Have you ever woken up feeling so cranky that if one more person even breathed in your direction, you might go full Incredible Hulk on them? Oh, yeah, me either, totally. In all honesty, though, those days when you don't feel like your usual self are bound to come from time to time. But are days like that a total loss when it comes to getting things done? Are bad moods ever good for you? According to a new study, there may be a silver lining to feeling down in the dumps.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, asked 95 participants to complete a series of tasks while the researchers measured how their mood affected their performance. The study found that, for some people, being in a bad mood actually helped boost their brains, and allowed them to focus on and prioritize tasks more effectively. “Our results show that there are some people for whom a bad mood may actually hone the kind of thinking skills that are important for everyday life,” Tara McAuley, a researcher on the study and a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo, said in a press release.
But here's the catch: that performance boost from being in a bad mood? Researchers found that it only happened in "high-reactive individuals —people who have rapid, intense, and enduring emotional responses," per the study's press release. So if you're generally a pretty chill person, your bad mood may not kick your brain into overdrive the way it might for someone else.
However, if you are one of those lucky people who gets an energy kick out of feeling grumpy, McAuley warned that this is no excuse for allowing your mood to negatively affect other people. “People shouldn’t interpret the results as saying it’s fine to fly off the handle or overreact, or to be grouchy," she said.
According to the researchers' press release, further study into this connection will look into whether highly reactive people are just more accustomed to being in a bad mood — which would explain why it didn't phase highly reactive participants as much when compared with less reactive people — or if there's something else entirely at play here.
Regardless, whether you tend to have a short fuse or you like to go with the flow, if you're feeling more Eeyore than Tigger, there are some simple tweaks you can make to handle your mood in healthier ways.
If a stressful environment is keeping you from being able to relax, try to remove yourself so you have a moment to think and recenter.
Pierce Howard, a cognitive psychologist and author of the book The Owner's Manual for the Brain, told Real Simple that, ideally, you want to find "someplace where you can have privacy to shut down the stimulation to your brain."
Once you've found a quiet space to relax, try sweating it out. Harvard Medical School suggests yoga as a good way to deal with anxiety when a bad mood has you feeling overwhelmed. The introspection of a yoga session gives you the space to ground yourself in your own body, and a few calming yoga poses will help you return to that sense of peace and contentment. On the other hand, if your bad mood has you feeling angry enough to punch a wall, consider a more intense workout session to let out all those frustrated emotions.
What can also be helpful for a bad mood, according to Psychology Today, is shifting your attention and focus to someone you love or care deeply about. Toni Bernhard, author of the book How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow, wrote in a 2014 article for the outlet that reaching out to another person and helping them can be a "skillful way to lessen the intensity of a bad mood." Basically, this strategy's all about taking the focus off of yourself and your troubles for the time being, and shifting your attention to someone who means a lot to you. By the time you're done talking things out with this other person, you might just forget why you were even in a bad mood to begin with.
Whether being in a funk helps you knock out your to-do list or just makes you feel totally blah, knowing yourself and how to best ride out your mood swings is key to feeling like yourself again.