THE BLOG
09/05/2013 06:09 pm ET | Updated Nov 05, 2013

Why Pinpointing the Cause of a Low Mood Is Never the Answer

Imagine these two scenarios:

1. Meg is in a bad mood. Meg looks for something to blame it on. Meg's mood gets worse.

2. Meg is in a bad mood. Meg doesn't look for something to blame. Meg's mood improves.

Indeed, the first scenario is what most of us do -- way too often. When we feel insecure, anxious, or annoyed, we look outside to find the reason for the feeling, then we try to fix (or learn to cope with) that reason and pretty much spin our wheels. That's why in the second scenario Meg felt better. She didn't look outside and lay blame for her bad mood, so her head instinctively cleared.

Many people I meet wonder why we feel better when we don't look outside for excuses for how we feel on the inside. Here's the reason: Looking outside requires intellectual analysis, e.g., thought. And everyone feels good when their head is clear of thought and bad when it isn't.

To illustrate this principle, some performance experts believe (in error) that people struggle because they haven't set goals or found their true passion. Most psychologists suggest working through a difficult event from your past, or visualizing what you want in the future, when you're troubled. Others deem it's necessary to isolate what is upsetting you and then reframe your perspective. To do any of this, however, you have to add more thought into a head that's got too much thinking in there to begin with. It simply won't work since it's not possible to feel better (or perform up to par) when you add more thought.

Pinpointing the cause of your low feelings, and deliberately doing something to remedy them, is never the answer because (no matter how much it looks otherwise) your feelings come from your thinking, not from your circumstances. To me, this simple formula sums it up best:

• When you're in a bad mood, your circumstances will appear challenging, but you're never in a bad mood because of challenging circumstances.

What, then, are you supposed to do the next time you're in a bad mood? That's up to you. Like Meg in scenario two, all I know is what not to do.

For more by Garret Kramer, click here.

For more on success and motivation, click here.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.