Mental Health A-Z What Is Mood? By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on August 01, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print The Good Brigade / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Mood? History Types Mood Disorders Factors That Influence Mood Impact Tips for Improving Mood What Is Mood? Mood can be defined as a relatively stable affective state often described as positive or negative. Sometimes mood is described as one's subjective feeling state and affects the outward expression of it. Unlike emotions, which tend to be stronger and more specific, moods are more general and less intense. They are also generally not triggered by a particular experience or event. However, they can be influenced by various factors, including fatigue, stress, social interactions, world events, hormones, weather, hunger, and general health. Mood can significantly impact different aspects of life, including how people think, feel, and behave. These affective states can impact motivational levels and decision-making. They can also affect relationships and how people interact with others. Mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, are serious medical conditions that can cause significant impairment in daily life. If you are experiencing persistent changes in mood, it is important to talk to a medical doctor or mental health professional. History of Mood Mood has been the subject of research for many years. Early theories about mood focused on its connection to emotion. However, more recent research has shown that mood is not just the result of emotions but is also influenced by other factors, such as physiology and cognition. The study of mood is important for understanding human behavior. Mood can play a role in how we learn, remember information, and make decisions. Mood can also affect our physical health. For example, research has shown that people who are depressed are more likely to get sick and are more likely to have heart problems. There is still much to learn about mood. However, the research that has been done has helped us to better understand how it works and how it can impact our lives. Types of Mood Mood can be difficult to describe, but some common signs can help you identify whether you are in a good mood or a bad mood. Positive Mood A good mood is usually defined as a generally positive state, although people usually cannot pinpoint exactly why they are in a good mood. Feeling physically well, getting a good night’s rest, a lack of stress, and positive social interactions are a few factors that might contribute to a positive mood. Some common signs of a good mood include: Feeling happyBeing optimisticFeeling contentHaving a general sense of well-beingFeeling energetic and productiveFeeling engaged and interested in life Negative Mood Some common signs of a bad mood include: Feeling sad, anxious, or angry Having a sense of emptiness or hopelessness Feeling tired and sluggish Feeling disconnected and disengaged from life Lacking the motivation to engage in normal tasks Irritability or feeling short-tempered A sense of languishing Negative moods can influence how people interpret events and their judgments. When people are in a more negative mood, they are more likely to see the event around them negatively. If you are experiencing persistent changes in mood, it is essential to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. Negative moods that last longer than two weeks or are impacting you rlife might be a sign of depression or another mood disorder. Mood Disorders There are a number of different types of disorders that can affect mood. Some of these include: Major depressive disorder: This serious condition can cause a person to feel persistently sad, anxious, or empty. People with depression may also have trouble sleeping, eating, and concentrating. Bipolar disorder: This disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood, from mania (a high, often euphoric state) to depression. People with bipolar disorder may also have manic episodes, during which they may act impulsively, have racing thoughts, and be easily irritated. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Formerly known as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern. This disorder is characterized by depressive symptoms that generally occur during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. Symptoms of SAD may include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and social withdrawal. Cyclothymia: This disorder is characterized by milder forms of alternating mania and depression. people with cyclothymic disorder may have relatively brief periods of normal mood in between episodes. Factors That Influence Mood Unlike emotions and feelings, moods tend to be influenced by a range of non-specific factors. This makes it more difficult to point to the exact causes of negative moods. Research suggests that poor sleep, environmental factors, stressful negative events, and negative social interactions often occur before developing depressed moods. Sleep Sleep appears to play an important role in mood, although the relationship between the two is not fully understood. What researchers discovered in one study was that poor sleep quality was associated with worse mood. This may come as no surprise to anyone who has found themselves feeling short-tempered and irritable after a restless night of tossing and turning. But does being in a good mood lead to better sleep? Unfortunately, the research doesn't indicate those good moods have the same beneficial effects on sleep. Effects of Lack of Sleep on Mental Health Smiling While the factors that influence mood are complex and varied, studies have found that changing your voluntary facial expressions can influence your mood. In other words, putting a smile on your face (even if you are faking it) can play a part in improving your mood. Essentially, adopting a positive facial expression influences your mind and induces a more positive mood, whether or not your smile is genuine. Nature It turns out that your parents were probably right—going outside to play really might help put you in a better mood. Studies have found that having more contact with natural environments can have a positive effect on mood and well-being. Impact of Mood Mood can have a significant impact on health and well-being. Mood disorders, such as depressive disorders, are associated with an increased risk of physical health problems, including heart disease and stroke. For example, one study found that people with a history of depression had a 34% higher risk of experiencing a stroke. Mood can also affect how well a person functions in daily life. For example, people who are depressed may have difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and making decisions. Mood can also influence relationships with others. People who are depressed or anxious may have trouble communicating and connecting with other people. This can make it more difficult to maintain interpersonal relationships and may contribute to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. It is important to seek help if you are experiencing low mood or sudden changes in mood. Mood disorders can be treated, and there are a number of resources available to help people who are struggling. If you are concerned about your mood, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Tips for Improving Mood Everyone experiences periods of low mood from time to time, but some strategies can help you improve your mood when you are feeling down. Some tips for improving mood include: Get Regular Exercise Exercise can help to improve mood by, among other factors, releasing endorphins, which are chemicals that have mood-boosting effects. Studies have found that exercise can play a role in improving mood. In addition to potentially preventing and alleviating symptoms of depression, single sessions of exercise can offer immediate improvements in mood. Eat a Healthy Diet Eating nutritious foods can help to improve energy levels and overall well-being, and evidence indicates that what you eat can also have an impact on mood. The link between diet and depression is not fully understood, but there is a growing understanding that what you eat may provide some benefits for boosting mood and fighting depression. Research indicates that high adherence to dietary recommendations may have a protective effect against depressive symptoms. The consumption of foods linked to inflammation (such as highly processed foods higher in sugar and fat and red meats) was linked to a higher risk for depressive symptoms. Spend Time in Nature Connecting with nature can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation. One study found that as little as 10 minutes spent sitting or walking in a natural setting had a significant positive impact on mood. Connect With Others Spending time with loved ones, or participating in activities with others, can help to improve mood and reduce feelings of isolation. Research suggests that positive social interactions may help alleviate depressed moods. Practice Relaxation Techniques When you are under stress, your body produces a chemical called cortisol. It prepares your body to deal with what you are facing, but exposure to too much of it for too long can produce a variety of negative health effects. In fact, studies have shown that cortisol levels tend to be more elevated in people who are more depressed. Minimizing the stress you are feeling may be helpful when it comes to improving your overall mood. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, can help reduce stress and promote feelings of calm. Use a Mood Tracker Whether you use a handwritten journal or an online app, a mood tracker can help you look for triggers that might affect your mood. It can also provide insights into how lifestyle factors—including diet, sleep, and exercise—impact your moods. A Word From Verywell If you are struggling with your mood, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. 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