Changing the mood.

Companies talk about culture often these days. It has become an entire subject. Your home, your family, your friends, and nearly every aspect of your life has a culture too. That can work for or against you. If it is working for you, that is great. If it is working against you, then it is time for a change.

Taking a line from the corporate playbook, “Culture is really hard to change.” That is true. It’s a set of habits and beliefs, some of which are self-reinforcing, so tackling a cultural change is hard. What is easier is “changing the mood”.

Intuitively, you know this to be true. At the movies, we dim the lights making the mood calmer and the focus on the movie alone. At your favorite restaurant, there is likely an atmosphere, a feeling, a MOOD.

Often times, we don’t take this far enough. Have you ever thought about how your home lighting affects your mood? Low lighting in your house, and a long, dark winter comes along and you find yourself not doing much of the things that make you happy. Your mood shifts negative until the spring comes back. Same with the paint. Same with the organization and cleaning. It doesn’t take a big intellectual leap to understand why pulling someone out of a bout of depression often starts with having them clean and tidy where they live. Depression is their current culture of their life, but cleaning and tidying is changing the mood to a more positive one. Positivity that they’ll see every second of the day.

Some bigger questions to ask:

  • If in a group that is generally a negativity cycle, how can we reposition, change the mood and turn it into positive conversations?
  • If negative behavior is being rewarded in a way that is out of our control for change, how can the mood be changed to minimize the negative behavior?

Here are some places to start:

  • Lighting – this sends signals to our brain all day, every day. You may not think that matters much, but it can. Squinting all day and focusing harder to see decrease mental energy making it harder to have tough conversations or to keep the tough conversations casual
  • Sound – music and background mood matters. If you are having a sensitive conversation with someone a quiet room is better. It’s hard to have a soft and calming tone when you have to speak over ambient noise.
  • Imagery – If you’re in a room full of antique weapons, it’s going to be harder to put someone at ease. However, if you’re walking along an empty beach with nothing but calm wave noises, you are likely to be seen in the right light.

These are just starting points, but the important thing to keep in mind is our brains are receiving signals all day long. Those signals being too much in certain ways changes our mood, which changes our decisions and behaviors, which are what creates the culture.

Changing the culture is hard. Changing some light bulbs for a better mood is easy. Focus on the small thing like that are in your control, and the bigger change will happen eventually. You can apply that last line to any change you seek to make.

P.S. As we move to more and more remote work, many companies who can and have thought about these sorts of mood details are having it taken out of their hands. They aren’t in control of people’s homes. That puts the onus on the work to create their own positive mood now more than ever for themselves and their interactions.