We often think of a bad mood as something we need to “snap out of”. Dark clouds of despair, malaise or melancholy are to be surmounted by any means necessary. The good mood, though, the days where you get out on the right side of bed, are to be celebrated and embraced. We’re conditioned to avoid negative emotions, but what if all moods — the good, the bad and the hangry — can help us understand ourselves better?
Lauren Martin, author of The Book of Moods and founder of online community Words of Women, believes in the power of moods. “If you look at your mood as something to analyse, rather than something to be scared of or freaked out about, and instead start documenting it, it really changes how you see yourself and how you appreciate your emotions,” she explains. This is the premise of Lauren’s new book, which documents her journey from “the moody woman” to harnessing her emotions for the positive force they are.
Before embarking on the book, Lauren was often struck down by a bad case of the blues. She would stew for hours over a single rude encounter and become overtly infuriated over a delayed flight. Her natural moodiness was as inclination she disliked about herself but found unavoidable. “I found myself saying over and over again, ‘sorry, I’m in a mood’, like it was my catchphrase,” she says. “When you realise you’re saying something like that all the time, it must mean something.” Tired of life’s stressors taking a disproportionate toll, Lauren decided to find out what her feelings were trying to tell her.
What she discovered was that moods are not random, but an exaggerated emotional response. And while everyone experiences them, women are particularly susceptible due to the physiological functions that inform the female intuition. Through the lens of neuroscience, psychology and cognitive therapy, Lauren presents ways in which we can better understand our moods. Her message is one of self-empowerment — an empathetic analysis shared through her own personal experiences. We don’t have to be ruled by our negative emotions, she says, we can take charge of those spirals, or better, curb them from the offset. Crucially, though, we must learn what triggers certain feelings in the first place.
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While moods can be traced back to underlying emotions that many of us share — anxiety, insecurity and fear — our triggers are individual. You can’t avoid your triggers, but you can understand why they raise certain negative emotions, and by understanding them, begin to control your reaction. “I started to peel back the layers of my reaction by asking, ‘why am I this upset?’ There has to be a reason. And that’s when I would get to the core of it,” reveals Lauren.
Each chapter of The Book of Moods investigates one of Lauren’s personal triggers and the underlying emotions that fuel it. In the chapter on friendship, she explores what it’s like to lose touch with old friends and the loneliness many women experience in their 30s. Underpinning it all is a mood Lauren describes as feeling “unfriendable” or unloved.
“I no longer had the confidence in myself that I’d had when I was younger. Like a woman after a bad breakup, I was paranoid and insecure,” she writes. In the run-up to her wedding, this mood intensified; Lauren felt she had no close friends to be bridesmaids or to help with planning. “What happens when you feel like you don’t have those friendships?” Lauren asks. Triggers were everywhere.
Some of these triggers originated on social media. Lauren recounts a time she saw old friends having drinks together online; she felt excluded and insecure. “Why didn’t they ask me to come out?” She asks herself. It’s a familiar feeling and Lauren’s resulting spiral will no doubt resonate with many.
But Lauren identifies that her negative reaction and resulting mood are hers and hers alone; she was projecting an energy from her own insecurities and creating the reality around her, closing off from friends still in her life and exacerbating the original feelings of exclusion. While we can relate to Lauren’s spiral into moodiness, we can also clearly see that the resulting mood, of being unloveable and unwanted, well outsizes the original trigger — that of two friends simply having a drink. Instead of accusing friends of leaving her out, Lauren breaks the insidious cycle of negative self-talk and takes the initiative to invite a friend for a drink.
It’s a simple enough solution to combat feelings of loneliness — reaching out to extend an invitation. But it’s the inner work that leads Lauren to this point that’s important; how to take a step back and to consider why we react so strongly and how our emotions impact our relationships. At the same time, Lauren has learned not to over-analyse other people’s actions and jump to reading them as a negative reflection on her. “I’m much less quick to feel insecure or feel left out now,” she says. “I can put myself in their shoes, I can understand and I can let things go a little bit more.”
That’s the gift of The Book of Moods, a gentle interruption of the internal monologues that support our bad moods, a break in the pattern of negative self-talk, insecurity, the stories we tell ourselves and the resulting bad feelings. Instead, Lauren asks us to consider our reactions from all vantage points. “It was a huge awakening for me to realise that sometimes it’s nothing to do with you. A lot of the time people are going through their own thing and might be having their own bad day.”
Brooke Boland is a freelance writer from the south coast of NSW.