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A Bad Mood is Contagious

Coping Skills When You or Your Spouse Are Crabby

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Photo: Stockbyte / Getty Images
Photo: Stockbyte / Getty Images
If either you or your spouse are in a grumpy or bad mood, there are two realities you should face. Neither of these should come as a surprise to you.
  • 1. It is your responsibility to deal with your bad mood. This isn't something your spouse should try and fix.
  • 2. Your bad moods could have a negative impact on everyone in your family.
"Like an infectious disease, the negative emotions of one family member can have long-lasting effects on the mental and physical health of the rest of the family ... The study of emotional transmission, printed in the February 1999 issue of the Journal of Marriage and the Family along with three other studies, revealed that negative emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety are more likely to be transmitted within a family than are positive emotions. Contagious joy within families seems to be a rare thing indeed."
Source: Charles Downey. "Secondhand Emotions: Catching a Bad Mood." Swedish.org.

Identify Your Bad Mood

If you don't want your sour mood to lead to even more irritation and possible hostility in your marriage, it is important that you communicate the reason for your bad mood to your spouse. To identify your bad mood, it could help if you answering these questions in your own mind.
  • Am I listening to too many news reports?
  • Is there something I'm avoiding?
  • Is there a difficult issue we haven't discussed?
  • Am I frustrated or angry about something?
  • Am I feeling jealous or unappreciated?
  • Could my hormones be the cause?
  • Do I have unmet needs?
  • Am I allowing my spouse's negativity to rub off on me?
  • Am I taking any medications that could cause moodiness?
  • Have I been getting enough sleep?
  • Is my diet healthy?
  • Am I craving sunshine?
  • Do I want to wallow in my sour mood and play the poor-me role?

Bad Mood Coping Skills

  • Make it a daily routine that you each have some quiet time of about 20 minutes. This includes a stay-at-home-parent, too.
  • Listen to music that could improve your mood.
  • Go outside. Take a walk. Work in the garden. Play with your dog or cat. Do a stretching exercise.
  • Consider doing some breathing exercises.
  • Visualize a serene or positive time in your life. Reflect on a favorite vacation.
  • Consider aromatherapy and find a way to smell jasmine, eucalyptus, grapefruit, or your favorite scent. Light a candle or dab lotion on your temples.
  • Take some time alone to sort things out.
  • Look at pictures of supportive and loving people in your life.
  • Talk to someone.
  • Eat some dark chocolate.
  • Watch a funny movie. Read a book that will make you smile. Release endorphins in your brain.
  • Take a bubble bath or a shower.
  • Pick or purchase some flowers to have in your home.
  • Ask for a hug.

Some Dos and Don'ts If Your Spouse is in a Bad Mood

  • Don't assume you are the reason for your spouse's crabbiness. Don't take it personally.
  • Don't make jokes about your spouse's bad mood.
  • Don't suggest having sex.
  • Don't stomp out of the house.
  • Don't give your spouse the silent treatment.
  • Don't preach or lecture your spouse.
  • Do acknowledge the bad mood and give your spouse space.
  • Do offer support but don't nag by asking what's wrong.

Additional Resources:
Shirley Bragg. "5 Ways to Improve Your Mood." Beauty.about.com.
Dr. Maoshing Ni. "Going Up! 7 Pointers to Lift a Bad Mood." Health.yahoo.com. 8/27/2007.
Lisa Ann Smith. "Banish a Bad Mood in 15 Minutes." RealSimple.com.

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