BLOG#12 Taking Control of Your Mood

The wake of the boat are the waves it leaves behind, as it pushes the water out of its way.

You might be sat on a beach and suddenly 4 or 5 waves seem to come from nowhere, crashing onto the shore.

That’s because the waves that the boat leaves behind continue to travel long after the boat has passed, spreading wider and wider, disturbing water that can be miles away from where the boat traveled.

For a while now I’ve been thinking about the idea that people leave a wake behind them.

A wake that affects other people, far beyond them, in ways you can’t imagine.

Then one Sunday morning a couple of weekends ago, something happened to me that cemented my belief in this idea and its disturbing effects on us.

Before I tell you what happened…

My Theory: Without realising it, even the briefest encounter you have with another person has an effect on both of you, which in turn has an effect on the people you both go on to encounter afterwards and so forth.

The effect of a person’s wake is on our feelings, which take place in the part of the brain that is responsible for making most of our day to day decisions.

A person’s wake can be positive (having a positive effect on others) or negative (with the corresponding negative effect).

What dictates whether the wake of a person is positive or negative at any given time is the mood that the person is in.

(Your mood is the instantaneous measure of how you feel – in particular how much you feel like you’re getting what you want, or how well you feel things are going your way)

So you can think of any group of people, such as a household, a classroom, a community, a company, a country or even our society as a whole, as a set pin balls all bouncing round in a box together.

At any one time, some pin balls are negative and some positive to different degrees.

And as they glance off each other or collide heavily together (interacting), the pin balls (people) are continually altering each others’ positive or negative states (moods).

Now back to my story…

I first thought about this human wake effect when I noticed very few people looked at me, smiled or said hello when out for a run one particular morning.

I thought quite a bit about why so few people would be happy or friendly enough to say hello, especially when we’re all out for some morning exercise you would imagine that would create some sort of friendly ice-breaking bond.

Apparently not. Something stronger was at play.

So I began paying more attention to my own and other people’s reactions as I passed them on the street, whether it be out for a walk, run or bike ride. Here are the patterns I’ve observed:

1. Whenever someone smiles at me, I automatically smile back. Their positive wake causes a positive reaction in me.

2. My smile usually continues after I’ve passed them, in other words my positive reaction is genuine.

When someone smiles and adds a hello or good morning, I reflect back an equally friendly greeting and my smile will continue for even longer after we’d passed. I noticed on at least 2 occasions when someone made a friendly passing joke, it put me in a good mood for quite a while after.

3. Therefore, the more genuine and friendly the greeting, the longer I felt the positive after-effects.

4. Anyone passing me shortly after a friendly interaction would only have to hint at a glance in my direction to receive a friendly smile and hello from me. I now had my own positive wake.

On the other hand…

5. Whenever a passer by didn’t look up, or looked but didn’t greet, that had a negative effect on me. “Miserable bastard” or something similar would cross my mind (and no doubt cross my face too).

6. After a negative interaction, instead of getting my immediate friendly greeting, the next passer by would be scrutinised to see if they were as miserable as the last. In other words, my treatment of others after a negative interaction would be cautious, or reactive (rater than positive and pro-active).

I discussed this with Tori who’d noticed something similar, but said that when someone didn’t look at her she could instigate a friendly hello simply by smiling and saying hello to anyone regardless of whether they looked at her or not. And she said it always got a positive response.

So I tested it for myself and it worked – whenever I took the initiative and smiled a friendly “good morning”, every single time it would cause the other person (or people) to reflect the smile and friendly greeting back at me.

7. Therefore, a positive greeting trumps any latent neutral or negative mood in the passer by.

Then a couple of Sundays back something weird happened.

Out running for about 25 minutes, every single person I passed (maybe 6 or 7) beamed a smiling hello or good morning at me as I passed.

I was struck by how weird it was for every single person I saw to smile and greet me. (Weirdos!)

Then by the sad fact that people staring at the floor and not saying hello is what we accept as normal.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it was a random occurrence for every person I saw that morning to beam a friendly hello at me.

But what really interested me was the effect those friendly greetings (100% positive from everyone I saw) had on me and my mood.

By the time I got to the fourth passer by, the stupid grin must have been plastered across my face as we greeted each other. Maybe my own mood was so positive and obvious by then that it was affecting other people before I opened my mouth?

All I know for sure is that, as a result of all the group out that morning having a positive wake, I was infected with a good mood for the whole run and it continued into the rest of my day.

As the circle of my theory closed in my mind, it became clear that these very small interactions of just passing someone, are a magnified snapshot of the feelings, decisions and moods we experience in our daily lives.

On an average day, we see, greet and chat to tens or even hundreds of people. Some in very minor ways, such as seeing someone interviewed on the news. Others in much more depth, like telephone conversations or meetings at work.

And if my mood can be affected, even slightly, in a moment by an anonymous passer by, then there’s no doubt that my mood all day long is being influenced much more heavily by everyone I interact with.

So how can knowing about the wake effect help us make our days (and lives in general) better?

Well being in a good mood is self-perpetuating. In other words, when things are going well for you, the way you communicate with people is naturally more open, friendly and agreeable, all of which will increase the chances of more things going your way because you will have the patience and empathy to reach more mutually-beneficial outcomes.

But in a bad mood, your appearance (demeanour) and communication will be more defensive, selfish and disagreeable, which will have the same mirroring effect on how others deal with you, meaning you’re less likely to get what you want. Both of you.

So how can we beat negative wakes and bad moods?

Just being aware of a psychological effect isn’t always helpful. You could quite easily get moody at someone complaining to you, if you’re aware they are making the rest of your day worse in the process.

So in this case, attack is the best form of defence.

We already know that when a negative wake hits you, it’s going to start your negative thoughts and feelings churning.

But if you take the initiative with your own positive wake, it will trump the effect of the negative wake before it has chance to effect you.

And the more positive your wake, the greater the effect.

So, if you want your mood to be good and things to go your way, an effective method is to go out of your way to start every interaction (no matter how brief) by being genuine, friendly and selfless.

Genuine is the key word here. Humans in general are very good at spotting bullshit, you simply can’t fake a positive wake.

And in particular, for the toughest occasions when you aren’t feeling in the best of moods yourself, cure your grumpiness by (just for a few seconds) focusing 100% of your attention on making someone else’s day better.

With a little awareness and very small amount of effort, you can have a major influence over your mood and the likelihood of getting what you want in life.

One last thing to think about: Any group of people, whether it’s a household, a school classroom, a community, a company or even a country… is just a box will positive and negative pin balls bouncing around inside.

What defines the overall state of the box at any time can only be the sum total of adding up all the positive and negative pin balls together. The box itself is just a container, an idea or an imaginary line and has no power to influence your mood.

In other words, how content or satisfied you feel with your life in all these different areas (as part of your household, or your school, or community, or your company, or your country… ) all comes down to the attitudes and actions of the individuals that you share these areas of your life with.

Complainers don’t complain because of the box they bounce around in, as they would have you believe. They complain because they have a bad attitude and they will pollute the overall mood of any group they are part of until they become more positive (whether that’s by their own initiative or by force when all the negatives around them are replaced with positives).

And for the leader of any group, wanting to influence its success, positive words and promises will have very little effect. In fact, empty words are what fuel the complainers and turn positive pin balls into negatives.

To really have a lasting positive effect on others and elevate any group as a whole, consistent and genuine positive action is all that counts.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share. Thank you

BLOG#11 The Real You Beats Any Diet

I believe that dieting is a symptom of misery.

It isn’t a cure, which means as long you’re on a diet you are destined to remain miserable.

Why do we go on diets?

Because we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see.

But what you see when you look in the mirror is the result of everything you have done from the day your were born until right at that moment. Your genetics have either dampened or amplified the effect.

The person looking back at you in the mirror is what someone looks like who’s done exactly what you did with your life so far.

How much you slept, the work you did, the stress you suffered, the good times you enjoyed, the booze you drank, the food you ate, how far and fast you walked, the thinking you did, the arguments you had, the exercise you did, the time you spent sitting down, the holidays you went on, the overtime you worked, the afternoon snoozes you took, the tv you watched….

The mirror does not lie, it can only show you what a person looks like who does exactly what you do.

I think that everyone has a vision of how they would like to look in the mirror.

But how we choose to think about that person is where we have the power to control who is looking back at you.

A destructive way to think about it, ensuring you’ll never be fully satisfied with what you see, would be to think of the person in the mirror as “Ideal Me”. In other words “the person I wish I looked like”.

I’ve started to think about it differently.

I think of the person I wish were looking back at me is actually the “Real Me”. In other words “the person I really am”.

I think that we know, with every decision we make all day long, whether or not it is a decision that Real Me is making.

But the majority of the time, right up to the moment you look in the mirror, someone else in in charge.

The greedy, selfish, lazy part of you who is also a liar. I’ll call him “Disgusting Me”.

Disgusting Me makes all my greedy, selfish, lazy decisions by telling stupid immature lies in my head:

“there’s nothing healthy on the menu”
“I deserve a rest”
“I’ll do it tomorrow”
“I’m happy enough”…

Disgusting Me specialises in coming up with reasons not to do what Real Me would do. And the more intelligent you are, the more convincing the reasons are that your Disgusting Me comes up with.

But the result of letting Disgusting Me make lots of small decisions all the time, is that the person looking back in the mirror disgusts you.

Occasionally Real Me may get his way, but over a whole lifetime it’s barely a drop in the ocean of hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of decisions that Disgusting Me has made for you.

If you’re like me then you sometimes get mad because you know exactly why the person looking back in the mirror looks like that. Not only do you feel fat, but you also feel stupid.

Now the good news…

Staring in the mirror feeling fat and stupid is a powerful motivator to make a change.

You have 2 options:

Option 1: The Miserable Temporary Solution
The temporary solution we’ve all opted for is a diet. It is a compromise – accepting you won’t be happy with some parts of your life (like what you eat) so you can be happy with others (like when you look in the mirror).

But you know that what you see in the mirror is just a reflection of the decisions you’ve made every day for years. So a diet can only work by being the complete opposite to the life you’ve lived (not just the food).

And you need to sustain this temporary lifestyle for a long time for it to have an effect on how you look.

In other words, a diet means prolonged misery (the opposite of what you’ve managed so far with your life) to enjoy the brief moment you glance in the mirror.

That to me is insanity and the perfect definition of “a waste of your life”.

So if you look in the mirror, before you decide to go on a diet you should acknowledge that your unhappiness is not caused by your reflection. Its caused by letting Disgusting Me make your decisions.

Then you have to ask yourself, is there another option than enduring the misery of a diet just to enjoy the brief moments I look in the mirror?


Option 2: The Enjoyable Permanent Solution
The permanent solution is deciding to live the life that Real Me (the person you wish were looking back in the mirror) lives, right now.

Psychologically, you become Real Me instantly when you choose the permanent solution.

The first thing to know is that Real Me lives the life that you really want and know would be possible if it weren’t for lazy, greedy, selfish you.

He doesn’t eat like a pig and never exercise, neither does he live life on a cardboard diet and spend every minute at the gym.

Real Me enjoys everything life has to offer. He eats delicious and nutritious food, drinks when he wants to drink, enjoys his work and has strong relationships with his family and friends. (The latter has been proven at Harvard in the longest happiness study ever conducted to have the greatest impact on a long and happy life – watch the TED talk here).

Real Me spends time doing things he loves that keep his body healthy. He doesn’t promise himself he will exercise 3 times a week, that would be like saying he’ll only eat breakfast 3 times a week. Loving things that keep him healthy is part of who he is.

Real Me grabs opportunities that come his way and makes his own luck, because he isn’t lazy, isn’t selfish, gives a shit more about others than himself and (this is the important bit) as a result of the decisions he makes all day long, he always feels good about his reflection.

Real Me knows that tomorrow’s 24 hours will never come again so he doesn’t waste any of it making lazy, selfish or greedy decisions.

As soon as your Real Me starts making your decisions, he / she will start staring back at you in the mirror.

And the longer Real Me keeps making your decisions, the more Real Me starts to replace Disgusting Me in the mirror.

Think of it like Disgusting Me is a glass full to the brim of Coke. Then Real Me starts making your decisions and each day a drop of water gets added to the glass until the glass becomes clear all traces of your bad decisions are gone from your reflection.

You almost certainly will have to expend some effort to find things you love doing with your time that are good for your body, things you love eating that are healthy and nutritious, spending your time with family and friends who bring out the very best in you and making your work exciting and energising (I suggested one way to do that in BLOG#1)…

To me that’s all life is – The things you choose to do with your time each day and it’s in those milliseconds of making each decision that you have complete control over your happiness.

The Short Version…
Planning to go on a diet to feel good about yourself is like taking an Aspirin to cure cancer.

When you’re truly happy with the decisions you make all day long, you don’t need a mirror to make you feel good and you’ll find that you’re never unhappy with the person looking back at you.

I’m the first to admit I’ve got pissed off with the mirror a lot over the years. But in the last few months the Real Me has controlled more and more of my decisions and it’s made so many parts of my life (and those around me) more enjoyable.

One last thought: Think about the times you’ve felt best about yourself in the past. For me personally they’ve never been after I’ve stuck to my diet for a day and they’ve never come from looking in the mirror or down at weighing scales. They are the times I feel like I’m making the most of life, when I’ve done the things I love best with the people I care about most. For me it’s surfing, drinking a few beers, eating good food with awesome people… It’s impossible to look in the mirror and not like what you see when the Real Me is in charge.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share. Thank you.