What's Your Mood Set Point?

By Minji

"Where can you start to elevate your mood set point? Whether it's indulging in and appreciating your nighttime skincare rituals or really loving your cup of mid-day coffee, let's start the elevation!"       

My husband and I essentially live the same life.  Especially with the pandemic, we spend most of our time in the exact same environment doing very similar things, together.  If anything, I think he deals with more stressful issues and drama as compared to me since he works for a big company and I’m largely pursuing my life’s passions.

However, I notice how differently we’re wired when it comes to our general moods.  He wakes up every morning in a cheery bouncy way, mildly excited about the day to come, reminding me of Winne the Pooh singing about "honey sweet days."  I, on the other hand, tend to wake up thinking, “here we go again.” It’s not a bad mood, more of a “matter of fact” type of feeling?  It’s not that I’m depressed or worried about anything specific, but it takes a lot to get me excited that a new day is about to start.    

I recently read about this concept of “mood set point” and a lot of this started to make more sense.  We all are wired a certain way – it’s part of our genetics and we’re born a particular way.  Similar to the weight set point, your mood set point keeps bringing your mood back to your base level mood, very closely linked to what you inherited from your parents.

This explains why people who win the lottery or become disabled in a car accident will, after some period of transition where they go through expanded times of happiness or depression, eventually return to their base mood despite the extreme disparities in luck and fortune.

Luckily for all of us, again similar to the weight set point, despite the fact that inherited genetics play a big part, your mood set point can be altered.  Studies have revealed that there is a relationship between your mood set point and which side of your prefrontal cortex is dominant.

Prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that is linked to various critical functions, including memory, attention, decision making, and reasoning.  Studies have shown that when the right prefrontal cortex is more active, there are higher rates of depression.  On the other hand, an active left prefrontal cortex has been connected to happier and lighter moods.

So what can we do to cultivate a more active left prefrontal cortex? According to experts who have studied left prefrontal cortex activation, meditation helps a lot.  Second, engaging in selfcare is effective – give yourself regular breaks of rest and relaxation and focus on getting good sleep, not just for your skin, but for your mood as well. Third, and most importantly, take time to relish and savor the joyful events that happens.

I’m generally a solid sleeper and pretty efficient in the selfcare department, especially with a hobby and passion like skincare!  I’ve also had a regular meditation practice for years now and can attest to its benefits on my general mood.  I think before I really got into meditation, my general mood was less than “matter of fact.”  I remember days when starting the day felt like a chore and almost nothing was worth looking forward to.

That brings me to the third element of fully taking in and appreciating the positive stuff.  I’ve read about this before in Rick Hanson’s book, “Hardwiring Happiness,” but I’m realizing again that knowing is different from doing.  Practice makes perfect. I'm making a mental note to myself to not brush away all the wonderful small things that happen during my day.

Where can you start to elevate your mood set point? Whether it's indulging in and appreciating your nighttime skincare rituals or really loving your cup of mid-day coffee, let's start the elevation!