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Managing the Emotions Rollercoaster

Posted January 14, 2019 • Emotional Intelligence,Mindfulness • by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D.

In his newest best-selling book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink identifies a common emotional pattern across research studies on well-being: people typically feel bad in the morning.

Emotional well-being rises slightly around 8 am, then steadily decreases throughout the day until it crashes mid-afternoon, around 3 pm. It then rebounds around 6-8 pm, and increases until bedtime.

Researchers suggest that this pattern is influenced partly by the common workday, where people struggle through a morning commute, experience a mid-afternoon slump and a challenging commute home, and then enjoy themselves again after work.

Is this pattern familiar to you– either because you experience it yourself, or you work or live with people who do?

The astonishing thing about this research is that, if you believe the results, you can easily use it to predict your own (and others’) moods throughout the day, and you can do some simple things to proactively mitigate their effects.

What can you do?

  1. Write first thing in the morning. Although the results of this research had not yet been published when she devised the practice almost three decades ago, Julia Cameron has become a well-known expert at helping people increase their creativity and productivity using a practice she calls Writing Morning Pages, outlined in her best-selling book The Artist’s Way. The practice involves writing in a stream-of-consciousness way about whatever is on your mind when you first wake up. The purpose is to acknowledge and then let go of your first thoughts in order to allow more useful thoughts to follow. Psychological research supports Julia’s suggestion: writing about your life helps improve your mood (and your health), both over the short and long term.
  2. Start your day with a spiritual practice. Again unaware of this modern research, but undoubtedly influenced by the truth of it, many of the world’s oldest spiritual and religious traditions prescribe meditating, doing yoga or praying first thing in the morning. These morning rituals may be ubiquitous amongst the world’s religious traditions specifically because of what science is now explaining, which humans have known since the beginning of time: we have a natural proclivity to wake up in a bad mood, but there are simple things we can do to counteract it.

The next time you wake up feeling low, remind yourself that you are not alone in experiencing this dip in emotional well-being.

Also remember that breaking free from a bad mood is critical to your ability to inspire your direct reports and colleagues, and proudly serve your clients, customers and constituencies.

How will you manage your natural daily emotional dips?

What will your go-to practice(s) be– writing, meditating, praying, doing yoga? What other practices suit your style?

If you were able to predict and manage your own emotions more effectively, what impact might it have on the quality of your relationships with your colleagues, clients, community members and loved ones?