focus. That way I can’t brood on my problems and mope.
Our friends quickly invited us to join them and play a game.
It had been a long time since I had last played, so I needed to focus on regaining some hand-eye coordination. I also focused on following the rotation pattern for playing doubles with my friend.
As we played, I couldn’t continue to be upset. Brooding on our argument would require multitasking as I played. Moping would require me to actively hide my delight when we scored a point, or stifle my laughter as we shook off the rust. That just wasn’t worth the effort.
Satisfy Your Physical Needs
After a few games, I felt much better. What completed my mood transformation was a bit of self-care.
Often I underestimate how much my physical needs affect my mental state. Sleep-deprivation, uncomfortable shoes, or bad weather – these can all factor.
In this case, I had a low-grade gnawing hunger because I had eaten lunch late and skipped dinner.
“Chocolate cookie?” someone offered.
“YES, PLEASE,” I said. The sugar hit my blood and lifted my spirits. They say that chocolate is an antidepressant and I couldn’t agree more.
After changing my surroundings, faking a smile, focusing on an activity, and satisfying my physical needs, I had switched from glum to glad.
My friend noticed me devouring the cookie. “Would you like mine?”
“No, but I appreciate the gesture. You know, I’m glad we hung out today.”
Byline: Sarah Tang, Treasurer at Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters