June 14, 2016 in Stress and Coping

Improving Mood By Building Experiences of Mastery

by Dr.Jennifer Richardson

Are you someone who is struggling to find enjoyment in your day to day routine? Or perhaps you may be someone who feels increasingly “stuck” or unhappy? Maybe your energy level and motivation has decreased and you find that you have become increasingly isolated from friends and family whom you used to enjoy spending time with?  If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions and have felt this way for a few weeks or longer, then keep reading and follow these suggestions to begin to improve your mood.

Research studies examining intervention effectiveness for adults and teens experiencing depressed mood and difficulty with emotion regulation have found that identifying opportunities and practicing activities that build mastery on a regular basis helps to decrease symptoms of depression and improve mood. So perhaps you might be thinking: How on earth am I going to become a master at something when I feel this badly? Well, there are many ways to take steps - small steps to build your sense of mastery that is much easier than you might think. For example, a person can build mastery by learning to cook a new recipe, or by practicing and learning how to assemble that new piece of furniture from Ikea. Maybe you have always wanted to try a yoga class at the gym.  Well, building mastery includes attending that yoga class for the first time. It is important to remember that we are talking about “building” mastery, not becoming masters of something overnight.One could build mastery by going on a hike in the park, or going fishing,kayaking, or paddle boarding and working to slowly improve your abilities and confidence in any of these sports or activities. You might build mastery by fixing a flat tire on your car or by growing a new type of plant or vegetable in your yard. The possibilities and ways in which one can build mastery are endless. Take some time to make a list of some ideas - perhaps something already on your To Do list or a new game or activity you have been wanting to try.

Remember to be easy on yourself as you work to build experiences of mastery. Notice and let go of those self-critical judgments that may come up. Remember,perfectionism is not needed to build mastery and in fact may take away some of the fun and enjoyment throughout the journey. While building experiences of mastery, try and throw yourself and your full attention into the moment so that you can mindfully participate in the activity. If you find yourself becoming distracted and or pulled into worrying thoughts or negative feelings, just gently bring your attention back to the activity you are doing over and over again. Work toward building experiences of mastery into your daily routine and purposefully choose some activities and experiences that are quick and simple to do so that you can ensure you can and will make the time to complete them. Allow yourself to enjoy at least some small part of it and plan to build on that overtime.