While I’ve talked a little bit about happiness and how spreading it also enforces it for yourself, I’ve never talked about one of my favorite psychological processes. I don’t know if you know this but I’m a huge psych nerd. That isn’t to be mistaken to mean a huge Psych nerd, although that is also true. Awesome show. Anyways…
Mood-congruence basically means that your emotions and how you perceive things is directly related to the stimuli you receive. What’s more, you’re more likely to be attracted to the stimuli that fit your current mood. To put that in English it means that if you watch a sad movie you’re more likely to feel sad about the world, and feeling sad makes you want to perpetuate it to a degree. Sounds obvious, right? But that’s only because it’s an obvious example. (Also, I’m not talking about mood-congruent memory, which is the phenomenon where you can remember moments in your past that fit your current mood more easily than memories that contrast your mood).
One thing I’ve noticed is the music I personally listen to. My favorite band, Shinedown, is basically eighty percent depressing songs. They’re one of the few bands in which I like virtually all of the songs, so I’d listen to all of them. When I listened to them most is when I was most depressed, ergo last year. Coincidence? You may think so, but it really isn’t.
Nowadays, when I’m listening to music for the enjoyment of it, I listen to Perfume, a J-pop band. They’re another band in which I like most of the songs, even if I’m a little guilty in saying it. But all of their songs are energetic and happy. I’m not saying they’re a better artist than Shinedown is, but these days I find the prospect of listening to them more appealing than Shinedown. I still listen to Shinedown occasionally, but not nearly as much because one, I feel as though the songs are getting old at this point, and two, it brings back bad memories.
So, now that I’m happier, I’m listening to happier music. When I was sad I was listening to sad music. So when people say smile until you’re happy, it’s for a reason. Smiling despite your mood and forcing yourself to think of happy moments is a great way to make you feel better, and not simply because those memories are happy. I’ll put it a different way.
When you experience something, your brain stores it into a complex series of nerve signals through pathways and discharges and stuff. When you remember that event, your brain is firing the nerve signals that you were experiencing when that event occurred. That’s also why the more you remember an event, the easier it is to remember, because you’re essentially strengthening those nerves. Anyway, so when you remember a happy event, your brain fires off the nerves that signal being happy. Make sense?
So, point is, when you’re sad, you’ll be naturally inclined to stay that way, whether you intend for that to be the case or not. So do happy things to contrast your mood and you’ll feel better. That’s how psychology works.