You do know the familiar brooding feeling.
Everything’s irritating, nothing works as it should, everyone else is a moron, takes you for granted and the world’s well, just a bit shit!
You worry that this is it and that your moods are going to get worse, the frustrations mount up and, as you get older, you’re turning into another of those crabby bad tempered old men.
Cantankerous, complaining and seized with impotent anger.
You see them all over: middle-aged gits unable to control their whinging, their last remaining expression of control being the spitting of angry monologues against the world and what it’s become.
Your real fear is that it’s an inevitable slope that you’re going down too.
How often do you feel the irresistible urge to just complain, find yourself inexplicably sliding down the dark abyss and hear yourself, as if you are looking at yourself from the outside, going on about teenagers and politics and how crap everything is?
Are you slowly and inevitably turning into a grumpy old git?
Maybe we just can’t help ourselves?
Apparently, our bodies are out to get us and, as we go through our late 30’s/40’s we undergo hormonal changes that can cause what’s been called the male menopause. Dramatic drops in testosterone levels can lead to “irritable male syndrome” (yes, it’s a real thing!) and we are more prone to mood swings and grumpy old man complex becomes much more prevalent.
But, as with many things, overcoming it can just be a case of mind over matter. It is possible to embrace and control your moods, keep things in perspective and minimise the suffering to yourself and others around you.
You just have to start behaving like a mature adult and not a petulant teenager. You have to take control, make decisions and not accept the route that your mind is willing you down. You do have years of wisdom and experience that will give you the tools and strength to get around your moods, it just takes some willpower and practice.
So, in practical terms what can you do?
1. Accept the misery
How often do you find yourself pretending, like some overwrought martyr, that everything’s OK and that you’re not really in a bad mood and you just try to carry on as normal?
This is a rubbish idea as inevitably things just tend to get worse, you get more and more wound up as, in your deluded state of self denial, you aren’t even giving yourself the opportunity to help yourself and put things right.
For god’s sake cut yourself some slack!
Everyone gets in a bad mood at some point and it can actually be quite healthy and OK.
It’s not the getting in the bad mood that’s the issue, the real test of maturity is how you actually deal with it.
So, first of all, to deal with the damn thing, you have to accept that it actually exists and, once you have admitted to yourself that you’re in a god awful mood you’re half way to sorting it out.
But this isn’t an easy thing to do.
Bad moods are all absorbing, self pitying and emotionally tumultuous. It’s so hard to think straight through the black mist, your judgement is impaired, your clarity of thinking disabled and the rational side of your brain hard to access.
It’s frightening in middle age to feel this isolated, out of control and vulnerable. So, just like a frightened animal, we often resort to our basest instincts and lash out, we rant against the world.
But this is the bit where we can pull off the type of magic trick that leaves teenagers with their mouths open, children in their twenties agog with admiration and respect and proves beyond doubt that we, the gods of middle age, are invincible and mighty in our wisdom.
We possess the age matured ability to pull off a stunt that’s so out of the ability range of anyone of a lesser age that it’s gobsmacking.
It’s also really simple – because somewhere, even in the midst of the enveloping darkness, you do still have the ability to remove yourself from the current feeling. You can find a sense of objectivity and you can triumphantly, and gloriously separate the rational part of your mind from the all embracing emotion.
And believe me, it can take every ounce of life experience, every year of development and every last drop of mental strength that you have to take a moment and say to yourself:
“I’m in a really bad mood, now get a grip and let’s do something the fuck about it.”
Yay! Rapturous applause – now that’s a real man talking and not a big kid!
And, when you have separated the emotional from the rational, made a decision, owned and accepted your mood and taken some control back from yourself you will instantly start to feel better. You will have empowered yourself, you will feel stronger, more in control and ready to really smack this bastard bad mood in the bollocks for good.
Let’s get on and see how!
2.Involve someone else
Lucky them! It doesn’t have to be a big deal but saying to your partner or work colleague or whoever has the misfortune of having to potentially suffer your grumpiness for the day something like “Sorry, I’m in a really bad mood – in fact I’m annoying myself never mind you as well!” goes a long way to fixing things.
Owning and admitting it to yourself is the first step and then externalising it and letting someone else know is the next great step.
This doesn’t have to be any great outpouring of grief and hopefully the recipient of the news will have the good sense to tell you to pull yourself together and stop acting like a soppy puppy!
A bit of VERY carefully placed humour can go a long way!
Again, trying to avoid holding your mood in and experiencing the sense of ever decreasing circles of blackness is key. Having someone else know how you are feeling can sometimes almost instantly improve your mood, help you to own it and move on. If you are very lucky the other person may well be able to humour you out of it or at least ask you how you are getting on periodically and often, in the face of such concern, you will just shake yourself out of your mood and move on.
3.Make or Mend Something
I think we are essentially hard wired to use our hands. There’s great pleasure to be had from watching things and passively experiencing things but, in many ways, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty, doing something practical or mending something that’s broken.
Have a go at doing something creative, make something, knock some bits of wood together, mend a bike, fix the car or put that shelf up that’s needed doing for the last six months. Maybe have a massive tidy out of a cupboard or a room. It doesn’t even have to be that big – just a ten minute constructive and physical activity can work wonders in terms of snapping you out of your mood and giving your brain the “I’m useful again” vibe.
Be careful though that you don’t choose an activity that’s going to inflame your temper. For example DIY may be a good idea or it may not be – if you’re the type of person that gets irritated when you can’t instantly find the right screwdriver for the job even when you’re in a normal mood then trying it in a bad mood could be disaster!
You need to do something that you know will go well, something that you will enjoy and, most importantly something where the outcome doesn’t really matter. The goal isn’t to create some piece of art to hang in the Louvre, it’s to engage in a positive creative activity – the activity is infinitely more important than the end result!
4.Watch a TV Comedy
Simple really. You can’t really laugh and stay in a bad mood. Watch something that you have seen before and you know makes you laugh. It’s such a simple thing and may only take a few minutes to snap you out of your mood.
If it doesn’t work immediately then you may well be tempted just to throw in the towel and give up, but set aside 20 mins or half an hour and promise yourself that you will sit there for the allotted time and not give up. Yes, you might not have 30 mins to spare really but think of it this way – if you don’t invest this time in getting yourself back to normal the chances are that you are going to lose at least those 30 mins of productivity anyway due to your moody inefficiency and self absorption.
5.Create and eat some healthy food
And it has to be healthy! So not burgers and chips and chocolate or any other comfort food that you might be craving! You need to go for something mega healthy and surprisingly tasty and preferably quick easy and fun to make!
Healthy shakes are good, crispy salads, fruit and vegetables, crusty grainy breads and all of that mega virtuous type of food stuffs. Grab a recipe book, get some ingredients and get cooking!
6.Put on Music and dance like an idiot
And I’m talking about mega loud, crazy guilty pleasure music. The sort of music that makes you want to go to a live gig, stand in a sweaty crowd and dance around like an idiot until you’re exhausted.
If you have never had the urge give it a try – close the curtains, lock the doors and completely lose yourself. Get a video of a live gig if you need to, maybe glorious dirty roaring guitars or pumping dance music – but get something on, turn it up load and force yourself to move to the music.
Again, it doesn’t matter what you look like, there’s no one watching and no one need ever know what you did. But move and dance, throw your arms up in the air, close your eyes and lose yourself for a while, completely let yourself go.
Well that does sound like a whole load of new age hippy shit but believe me, if you can pull this one off then you really are master of your own mood destiny!
7.Get outside and dig the garden
Just being out in the fresh air can have a positive effect on your mood. I guess it’s something about being close to nature and feeling the elements but we do naturally respond in a positive way to being outside.
Even going for a short walk outside can clear your mind, put things in perspective and can have a soothing cathartic effect. If you can combine being outside with some physical activity you will find that the effect is even stronger – digging the garden for example has the double effect of giving you fresh air, exercise and of doing something constructive and creative. Nurturing and tending the earth is a sort of base activity that again we seem almost hard wired to get positive vibes from. Even if you briefly weed a small area of earth you will get this!
8.Get a boring job done
You know that annoying boring little job that you know really needs doing but you have been putting off for ages because it’s annoying and time wasting?
Do it when you’re in a bad mood – after all things can’t actually get any worse and you may as well do annoying stuff because everything’s annoying anyway!
If the job isn’t physically written on a list somewhere then write it down. Go do the damn annoying job and then very deliberately and very emphatically strike the job off the list.
There, there. Now that’s just a little bit better isn’t it!? It’s surprising how achieving things and making even a small bit of progress, focussing your mind on a menial task and feeling even a little bit useful and competent again can lift your sense of self worth and mood.
(Apologies for patronising tone of voice – mainly directed at self but I hope you found if helpful!)
9.Get off the phone/screen/social media
Screens are depressing. Social media is depressing. Phones are depressing.
You are just constantly sucked into a stream of adverts, other people’s perceptions, views and bullshit. Your phone’s constantly nagging you, notifying you of banal crap, demanding your attention for likes and follows.
Switch off the internet.
Switch off your phone.
Switch off the TV.
Go and do something real.
10.Do something nice for someone else.
First of all realise that life’s a continuum and basically there always going to be people with more than you and who seem to be better than you and there are always going to be people who have less than you and seem to struggle.
Who gives a shit and stop rating yourself.
When you are in the darkest inward looking tunnel the hardest thing in the world is to look outwards, to think about someone else and do something nice for them. But, if you can pull this off, it’s like unlocking a door, busting off the shackles and bursting out into the light.
It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, or anything flash or showy. Just a genuine thoughtful action that will positively impact someone else’s day.
Doing something like this cuts off your introspection. Instantly turns the tables and is essentially impossible to do in a bad mood.
It takes will power to achieve but is a quick and easy way to hit your mood squarely where it hurts.
11.Shout and lose your temper.
Sometimes it’s the only way and a bad mood can increasingly manifest itself in a physical energy and anger. I’ve lost my temper in all sorts of bad ways in the past and nothing good ever really came from it.
The key, I think, is to acknowledge that, for men especially, we often have an inbuilt physical response to stress. Maybe it’s the dormant hunter/warrior genes that just kick in and you just need to get rid of that explosive burning energy somehow.
Firstly, this is OK. It’s nature and and basically normal I think.
What’s not OK is for this physical rage to manifest itself in violence, or other negative outcomes.
You need to find a safe way to express your physical anger/aggression when you get in a bad mood. It might be as simple as taking some physical exercise, pummelling a punch bag or throwing some stuff harmlessly against a wall. But whatever it is, it must be pre agreed, thought through and communicated to others who might be in the vicinity so that they know what’s going on.
It’s OK to get angry, it’s OK to feel physical anger and aggression.
It’s what you do with it that is vitally important and, channelled safely and correctly it can act as a valuable safety valve.
12.Get out on your bike
Well obviously! It’s very difficult to come back from a cycle ride in a worse mood than when you went out. Cycling ticks a huge number of “feel better” boxes, it gives you time to think and reflect, gives you fresh air, purpose and physical exercise and is extremely stress relieving.
After a vigorous hour on a bike the world does look like a better place. You feel physically and mentally refreshed and have a much clearer perspective on things. It also doesn’t really matter what your cycling ability is, you can ride for ten minutes or three hours as fast or slow as you like and you will feel better.
To help the process along have a go at pushing yourself so that you are slightly out of breath for a while, fly down some hills with a silly grin on your face, get away from the traffic and explore somewhere new. Stop off somewhere and have some tea and a cake, take your time, smell the air and get things back in perspective.
It really works.
It’s not the only thing that pulled me out of the abyss of being an angry, introspective and frustrated younger man but cycling is one of the most valuable and physically and mentally beneficial things I do in my life. For that I’m thankful – I just wish I’d discovered it 10 years earlier!
I hope that’s been helpful.
I don’t have all of the answers to a complex issue but I do know what works for me and will hopefully work for others. It’s important to have some sense of self awareness and try to work out why you are in a such a mood. Often it’s lack of sleep, some other stressful current issue, a lack of time or resources.
But sometimes, for me at least, there seems to be no reason at all. It’s just all bloody irritating and it’s this inevitable feeling of old man grumpiness that I work hardest to control and, if at all possible avoid.
Finally, if you are even slightly concerned that your moods may be connected to depression or any other condition then it’s vitally important that you just bite the bullet and get some professional help. It takes strength of character and resolve to tackle any problem like this head on and it’s the fighters and the strong ones who get the help and get through it.
Life is short and precious and your health has to be a priority.
Let me know what you think. Have you got any experiences in this area that you would like to share. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.