Last time I talked about how moods can be triggered unconsciously. Suppose I'm walking down the hall and I pass a man who's wearing the same aftershave my late father always wore. Because I miss my dad, I might experience a wave of sadness without realizing why. In a normal, healthy person that feeling would pass in a short time with no ill effect, but in a person who tends to depression, it may linger and become a mood--which lasts longer and is harder to dispel--unless something happens to distract her and lift her spirits.
If you pay attention to your moods--particularly to when they begin and what happened at that time, you can learn what triggers your moods, and knowing what triggers good and bad moods gives you control over your emotional life.
We all know difficult people, and dealing with them often drains us of energy and leaves us feeling down. The simple answer is to avoid them, but if it's a family member or someone at work, we are periodically faced with the unpleasant chore of dealing with that person.
If I know I must deal with someone who's difficult, I make a plan. I will not argue if that person is one who will continue an argument ad infinitum, I will not commit to doing something I really don't want to do, I will limit the time I spend with this person, and I will not hesitate to say, "NO!--even to a person in authority, if need be. Note here that saying, "NO!" does not mean arguing or getting angry. Simply explaining why you are refusing to do what that person is asking works wonders with most people, although with difficult people you may have to say, "No!" repeatedly.
I will be the first person to admit that I am by nature a people-pleaser, and I had to work hard to learn to stand up for myself, but knowing that I can stand up for myself has made my life a whole lot happier.
What if I must go to a place that brings back bad memories? I arm myself with thoughts of happy times and remind myself that the bad things are in the past and don't deserve my emotions now. I make plans to do something I enjoy afterward.
Such techniques will help you get through the rough spots. Even if you experience temporary unpleasant emotions, you will not give them the power to become a lasting mood.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.