Practicing emotional alchemy

keys to the heartI had a “revelation” about transforming bad moods on Tuesday afternoon.

For some reason I was feeling a little blah. Not at all energetic and not the least enthusiastic.

At some point I lolled on my bed thinking about how to spend the rest of the day – wouldn’t it be better to spend the rest of the day reading and watching telly and hope that the next day I would feel more energetic?

Even though it’s true I might’ve stepped out of my bed in a better mood on Wednesday morning, I wasn’t satisfied with my proposed solution. I started my happiness project because I want my life to get better, which includes acting energetic not lethargic. Also, one of  Gretchen’s twelve commandments kept running through my mind: “Act the way you want to feel. “

So I bit the bullet, sat down to tackle my thought distortions (in this case I listed the advantages and disadvantages of spending the rest of the day reading and watching telly). Then I got up and vacuumed my apartment thoroughly, went for a long brisk walk and when I got back home I was energized and ready to do something constructive.

Ta-da. My day was ”magically” transformed from blah to energetic. 🙂

This is hardly anything I haven’t done before (I mean changing my emotions by changing my actions) but for so reason it felt like a big revelation. Why is it so hard to remember that you can actually change the way you feel by changing the way you act, especially when you need it most?

I suspect I will have the very same revelation many times in the future. But maybe one day it doesn’t take such a long time to remember I have a choice about my moods.


There is one passage in Gretchen’s book that I find very exciting.

“One helpful consequence of my happiness project was that even when I had a bad day, it was a good bad day. If I was feeling blue, I’d run through with my mood boosting strategies: go to the gym, get some work done, keep myself from getting too hungry, cross a nagging task off my to-do list, connect with other people, spend some time having fun with my family. Sometimes nothing really worked but the nice thing about trying to ameliorate a bad mood by taking those kinds of constructive steps was that when even when a day was bad, it had bright spots, and I could look back on a good bad day with satisfaction. [The happiness project, p. 278]

I want to have more good bad days too.

Now I’m going to get my daily dose of my guaranteed satisfaction and go clean my bathroom. Then I’m going to practice some salsa steps. 🙂

Question: How do you tackle bad moods?


  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Great post. I understand what you’re saying.

    I do this good bad day thing too. Mostly, when I’m really grumpy, I clean my house. I really scrub it hard, sort things that make me grumpy to sort anyhow, like our huge weekly mail pile, and just do things I don’t really like to do like scrubbing the tub and cleaning toilets. Also clearing out the spider webs in the basement. Cleaning out scary stuff out of the back of the fridge. So it ends up to be a productive day, which is a different sort of happiness. I also get the productive sort of happiness from working at the office. I don’t like working at the office, per se, but I do feel good about doing quality work.

    Keep it up, I suspect that your new dance class is going to keep you looking forward too. 😀

    • Satu says:

      Hi Marion! The weird thing is that I’m in grumpy or lethargic, I’m always convinced that doing nothing will make me feel better. Yet passive past times (?) like watching telly or surfing the Internet for long periods of time is probably worst you can do to your moods.

      I take productive any time.

  2. Marion says:

    Hey, Satu, there going to start a new season of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch pretty soon! I actually understood that show–which has got to be the first Sherlock show or movie that I did understand. So yay! 😀

    • Satu says:

      Oh, that is GOOD NEWS! I wonder when they televise it in Finland…

  3. Linda says:

    I agree with Marion on the great post Satu! Cleaning, organizing and going for a nice walk/work-out seems to reset my brain too. I hope you enjoy your salsa!

    • Satu says:

      Hi Linda! I did reset my brain by practicing salsa for 15 minutes. Then I went to the choir. 🙂

  4. Usually I just allow myself to be in my bad mood. I say it out loud, too: “I’m grouchy!” or “I’m pissy” or whatever 🙂 Leaning into it helps me pass through it.

    • Satu says:

      Hi Karen! I must try “saying it out loud” too. The important thing to me about my discovery was that I can at least decide how I’m going to act. In this case it also changed my feelings for the rest of the day.

  5. Oh Satu, I do that as well. I feel blah and apathetic and decide I’ll do nothing and start afresh tomorrow (like the Last Supper and food approach – eat everything and start dieting tomorrow).

    But I sometimes move past it by ‘doing’ something as well. I hadn’t actually thought about it as changing my actions to change my mood, but you’re right! I did that today – wallowed a few times but kept getting up and back on my computer and I actually got a heap done, despite thinking I was planning on doing NOTHING!

    Love your thinking!!! xx

    • Satu says:

      Thanks, Deb! The weirdest thing in my mind is that it is so easy to convince myself that I will be better off if I don’t do anything. Like watching telly and reading was some quality time to me- I can do them anytime I want and usually it is just boring.

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