Although many of us may use ‘mood’ and ‘emotion’ interchangeably, knowing the difference can be an important step in understanding our own mental health or the mental health of those around us.
There are a variety of emotions that we all experience, and these emotions are triggered by an immediate circumstance. We may feel happy when we see a loved one, cry during a sad movie, or feel nervous driving during a snowstorm. These emotions may feel intense in the moment and usually pass once the event is over. Emotions are a physiological response and are expressive in that we can see (usually) that someone is mad or sad in the moment.
Our moods, however, are described as either good or bad. For example, if I am generally in a good mood I would feel and show comfortable emotions such as happiness or gratitude, but if my mood is generally bad, I may feel depressed or anxious. Our moods are not immediate and may be attributed to a variety of life circumstances such as financial struggles or pressure at work or home. In the context of mental health, our mood is not a reaction to a particular situation but is described as a “state” of feeling. Although our mood is less intense than an emotional response, it can last for hours, days, or longer.
Knowing the difference between our emotions and our moods is important. Did something trigger us to feel this immediate emotional expression? Are there ongoing life circumstances that are contributing to my depressive mood? Answering these questions could be a helpful first step in understanding, healing, and moving forward.
Written by Ashley Carlson, Canadian Certified Counsellor & Psychotherapist with Wildflowers