May Explain Bad Mood
YORK (Reuters Health) - People sometimes attribute their bad moods
to getting up on the wrong side of the bed. But one researcher
has come across a better explanation for unexplained grumpiness.
Mysterious bad moods, she has found, may arise when people fail
to meet goals they do not even know they have.
times when we are down but cannot explain why may result from
our failure to reach expectations that are ingrained in our psyche,
according to Tanya Chartrand, a researcher at Ohio State University
in Columbus. She has dubbed these down times ``mystery moods,''
and her recent study of college students reveals that sometimes
they are triggered by unachieved ``nonconscious'' goals.
unconscious goals take shape after people frequently and consistently
set particular achievements for themselves in certain situations,
Chartrand explained in an interview. For example, if a person
sets a goal of making friends whenever he attends a party, then
that goal will eventually become subconsciously linked to party
situations. So even years later, when he no longer consciously
sets the goal of winning friends, he may still be affected by
an unconscious pressure to do so.
Chartrand said, means that he also will not realize it when he
fails to reach this goal.
where the mystery mood comes in,'' she said. ``You feel kind of
crummy, but can't articulate why.''
a study presented recently in Toronto, Canada, at a meeting of
the American Psychological Society, Chartrand looked at subconscious
goals and mood among 109 college students. The students completed
tasks in which they unscrambled words to form a sentence.
of the students worked on sentences that included goal-oriented
words like ``achieve'' and ``succeed.'' Previous research, Chartrand
noted, has shown that such words can subconsciously enhance a
person's will to succeed. The other students unscrambled sentences
containing neutral words.
the students completed a timed anagram test in which they had
to rearrange the letters of words to create new words. Some were
given an easy test, while others labored over a difficult one.
All students then completed a questionnaire that evaluated their
found significant mood differences only among the students who
had been subconsciously ``primed'' to succeed with the sentence
task. That is, those given the easy anagrams were in better moods
than those given the difficult test. There were no significant
mood differences among students who were not primed to succeed.
real life, such unconscious goals may be behind mysterious bad
moods--a phenomenon that could signal a problem, according to
goals become automatic and may no longer be appropriate,'' she
explained. For instance, if being around a childhood rival still
puts a damper on a person's mood as an adult, it is probably time
to recognize and move past the problem.
Chartrand said, frequent unexplained moodiness may lead to depression
or anxiety, or shape negative views of the world and stereotypes
of other people.
people who frequently find themselves in bad moods may be able
to discover the source by thinking about recent events and how
they could have affected their feelings.
some cases,'' Chartrand said, ``introspection is enough.'' Others,
she noted, may need the help of a therapist.
stressed that unexplained bad moods should not be confused with
clinical depression, which is marked by more severe and persistent
low feelings, as well as symptoms such as weight changes and sleep
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