Why you should learn to master your mood


Can you manage your mood? Could you master it?  I think we all know intuitively that when we are in a better mood, life is easier. We are better equipped to face important issues. We are better employees, better partners, better parents, and better friends.

I discovered this the hard way. From 2000-2005 I went through a very bad depressive illness. Dr Robert Fisher, my psychiatrist described it as the worst he had ever managed. During the treatment he always used to ask me to rate my mood every time I saw him – from 0 to 10.

Zero is where you have given up and want to die and 10 is where you’re thriving physically, mentally, spiritually. One day I asked him, “Why do you ask me to do that?” He said, “Well, for one thing it helps me to understand where you are currently. I also believe that one day you should be able to learn how to manage your mood and maybe even master it.”

To be honest, I was a bit pissed off. I said, “Haven’t I got a clinical illness?” He said, “Yeah, you do. You’re chronically depressed, and you’ve had five episodes of depression before, which means you will always have a predisposition to the illness. But I believe that you and everyone should be able to learn how to manage their mood.”

Inspired by Dr Fischer, we produced the MOODOMETER. When we’re in the Red Zone, we’re anxious; we’re depressed, we’re ashamed.  We are very unproductive. We think black and white. It took me a long time to come out of the Red Zone. I had good medical care but it didn’t happen overnight. I tried 23 different medications; and 20 lots of ECT (shock therapy).

For me, my recovery started by walking in nature which made a real difference to me. I then started reconnecting with friends and family I’d isolated myself from which also helped. I gradually moved up the scale to the Amber Zone where you’re worried or defensive or irritated. 

For those of you that have experienced mental illness personally or tried to help someone, you know recovery is not a straight line. People can take 2 steps forward, then one back. Despite this the MOODOMETER is a useful model for all of us to consider.

Ultimately, we want to learn what to do to Go for the Green Zone. In this zone we’re more optimistic, more resourceful, and more positive.

If we’re leading a team the benefits of the Green Zone is compelling. Employees in the Green Zone (Harvard Business Review research) , are 31% more productive, sell 37% more, and 300% more creative. There is also twice the level of trust in a Green Zone tribe. This is a very relevant for any organisation going through volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

It is very expensive when employees are in the Red Zone. For example, Comcare (who provide the rehab services to injured workers from Commonwealth Departments and large employers) have determined that the average cost of an employee with a psychological injury is $350,000+. Other insurers and employers will report similar large and growing costs.

For me now, the Green Zone, being 10 out of 10 would be singing “Born to Run” live on stage with Bruce Springsteen. Go with The Boss. I admire him because despite being a fellow depressive, he’s had an extraordinary life generated massive loyalty and admiration from the E Street Band and millions of fans from around the world.

Being in the Red Zone, for me, is watching three episodes back to back, of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”.  I’d rather poke needles in my eyes.

It is better for us all to be in the Green Zone. I’ve spent time in the Red Zone and the Green Zone. The Green Zone is much better. That’s not to mean that we don’t slip into the Amber or Red Zone. Things happen in life that sometimes make that unavoidable. But the beauty of the MOODOMETER is knowing that our state isn’t permanent.

What’s important, is knowing what to do to lift my mood when “my life sucks”.

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