science of us

Just Admit It, You’re in a Bad Mood

Photo: Ruth Black/Getty Images/iStockphoto

If there is a day of the year as consistently morose as December 26, I have yet to meet it. That’s it! It’s over! All that holiday anticipation and shopping and decorating and baking, and the fun is over by noon on Christmas day. Or if you’re me, by 9 am. My partner and I, having stayed home for Christmas this year, were up by 6, presents opened by 8, ate breakfast by 9, and then we were like … what now? Obviously Christmas itself doesn’t work this way for everyone, but everyone has some holiday they look forward to, and that holiday is always gone too quickly. And the next thing you know, you’re back to normal life, with nothing to look forward to, and it sucks.

You can despair about this all you want, and I intend to join you, but to make it a little less painful, there’s one thing you (we) have to do: accept your bad mood, rather than fight it.

This may be counterintuitive for anyone who’s ever been told to “cheer up” (yeah, right) or “relax” (over my dead body!!!!) by a well-meaning but infuriating loved one — bad moods are meant to be worked on, and we are supposed to want to get happy. But our changing moods are a little more complex than that, and it may be that in order to change them, we first have to accept that we can’t necessarily cheer up exactly when we want to (or when we’re told to).

In fact, recent research by Brett Ford, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, found that people who accepted their “mental experiences” (a great new euphemism I plan to use often) were less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and reported greater life satisfaction overall. That doesn’t mean you have to be okay with bad things happening to you, the authors write, but that you’re able to experience those feelings and think about them non-judgmentally. Or, in other words, you don’t feel bad for feeling bad.

I don’t think this is as relieving as the researchers want it to be, or it’s one of those things that is much easier said than done, but I suppose it’s at least nice to be given permission to sulk my way through the day. It’s not that I want to be grumpy but since I’m already grumpy, you can bet I plan to stay that way. Acceptance!

Just Admit It, You’re in a Bad Mood