How To Snap Yourself Out Of A Bad Mood
Updated: Feb 12
Feeling strange? Not sure if you are happy, sad, angry, etc.? Find yourself losing your cool, and saying or doing something and you're not even sure why? You are not alone. Our emotions affect us deeply, and often unexpectedly. Someone might say something, or do something and it can make us feel ready to scream or yell at them. Do your parents tell you to 'Stop being so dramatic'! Learning to manage our emotions is a learnt skill, I have some quick tips on how to keep the lid on your 'bucket of emotions'.
Your teenage brain is glorious - if you didn’t know that already. Neuroscience has shown that the brain goes through critical periods of growth and development - while in the womb, the first year of life, and the early years; right into adulthood. What scientists have more recently discovered is that the brain undergoes a 'secret mission' of change during the period between the ages of 12 to 19 years that is truly unique.
Importance of Emotions
All emotions have a key function in our development, they are designed to help us survive. Without emotions and an ability to express them a newborn baby cannot communicate its needs. Remember babies have no real language until about 2 years of age, and they need to eat, sleep, and survive potentially dangerous situations. Emotions, be they crying, screaming, shouting, smiling and laughing - all help the baby grow into an awesome teenager. These emotional instincts are hardwired in your glorious brain. We are all born with the ability to express a range of emotions, but as we mature we need to learn how to master them, so that they do not master us.
Emotion regulation is part of growing up, but it is a hard thing to do; let me explain why! Your glorious teenage brain really has two brains within it - your reptilian (older brain - driven my emotions) and your mammalian (younger brain -- driven by reason). The seat of emotions is located deep in the brain, in an area known as the amygdala. Whenever you experience an emotion following an event (i.e. seeing or hearing someone do something) your brain can make you aware of in using one of two brain pathways that connect to the amygdala and the hypothalamus. It is in the hypothalamus that the brain has two main pathways - sometime known as the 'high road' (longer path) or the 'low road' (quicker way).
As you may remember, as your brain grows it wires itself from the back of the brain to the front. In other words, the emotional part of your brain is all wired in when you are born, but the reasoning part of your brain takes many years to develop, grow and to fully wire itself. Your brain is busy learning new things about the world, and needs emotions to help it and to make memories. The area of the brain that is last to be 'wired in' is the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) located at the front of the brain, and known to involved in emotion regulation. In other words, you get better and managing your emotions as you get older. Toddlers often scream and cry in the supermarket if they cannot get a piece of candy, teenagers know better than to embarrass themselves by screaming if their parents refuse to buy them chocolate.
The 'low road' is a quick path that makes you aware of an immediate danger and propels you to respond immediately. See a snake - jump back, don't touch it, or in my case run! The speed of the emotional reaction to seeing a snake, is perfectly adapted to helping us survive a snake bite. You may not know if the snake is poisonous and it makes sense for your body to make you react quickly. However, if the context in which you see a snake is during Halloween your brain will quickly tell you that it’s a fake snake, no need to worry or run in my case. The 'low road' is ideal in 'life and death' situations, but we now live in a modern world where the likelihood of life and death situations are less common. However, we are still experience lots of situations that the brain may sometimes misinterpret as 'dangerous' and make you want to react, and react quickly.
If someone says something mean to you, or makes fun of you, your brain may react in a way that makes you be aggressive and respond in a way that feel out of character. These are the very situations where you have to 'put the brakes on' and reappraise the situation as 'not life threatening' and not 'over react' to someone saying or doing something that makes you angry. In other words, 'take the high road' and move the direction of the emotional response to your pre-frontal cortex so that you can 'reappraise' the situation and realize that the comments that someone at school made, don't matter and are unimportant. Don't take the bait someone laid out for you. There are ways to help you manage your emotions more effectively, even if you've lost your cool.
Next time you feel upset by something someone said or did. don't take the bait and choose the 'high road', your awesome teenage brain will thank you later.
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