John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

One Bad Day too Many

Everybody has a bad day once in a while. Things don't go as planned. You're tired or sick or frazzled and just not up to your usual standards. Your mood takes a dip and you're more irritable than usual.

"Bad Days" are nothing to be ashamed of. If you were a machine, you would run, run, run until you broke, but as a human being you have emotions, moods, fluctuations in energy, distractions, limited control of reality, and of course, stress. The occasional bad day is to be expected.

But if your bad days turn into bad weeks, that may be a sign that something is wrong. It's one thing to be depressed for a couple of days. It's another thing to be depressed for more days than not over a two-week period.
Depression is not something to take lightly. Depression costs you life.

If you've had one bad day too many, maybe it's time to talk to someone. Maybe something is going on with you, and maybe your bad days are a signal that your emotional health needs attention.

Anger Management

The American Psychological Association has posted a good article on anger. You can find it here.

The Downward Spiral of Depression

Man holding head

Major Depression. Chronic depression. Situational depression. Depressions vary in kind and severity, but what they have in common, at their core, is negativity and despair.

Depressed persons see the glass as half-full. They have a perceptual bias toward extracting negative information from situations while minimizing or ignoring positive information. They have negative views of self, other, world. And they don’t just perceive negativity, they recall it. Their memories are consistent with their moods. It’s not necessarily that they had more negative experiences to begin with, it’s that their minds filter out the positive memories to match their depressed state of mind.

Unfortunately, negative thinking leads to negative actions which turn often result in negative results. In this way, negativity is self-reinforcing. If you act on your negative perceptions, and get back negative results, your views are confirmed. And then despair sets in. Despair is when we believe there is no hope that things will get better. This mood, this pain, this self, this world, this life––there is hope that any of it will ever be different.

This is how the spiral starts.

Depression is exhausting, mind-numbing, painful. The depressed person struggles to function. It’s just too tempting to sit in the chair, lay on the bed, or hide out from the world. Or use some substance to help numb the pain. Unfortunately, our bodies restore energy by expending energy. They are not like batteries. We must move to get energy. But movement and effort are generally the last things the depressed person wants to do.

So down the spiral we go, slipping deeper and deeper into the mood, the negativity, the despair. Is it any wonder that most truly depressed persons start thinking seriously about suicide?

But wait! We can interrupt the spiral.

The secret lies in getting inside of the negativity. Negative thinking is fraught with distortion. In therapy, we call these negative thoughts out into the open and examine them. Some perceptions may indeed be accurate (losing your job is tough no matter how you cut it), but frequently the depressed person distorts reality without realizing they’re doing it, or without realizing how much they do it. Once we restore balance in thinking patterns, the spiral starts to work in reverse.

Depression can be overcome. Don’t let despair convince you otherwise.

(Photo by Dhammza)

Gray Skies, Blue Mood?

People tend to believe that weather effects their mood, but does it?

Maybe not.

David Watson, a mood researcher at the University of Iowa, challenges this widely held belief. In fact, in a series of studies, he and his colleagues found very low to nonexistent correlations between negative moods and dark days or days with precipitation. Likewise, the relationship between sunny skies and positive mood was also found to be questionable. Moods vary in many ways, and apparently have various sources, but weather consistently turned out to be a poor predictor of either positive of negative affect.

How can this be so?

In his book, Mood and Temperament, he offers one explanation: illusory correlation. Let's say, for instance, that we're in a negative mood. If we look out the window and it's dark or rainy outside, we may attribute our mood to the weather because it's a handy explanation. But if we look outside and it's sunny, we overlook weather and begin searching for an alternative explanations.

Watson admitted he was surprised by his own findings. He expected fairly significant correlations between weather and mood. They conducted multiple studies, by the way, in the USA and in Japan.

And yet...

I not entirely convinced the matter is settled. For instance, were I live (Michigan) we often have days and days of gray in the month of February. This is especially prominent along the lakeshore. When the sun doesn't shine for days, everyone complains about feeling gloomy. And then one day the sun pops out and the sky is clear and cloudless, and suddenly everybody's smiling again and expressing relief.

I can't help but wonder whether a stronger relationship between weather and mood would have been found if Watson and company had tracked people's moods for a longer period of time. Say, a month.

What do you think?