Some of us grew up with those clever rings that changed colors, supposedly depending on our moods. If those trendy gadgets were accurate, we would no doubt learn a lot about what makes us tick. And think about what a great first impression opportunity that would provide when interacting with others.
Our approach/ avoidance antenna would welcome such revealing information, because not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves.
In the balance, however, even more than being able to gauge the moods of others, is to improve our own. Acknowledging that some people who are depressed will benefit the most from pharmaceutical and professional intervention, research reveals that there are also behavioral considerations that can improve emotional quality of life.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Working Night or Day?
Do you live to work or work to live?
If you love what you do you chose the former — but most of us are stuck with the latter. Many people who love what they do don´t "work" a day in their lives, but people who work to make ends meet view their job as a necessary method of providing for their families.
Unfortunately, many people in this position do not have the luxury of designing their ideal job situation — or their hours. Some work the night shift—which research reveals is not ideal when it comes to life satisfaction.
A study by Kelly D. Davis et al. (2008) found that people who have daytime work schedules are happier than those who worked nights or weekends. This result is not unexpected. Many night shift workers can no doubt relate to the findings.
Coming home exhausted from working a graveyard shift to a house full of activity with a spouse dashing around getting the little ones ready for school might not sound like an environment conducive to maintaining positive family relationships.
To the contrary, many night shift workers might become irritable and cranky. Sure, an overnight work schedule can free up time for daytime errands, childcare, and other opportunities most nine to fivers don´t have, but the question is whether those "perks" are worth the problems.
Consistent with anecdotal evidence, Davis et al. found that night work puts a strain on marriages, and can "create greater permeability of negative moods and fatigue between work and family." They also found that night work can prevent positive work experiences from transferring to the household.
2. Bedroom Phone Ban
For many people, a device is a do not disturb sign. But should that sign be hanging on our bedroom door — indicating that virtual connectedness has invaded even our sleep space? Research suggests a better plan might be to designate the bedroom a device-free zone.
In an article aptly named "Sleeping With the Frenemy," (from 2018), Nicola Hughes and Jolanta Bruke found that abstaining from overnight smartphone use in the bedroom for one week increased wellbeing, although the impact was relatively small.
Regarding specific benefits, participants reported that abstaining from bedroom smart phone use resulted in an increase in both the quality and quantity of sleep, less time wasted, enhanced feeling of calm, and improved personal relationships.
Speculating as to why the results were not more dramatic, Hughes and Burke acknowledge the benefits of smart phone use. They provide a source of social interaction and connectedness, which can decrease negative emotions, and facilitate relaxation and escapism, which can promote positive emotions.
3. Music Matters
Can music make you happy? Or — is the trick to avoid music that makes you sad? Some research appears to support the latter suggestion. Ronald S. Friedman (2018) re-explored the existing hypothesis that lower pitched music has a sadder expression.
He found qualified support for the fact that people perceive "lower than normal" musical scales as having a sadder, expressive character. His research, however, does not support a hard and fast rule that lower pitches depress mood.
We all have different musical preferences as well. Although as a practical matter, in terms of maintaining serenity and positivity, jazz or easy listening is probably a better choice than musical lamentations of unrequited love.
Live to Maximize Happiness
Obviously, life is filled with events and circumstances beyond our control. And many people require professional assistance in tackling clinical depression. But to the extent that we can influence our schedule and surroundings, there are easy-to-implement practical measures we can take to enhance our mood.
A version of this article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 3,00 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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