The other week I was in a bad mood and feeling a bit grumpy. So I dragged myself out of the house for a potter around Bondi. I knew I needed something, a change of scenery perhaps to pull me out of my mood.
The thing was, I had no real reason to be grumpy. I just felt grumpy. And the fact that I didn’t consciously understand it irritated me all the more as it then felt unjustified. Sometimes our emotions pop up and we have no conscious understanding or explanation of what’s caused them. As I walked down Gould St I passed a tiny bright pink beauty salon with a sign for eyebrow waxing. Impulsively I went in. Anxious to do something…ANYTHING that would take my mind off my bad mood.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had your eyebrows waxed but it’s a strange sensation. First there is the indulgent pleasure of the hot wax being pasted across your brows, followed by the swift and sharp pain of the wax being torn off.
Pleasure. Pain. Repeat.
The surprising juxtaposition of the two sensations did a funny thing, it snapped me out of my mood! And I got up, smiled and walked out of the salon a newly converted eyebrow waxee at the grand old age of 30-something.
As I pondered my experience it dawned on me what had just happened: without even knowing it, I’d interrupted my pattern!
A pattern interruption is a psychological term to describe snapping yourself out of an emotional state. You’ll have seen it in the movies – you know that moment where there is an over the top SLAP across the face to shock someone out of a (usually dramatic) negative state. Well that’s exactly what it was like for me getting my eyebrows waxed. It snapped me out of my problem/bad mood mindset.
So am I saying everyone should get their eyebrows waxed next time they’re in a bad mood? No. of course not. The point is that you’ve got to somehow interrupt yourself by doing something unexpected.
It sounds simple and kind of obvious but it makes sense. The fact of the matter is this;
your brain cannot be grumpy and surprised at the same time
So the surprise element literally pulls you out of your mood, without you even noticing it. You will have seen this work many times with children. Mid-tanty, many a withered parent has used this method of surprise to interrupt their loving offspring. And the secret is – the more absurd the interruption, the better!
Sometimes the answers to our problems are not over-complex, they are things that we already do in another context. We just don’t think to do them for ourselves.
Simple Life Strategy: in a bad mood? Interrupt it…
Next time you find yourself in a bad mood I offer you a quick fix –
1. Interrupt your pattern.
2. Do something different.
3. ANYTHING but what you’ve been doing.
4. Make it as absurd or unusual as you can
5. And see what happens.
You might be surprised…
…but I’ll bet you won’t be grumpy anymore
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