Conquering a Negative Mood
You wake up to the sound of an annoying alarm, you’re dead tired, and you just plain feel out of sorts. Ugh! How do you go out into the world—or even get out of bed!—and motivate your clients to improve their health and well-being when you are feeling so blah?
Fitness professionals, like everyone else, are subject to getting up on the “wrong side of the bed.” Yet your clients depend on your high spirits to support them, even when you are feeling down. The good news is that just because you wake up in a bad mood (or fall into one later) doesn’t mean you need to stay there. There are mental and physical techniques you can use to shift your mood.
One such technique, the practice of positive thinking, is being embraced by successful leaders everywhere. The immense popularity of Rhonda Byrne’s movie and book The Secret (Prime Time Productions, Atria Books 2006) shows the public’s intense interest in harnessing the power of positive thinking.
Discover how fellow fitness pros use positive thinking—and other mindful methods—to shake off the blues and serve their clients and students to the best of their abilities.
What can you do if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Try one of these strategies.
Breathe Deliberately. “I practice grateful thoughts and deep diaphragmatic breathing,” says Nancy L. Jerominski, IDEA Elite Personal Fitness Trainer and owner of NLJ Fitness and Wellness Consulting in Seattle. “These two simple exercises keep my energy centers clear. So, unless I am acutely injured or ill, the ‘wrong-side-of-the-bed morning’ becomes a ‘right-side-of-the-bed day.’”
Use Body Scanning. “When you wake up, get in the habit of scanning your body,” advocates Linda Moseley of the Coaching Gym in Hurley, England, and Torino, Italy. “See if there is tension in your body. [Feeling out of sorts is] negative energy held in the body. Recognize tension as negative energy, and start to know exactly the intensity of this by scoring it on a scale of 1–10 (with 1 being very low negative energy and 10 being major reactive negative energy). Having established where you are on the scale, do the following: Remember a time when you were at your best (on a positive energy scale of 1–10, choose a time when you would give a high score of at least an 8), and visualize it, [making] the pictures intense in color and the feeling warm and peaceful. Notice your breathing (changing your breathing rate is very powerful, as this changes the tension in the body), and start to inhale on 6 counts and exhale on 6. Do this for the time that it takes you to get out of the bathroom and dressed. Smile and look up with your eyes to the ceiling, and keep them there with the smile for at least 30 seconds.”
Meditate. For Mary E. Miriani, an ACSM health/fitness instructor at Reality Fitness Inc. in Naperville, Illinois, meditation is what helps her shift her negative focus to a positive one. “I meditate by drawing my attention to my breath, taking in positive energy with each inhalation and releasing negative energy with each exhalation,” she says. “Sometimes, doing this for 5 minutes is all it takes. If not, I picture a drawer, closet and window in my mind. I imagine putting small issues in the drawer, larger
issues in the closet and things that are out of my control out the window, closing each in turn as I leave my problems to be dealt with either at a more appropriate time or by my higher power (those things I have no control over). I envision light pouring into the top of my head and down through my body, filling me with light that I will radiate out to the people I meet that day. I also use exercise to ‘out’ bad feelings, moving my body to music that has meaning for me. Many times I do the visualization techniques while I am exercising. This is very freeing.”
Get Out of Bed—Again. Lawrence Biscontini, MA, an international spa consultant and movement specialist who divides his time among Puerto Rico, New York City and Greece, says that if he steps out of bed in a bad mood, he’ll try, try again. “I get back into the bed and [lie] for a moment or two to shift my perception,” he explains. “Then I make that translate into movement as I get up in a distinctly different way: either on another side of the bed, from the bottom edge of the bed or from the same spot as before, but hopping, jumping or sliding to the floor.”
Shift Negative Thoughts to Neutral or Positive Ones. Mary Bratcher, MA, DipLC, of The BioMechanics in San Diego, says that while it does require some effort to get out of a bad mood, it can be done. “Every time a negative thought comes into your head, you need to literally tell yourself to ‘stop thinking that thought’ and then replace it with something neutral and, preferably, positive,” she says. “For example, if you hear your spouse’s chipper voice singing loudly in the shower [and] all you can think is ‘I wish he would just shut up,’ tell yourself to stop it. Then replace your frustrated thought with something that will not continue to fuel your irritation, such as, ‘It’s nice that he is enjoying his shower.’ Continuing to substitute neutral or positive thoughts for negative thoughts is the only sure-fire way to get yourself into a better mood.”
If you find yourself dropping into negativity later in the day, take time to shift into positive thinking before teaching a class or training clients.
Do a Drop-Your-Energy Exercise. Moseley suggests doing the following exercise to feel better: “Notice where your energy is. Is it up in your shoulders and inside your head, feeding all those thoughts that are running along like an overworked tape machine? Immediately take a deep breath, inhale through the nose, exhale through the lips [and] focus on feeling your energy dropping to 2 inches below the bellybutton. Now hold a little tension there by pulling the bellybutton in toward your spine. Repeat three times, each time extending the time of your [inhalation], then exhale until you can manage 10 seconds inhale and 10 seconds exhale. Lengthen your leg muscles, and imagine them stretching all the way to a spot just below your bellybutton. Visualize you are rooted to the ground and your roots (like a big tree) are growing and spreading deep and wide down into the earth. This will immediately make you feel more grounded and centered; this is the posture that brings your mind back to the present.”
Sing or Dance to Music. To turn her thoughts in a positive direction while driving to class, Juliane Arney lets music guide her way. The international dance-for-fitness presenter, video personality and choreographer for Team Arney Inc. in Costa Mesa, California, says she likes to “pop in an inspirational CD and sing [along loudly].”
Pat Massey Welter, a personal trainer who owns Suncoast Pilates & Personal Training Center in Palm Harbor, Florida, also “turns on mind-body music” to clear her mind. On the days she needs an energy boost, she “may turn on a dance CD and dance around the studio to boost me up, so when the client walks in, I am smiling, happy and full of energy to share.”
Turn Your Focus Away From You. If Arney is still not in a completely good mood when she arrives at a facility to teach, she uses these strategies: “I sit in the car for a moment and pray for my students by name or face, and ask God to help me be a blessing to them and a light in their day,” she says. “I also head straight for the locker room and a bathroom stall, lock the door, take five deep breaths and say to myself, ‘For the next hour, it’s about them, not about me.’”
Uschi Moriabadi of Munich, Germany, also concentrates on clients to move away from the draw of negative thinking. “I take a deep breath, practice inner smiling from Tao yoga and focus only on my client. The most important thing, I think, is to love working with clients. If I do this, I generally forget the ‘bad day’ before, and after the session, things look better!”
Smile. Actual smiling can also help you kick your negative mood. “A smile doesn’t cost anything and goes a long way, so I put a smile on my face and try to keep my head high to rise above whatever it is that is bringing me down,” says Shellie Rykiss, group exercise director at the Dunfield Club in Toronto. “It does help, and I usually feel better.”
Bratcher concurs: “Research has shown that simply [smiling can change] your facial expression, alter your thoughts and change your body’s physiology. It is hard to be in a foul mood when you are smiling!”
Being able to shake off a bad mood in the moment is a positive tool. However, you can also proactively work to shift things in your life so that your bad moods occur less often.
Change What’s Bugging You. “The only way you can change your mood is to make active attempts to do so,” says Bratcher. “Instead of dwelling on dark or angry feelings, decide to focus your thoughts on coming up with solutions. For example, if the sound of your alarm clock makes you feel like smashing it to bits, don’t continuously think about how much you hate your alarm clock. Instead, shift your thinking to what type of sound you would like to hear or the manner in which you would like to be awakened in the mornings. Then make a plan to get a new alarm clock or wake-up device.”
Create a Good Morning. To help ensure that you don’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed, consider your morning routine, advises Bratcher. “Make sure that you are including things that will get your day off to a pleasant start, not just going through the motions. Think of something that you really enjoy doing in the morning, and figure out a way to incorporate it. For example, if you like having a leisurely cup of coffee but always have to rush it because it takes so long to brew, consider purchasing a coffeemaker with an automatic timer so the coffee is ready by the time you get up. That way, you have some time to enjoy it and also have the added bonus of waking up to the smell of freshly made coffee.”
Eat Well. If you don’t drink enough water or ignore your daily nutrition needs, you may find yourself in a bad mood more often than you want. Welter makes it a point to eat a healthy, substantial breakfast every day. “On my wrong-side-of-the-bed days, I am particularly careful about my food selection,” she says. “I need the time every morning to sit down in the café near my studio, have a cup of tea or coffee, eat a balanced breakfast of carbohydrate, protein and some fat, read the newspaper and reflect on the upcoming day. If I miss this routine, I have a hard time getting into the proper mood.”
Increase Your Patience Quotient. Miriani has found that developing greater patience leads to a more positive attitude. “How can we be positive if we are always in a hurry?” she asks. “We need patience with ourselves and our clients. Getting and staying in the moment in which we are living is what helps us to be patient. Our focus should be on the process, rather than the result. The result will come with the process.”
When you find yourself battling negative thoughts, be kind to yourself. Know that you can use different body-mind tools to shift your thinking and get back to center. Then you’ll be able to give clients the focus and energy they deserve—and continue to Inspire the World to Fitness®.