How Mood Affects Your Motivation and Happiness
To get the things you want in life, sacrifices have to be made.
This is true for any worthwhile goal or skill. It takes time. Practice. Persistence. And sometimes a healthy dose of self-restraint.
But there’s another factor. And it’s rarely mentioned in conjunction with goal pursuit and long term happiness…
Mood Affects Your Motivation For Certain Tasks
Moods come and go. They’re temporary.
But they also influence longer term outcomes. A recently published study found that our mood influences which activities we engage in. The researchers state:
Our findings demonstrate that people’s everyday decisions regarding which activities to undertake are directly linked to how they feel and follow a remarkably consistent pattern.
What trends did they notice?
People seek mood enhancing activities when they feel bad and engage in unpleasant activities that might promise longer-term payoff when they feel good.
These findings come from following over 28,000 people over an average of 27 days using a smart phone app. The data represents real-time moods and activities collected during random times during the day.
The Consequences For Your Long Term Happiness
When you say it out loud, it makes sense.
When we’re feeling down, we engage in activities that will improve our moods. While fun or pleasurable, it may also be in conflict with our long term wants and needs.
And when we feel good, we’re more likely to engage in boring, tedious (but also necessary) tasks that will benefit us in the future.
While interesting, it’s also a catch-22. We’re more likely to do things for our long term happiness when we’re already in a good mood.
After a long or stressful day at the office, we’re usually short on motivation. We’re not in the mood to watch what we eat or go to the gym. We’d rather binge watch Netflix on the couch.
If a bad mood persists, it’s easy to see how people get stuck in a rut. Or why it can be tough to climb out of depression.
So how are we supposed to create an upward spiral? Or prevent a downward one?
Resilient Moods Make Happier People
Luckily, other areas of behavioral psychology have found that our well-being doesn’t have to fall prey to bad moods or random stressful events.
Here’s 4 quick tips from science that can help you regulate your mood and be more resilient to emotional ups and downs.
1. Exercise – You get tons of benefits from exercise, and I can’t go through them all here. But it’s the keystone habit. And a big reason why is because it has a big impact on your mood.
It boosts the feel good neuro-chemicals like endorphins and dopamine. And it’s been shown to stabilize your mood during the day. If you exercise or do activities outside? Even better, as nature has also proven to be a natural mood enhancer.
Exercise also helps make our mood more resilient in two other important areas. It fights stress in the short term and long term. And it also helps you recover from and prevent depression. Factors that can bring our moods down.
2. Habits – Any behavior that is a habit is largely immune to mood. Studies have shown when we’re stressed out we tend to fall back on our habits. Whether they are good or bad. So if you’ve established productive or healthy habits, they should be resilient to any dips in mood or motivation.
3. Do Tough Things Early – Generally speaking, our moods are more likely to be elevated following a good nights rest. So you should plan to tackle tasks that may require more motivation on your part in the first few hours. Before you get sidetracked by other stress or mood draining tasks/responsibilities.
Advice from willpower research gives the same advice, although for different reasons. The study above implies that mood can be a contributing factor, if not the factor. But the combination of willpower and better mood is good reason for completing tasks that may not be less pleasant.
4. Schedule Your Happiness – Find something that you enjoy doing, that you’ll look forward to, and put it on your schedule.
Not only will the anticipation of doing something fun and enjoyable keep you excited during the day, it will buffer you from daily stressors. Taking time for yourself is an important part of good mental health.
Moods Motivate Us
Human motivation is complex. Your mood is hardly the only moving part of the motivation system.
Take personality, for instance. Optimistic people have a natural built in resilience. They tend to see things in a positive light. In contrast, neurotic individuals have a tendency to ruminate or be anxious, which can affect mood negatively.
But mood is important, whether your looking to be more productive or trying to improve yourself. And identifying ways to regulate your mood can give you better results for long term happiness.