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The ABCs of a Bad Mood

Updated on June 18, 2010

When you find yourself feeling ‘snarly’, do you seldom know why? Or maybe you know why you are feeling sore, but aren’t really sure how to change it. Possibly you’ve never considered changing your mood as you assume that it is controlled by outside forces: as far as you’re concerned, your mood will change when your circumstances do. Whatever the case, you will be sure to recognise one thing about bad moods in general – they are often much quicker and easier to diagnose than to cure!

However, there is a simple formula to help you get to the bottom of a bad mood quickly and by doing so, change it. All you have to do is simply remember your ABC’s!

The Formula of a Bad Mood

The ABC formula of a Bad Mood
The ABC formula of a Bad Mood


The first step is to work out what triggered your bad mood. Was it a hurtful remark from a friend? Was it that your boyfriend didn’t answer when you rang him on the phone? Was it that you spilled your coffee for the third time this morning?

Work out what actually triggered your mood, remembering that sometimes the cause is not always blatantly obvious. Sometimes, it is not even an external event that sets off a bad mood, but a thought instead. For example, you might be happily watching television one moment and suddenly a comment or character reminds you of something awful that happened yesterday, setting off a bad mood. In this instance, the trigger was your thoughts in relation to what you saw on television.

It is important to remember that it is not the events themselves, but our reaction to those events, that causes a bad mood. If feeling bad was a direct cause and effect result of the event, then every single person would react in exactly the same way to similar events – and we know this is simply not the case!


What went through your mind after the triggering event occurred? For example, if your friend said something hurtful, did you think ‘She is always so critical!’ or ‘She’s right, my bum does look big in this dress, I look awful’? If your boyfriend didn’t answer his phone, did you think ‘I bet he’s with another woman’? If you spilled your coffee, did you think ‘I’m such a klutz, I’m totally useless’? What thought went through your mind and what does that thought ultimately mean to you?

The negative thoughts and beliefs that occur following the trigger play a big part in affecting your moods and causing a downward spiral in your emotions. In fact, 9 times out of 10, our moods are directly caused by the mental dialogue going on upstairs rather than anything else in our internal or external environment.

If you notice that your bad mood seems to be more extreme or severe than what you would consider to be a proportionate in relation to the trigger, there is a good chance that one of your negative core beliefs has been activated. Extremes of emotions are always a good indicator of a core belief at work.


What did you do in response to the trigger? Did you tell your friend off? Did you try to ring your boyfriend at his friends’ and still didn’t find him? Did you kick the cupboard after spilling your coffee?

Maybe what you did was a little less deliberate or obvious. Pay attention to your body – have you tensed up your back and shoulders? Are you breathing shallowly or clenching your teeth? These typical physical reactions to stress serve only to lower our moods or heighten our stress further.


Change your thoughts and behaviours and if possible, change the situation that is setting off your negative thoughts and behaviours.

The most important part of this process is realising when your bad mood is a signal that something in your circumstances need to be changed, or when your thoughts and behaviours are unhelpful or disproportionate to whatever situation triggered your mood. If you find that your thoughts about the situation are causing you much more distress than the situation taken at face value would, it may be time to work on balancing your thinking.


Example 1 – Friend saying something hurtful: If you believe she is right in her criticism, does this make you feel like a failure? If you told her off, does this make you feel like a bad person? Is your friendship ruined?

Example 2 – Boyfriend not answering the phone: Does your thought that he could be with another woman set off feelings of inadequacy or unlovabilty in you? If you phone friends to find him, could this set off an argument with him because he believes you are being mistrustful and checking up on him?

Example 3 – Spilt coffee: Did it make you feel as if you are always ruining things? Did you hurt your toe kicking the cupboard?

What are the actual consequences of the triggering event? (In considering this question, it is important to focus on the here-and-now, what is actually going on, not some imagined catastrophe that hasn’t actually occurred.)

Example 1 – Maybe your friend’s comment hurt your feelings for a moment, but she’s usually a pretty good friend, and so you can let it go this time. Or, if not – maybe you need to rethink your friendship?

Example 2 – Your boyfriend’s just unavailable at this moment! You can try him again later, or possibly he’ll ring you back!

Example 3 – You can just wipe the coffee up off the floor, and next time you will concentrate and try harder not to spill!


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    • Nordy profile image

      Nordy 9 years ago from Canada

      I'm so glad that you could relate to this hub and I hope that you continue strong in your journey out of and away from depression. If I could just cure one illness in the world, depression would be it. People who have no experience of living with it or knowing people who live with it have no idea just what a truly dreadful illness it is and how it can rob people of their lives and even themselves. You are so right when you say it took a long time for you to actually apply the principles you knew would help you out of depression - I think that's teh case for many people. But the point is, it can be done and am glad for you that you were able to do it. Thanks so much for the lovely comments and cheers to good mental health!

    • DNKStore profile image

      DNKStore 9 years ago from Mississippi USA

      "It is important to remember that it is not the events themselves, but our reaction to those events, that causes a bad mood."

      That is SO TRUE, and took me the longest time to learn! I started MY journey out of the depths of depression by believing that I COULD affect my world by changing my belief system, but it took me so long to learn to actually apply it.

      Great Hub, and I applaud your "mission statement" of helping free the suffering of those depressed!