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Good News on Bad Moods

Heal
woman in a bad mood

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There’s a surprising upside to those crabby and irritable moments.

“Sullen, scowly, sulkly, slumpy… Gloria was staying grumpy.” The wonderful, gone-too-soon children’s book author and illustrator Anna Dewdney created a marvelous character in the ticked-off bulldog of Grumpy Gloria. Poor Gloria finally comes out of her cantankerous mood by the end of the tale, but many of us can relate to her state of mind, especially in summer, when Pitta doshas can get out of balance. (More on that at the end of this story.) But I have good news for you: being in a foul mood on occasion has some benefits.

According to research from the University of Waterloo, a cranky mood can help certain types of people think better as they deal with demands and stresses of daily life. High-reactive people—these are people who react quickly, intensely and enduringly to an emotional response—performed better during the study on executive functions when they were in a bad mood. But low-reactive people, who are less swayed by emotion to begin with, did more poorly on tasks when in a disagreeable mood. Participants were asked to do nine tasks and questionnaires that measured how mood interacts with memory and analytical challenges.

However, “people shouldn’t interpret the results as saying it’s fine to fly off the handle or overreact, or to be grouchy,” wrote the study’s Tara McAuley, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo. Further research is needed, but it may be that high reactive people are more used to feeling negative emotions to begin with, and are therefore less distracted by them.

Feeling crabby? Click here for three cooling drinks to calm hot tempers and pacify Pitta in any season.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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