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How to Protect Yourself Against People's Negative Moods

10 tips to prevent other people from bringing you down.

Key points

  • Other people's negativity is not yours to carry—or to fix.
  • Remove judgment from the situation and accept the mood for what it is: a temporary feeling.
  • Protect yourself with self-care, by setting boundaries, and by practicing your own inner calm.
Source: Hello I'm Nik/Unsplash
Source: Hello I'm Nik/Unsplash

Being human means you get to experience all kinds of moods—the good, the bad, and everything in between. Being human also means you are influenced by other people's moods—the good, the bad, and everything in between. The challenge is not letting the bad get to you. Yes, you want to be there for your people and help them if you can. But, you don't want your mood to be taken down by them. You have to think of your well-being and mental health first.

That's why you need to create a protective bubble around you so that you're less affected by other people's negative moods. Here is how:

1. Acknowledge that their negativity is not yours to carry.

There is a clear separation between them and you, and their mood and your mood. Acknowledge this. Just because they are having a bad day doesn't mean you have to have one too. Say to yourself, This is not my emotion and I don't have to take it on.

2. Recognize that their negativity is not yours to fix.

Just like someone else's mood is not your responsibility to carry, it's also not your responsibility to fix. Often we get too involved in other people's emotions, especially when they are loved ones we want to help. The reality is that moods can only be changed by the person carrying them. Their mood is something beyond your control, and accepting this is the first step in feeling less frustrated by it.

3. Accept the mood for what it is: a temporary, fleeting feeling.

We all have good days and bad days. The more you judge someone else's bad ones, the more susceptible you become to them. Remove judgment from the equation and remind yourself that it is simply how they're feeling at this moment in time. It's OK, and it will pass. Remind yourself of the times when they are in a good mood and focus on making the most of those. However, if this person's negative mood is a reoccurring challenge for you, check out tip six.

4. Listen to their complaints—but don't join in on them.

You can be an empathetic listener without joining in on the misery. Most people who are struggling aren't expecting you to solve their problems but are simply hoping to feel understood. Simply letting them voice their concerns can help them to bring their mood to a better place. The key is not to fuel them. Nod your head and say things like, "I hear you"; "I understand your frustration"; and "That sounds tough" without getting involved. Whatever you do, do not join in on the negativity. It will simply fuel the flames and take you with them.

5. Take responsibility for your mood.

As much as emotions and moods can be contagious, you are still responsible for yours. If someone's negative mood is bringing you down, take positive action. Change the situation or how you're responding to it. Share an empathetic smile. Take a few deep breaths. Give them words of encouragement or a compliment. Share some good news. Finish a relevant sentence that starts with, "Isn't it amazing that....?" Do what you need to do to put yourself back into a good place.

6. Set healthy boundaries.

If a coworker who is always moaning about their job approaches you for another rant, simply tell them you haven't got the time for it. If a friend continues to complain about how envious they are of your good life, tell them you worked hard to get it and they can too. If a family member keeps expecting you to solve a historical petty grudge with someone else, tell them you don't have the energy for it. Set boundaries, speak up when you feel taken advantage of, and ask for what you need.

7. Inhale good vibes, exhale bad vibes.

Taking a few deep breaths whilst focusing on what you're inhaling and exhaling can do wonders. When you inhale for at least four seconds, smile inwardly as you imagine yourself taking in all the positive energy there is. With every inhale, focus on a word and say it to yourself, like calm, safety, hope, gratitude, or joy. When you exhale for another four seconds, open your mouth wide and exhale loudly as you imagine all the nasty things coming out of your body and mind. Express a word every time you exhale, such as stress, negativity, overwhelm, or disappointment. Keep doing this until you feel your nervous system calming down.

8. Practice grounding activities.

The more practice you have in finding and keeping your inner calm, the less likely you are to be affected by other people's chaos. Different types of mindfulness practices help you to manage your emotions and mind, whilst certain types of bodily movement, like yoga and nature walks, help to ground the body. Focus on developing your inner calm rather than being frustrated by someone else's lack of it.

9. Take extra-good care of yourself.

You can only reach your maximum level of resilience when you are well-rested, well-fed, and feeling at least somewhat fulfilled. If you're not, you're much more susceptible to the negative moods around you and it will be harder than ever to fight them off. Practice self-care every single day.

10. Remove yourself from the situation.

You want to be there for your loved ones, but there may come a point when it feels too much for you to handle. If you start to spiral downward, excuse yourself. Say you need a moment to gather yourself. Go to the bathroom, go spend two minutes in the fresh air, drink some water, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself what you have to be grateful for. Only go back into the room when you feel you are resilient enough to handle what is there.

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