I consider myself a pro when it comes to watching mood swings. After all, I've had plenty of my own, and I have the added advantage of having four teenage daughters to observe.
To be honest, my girls are not moody. In fact, our home climate is remarkably clear and sunny. That's precisely why it is so easy to watch a mood coming over the horizon.
Think about it. If you're in the middle of a storm, you can't even see the horizon, let alone remember to look that direction in order to be aware of what's heading your way. You need clear skies for that--or at least a very high cloud cover.
Mood-watching is a fascinating mindfulness exercise, and you've got plenty of high and low pressure areas of your own to keep you busy. The trick is learning how to read the ol' mood barometer.
You can do this with your own moods, but frankly, it's a lot easier to practice by watching others. In both cases, we need to learn how to recognize the signs of an approaching storm.
We tend to get in the way of understanding our own moods while we're in them. We're better at developing our mood-watching skills when we start with someone else's storm. So, let's do that.
By becoming a--key word here--nonjudgmental observer of the moods of those you love, you can learn a great deal about yourself and your own reactions. Here are seven key mood-watching elements:
#1 Take a look at the satellite map.
What's coming up in the next few hours or days? A test? An interview? A break-up? A big game? A project deadline? Be aware of the high and low pressure zones and pay attention to any merging storm fronts that could result in gale force winds.
#2 Don't rely on the forecast exclusively.
Sometimes the storms that are predicted on the 11:00 news never materialize. It's great to know what's expected, but don't forget to check things out for yourself. Perfect storm conditions might end up as blue skies. Watch faces for signs of tension, sadness, or frustration. Watch bodies for adrenalin responses (using arms and legs to slam, stomp, pound, etc.) ASK. Offer reassurances--a soothing voice, a hand on a shoulder--that you are there and you care. And if, despite dire warnings, the storm never develops, acknowledge and celebrate that!
#3 Be prepared.
How can you respond lovingly to another's storm? By planning ahead. Plan to be available, if only to listen. Plan to be a calming presence. Plan to take nothing personally when those inevitable winds lash at you.
#4 Ride it out.
Ah, yes. Here's the tough one. Don't let someone else's storm become YOURS. We all say and do things when we're in a full-on mood hurricane, and it can get ugly. Yelling at the wind won't change its direction or force, and when you're talking about mood storms, adding your own wind only makes things worse. Remember: your role is not to stop the storm, get mad at it, sulk about it, or hide from it. Be present, and watch.
#5 Clean up as a team.
This is definitely THE most important part of mood- watching. Once that storm has passed and emotions have settled, it's time to assess the damage. Your role here is to engage your loved one in the process of learning from this torrential downpour of emotion. And be clear about this--BOTH of you can learn from it. Your intention is to discover ways to deal with similar storms more skillfully in the future.
#6 Enjoy the sun.
A common mistake we make is to dwell on the mood storm long after it has passed. Here comes the sun! Celebrate that, enjoy it, and don't get caught up in the memory of the dark clouds of yesterday.
#7 Don't worry about the next storm until you see it coming.
Sure, you want to keep your eye on the forecast, but you don't need to stay glued to the 24-hour weather channel. There's bound to be another mood storm eventually, but until then, revel in the sunshine.
By sharpening your mood-watching skills, you will develop greater mindfulness and learn how to handle whatever comes your way. Your loved ones will benefit from your loving attention, and you will pick up a few tips for the next time your own mood storm starts brewing.
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