As an experiment, my wife and I are deleting the word, “tired.” In its place: “relaxed.”
For example: “I spent the entire day in meetings. It was incredibly relaxing.”
Or, “Honey, the reason I’m so relaxed tonight is because I got up at 4 a.m. for a global conference call, and now I’m too relaxed to go out for dinner or, for that matter, to ever leave this chair.”
Words matter—they’re the stuff of thoughts. Ever notice that telling yourself how tired you feel, doesn’t really help?
“I’m completely exhausted,” you think, “but wait, now that I’ve said that, suddenly my energy has skyrocketed!” Not likely.
Still, you could argue that “tired” and “relaxed” are not synonymous, because you can be tired AND tense.
In fact, tired and tense are the two dimensions, says Dr. Robert Thayer, author of that drive most of our moods.
1) Tired, and its opposite, energized, is one dimension, and you could, if you had any energy, plot this on a Y axis, “tired” on the bottom, “energized” on top.
2) Tense vs. calm is the other dimension; that goes on the X axis.
As you may have guessed, Dr. Thayer’s X-Y axes give us four combos, ranging from tense-tired, to calm-energy.
Our worst moods—and most negative thoughts—come from tense-tired, which is why a problem that rattles you at night often looks better after a good night’s sleep. So avoid thinking about your problems when tense-tired.
Our best moods come from calm-energy which, Dr. Thayer suggests, resembles what others call “flow,” or “being in the zone.”
Can you change your mood? Yes, and a lot of what we do every day is an attempt to self-regulate. But we often do that poorly, such as with bad food, or substance abuse.
Dr. Thayer’s approach is primarily physical: a fast, 10-minute walk tops his list of mood-busters. You could walk, or just stand up and stretch, several times/day, whenever your energy drops.
But cognitive approaches—what we’re telling ourselves—work too. On your next short walk, try syncing your breath with a positive word or phrase.
For example, you might silently repeat, “breathing in, Energy; breathing out, Calm.” (The “breathing in, breathing out” phrasing comes from meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.)
Experiment with different words. Probably not “tired.”
Tip: Can a brisk, 10-minute walk around the office, or the block, really change your mood? Let’s find out.
© Copyright 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.