In a special publication by National Geographic, Your Emotions: The Science Behind How You Feel, the myth that moods and emotions are the same is busted as follows:
“Even though these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re different. Moods tend to be in the background of your conscious life and diffuse, whereas emotions are more front and center and focused on a particular situation or person. Moods are described in general terms (good, bad) and can last for hours or days; emotions are described specifically and are shorter-lived. Personality traits, on the other hand, are enduring dispositions (some say hardwired) that can cause you to feel more or less of an emotion. Being high in the trait of extroversion, for example, means you are more likely to experience positive emotions and enjoy socializing. Regardless of your personality, you can learn how to dial a mood or emotion up or down.”
This blew my mind. As someone who’s spent the past few years over analyzing my emotions, I never made this distinction. At least not in such a succinct manner. With this in mind, however, it would seem to me a good exercise to spend some time observing the triggers and differences between emotional reactions, moods and personality traits.
Have there been times when I’ve mistaken depression for simply being a low mood? Yes, I think so. My mood is more often than not directly affected by the weather. If the sky is blanketed by gloom, so too will be my mood. It’s taken me years to accept this doom on my mood and learn to not let it depress me further, equipping myself with the knowledge that eventually the sun will come out.
Do emotions affect mood? Yes I would think so.
Do the same triggers affect both mood and emotions? Absolutely.
Are some of my emotions a result of my personality? Yes, After reading this, I can see how my anxious personality leads to a struggle with panic attacks.
Can personality traits be changed? I think to some degree, yes. On the negative to positive scale, I’m weighted more towards negative thinking, which contributes to the anxiety and depression. Through years of meditation, yoga and therapy, I still default to negative thinking but I am much more trained these days at reframing those thoughts into positives.
Despite the fact I haven’t focused on this distinction, I have spent enough time examining each individually, it becomes easy for me to identify and categorize my moods, emotions, personality traits and triggers. However, I wished I’d been zeroed in on this when I’d first begun therapy. So if you find yourself lost in a sea of feelings and you’re not sure what to do about them, try keeping a journal for a while and noting what you’re feeling. Then, ask yourself if it’s due to a mood, emotion or personality trait. Next, note the trigger. And end with asking how you might be able to reframe your thoughts or choose to respond differently in the future.