The Book of Moods by Lauren Martin

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The Book of Moods by Lauren Martin

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Whatever mood you're in, this is an intriguing read about how to wrangle your emotions for the better
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: December 2020
Publisher: Hachette USA
ISBN: 978-1538733622

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I was in a great mood when I first learnt of this book, and because sarcasm doesn't always translate well into writing, imagine the word great being delivered with an eye roll and a sigh, through clenched teeth. I had spent the best part of a rainy, windy weekend afternoon out on the water at our local sailing club in the rescue rib, on standby in case anyone who was racing needed support. It's a volunteer duty we all do during the year, and normally I'm happy to, but that day the weather was miserable and I was miserable, and it all came to a head that evening when I noticed on the website that we had been thanked for our time as "Dave and wife". Wow. I had never needed this book more.

The opening line of this book is so relatable: This book is a collection of every bad mood I've ever had. Martin is, by her own admission, someone who feels things deeply, but this book is an account of how, to steal her sub-title, she has turned her worst emotions into her best life. From work to friendships, family to your looks, the book's chapters churn through examples of what could put you in a mood, what it might actually mean, and what you can do about it.

I saw myself a lot in these examples, and that alone was reassuring. When she writes there is no pain like that of an unflattering photo I can't help but agree, thinking of those awful work headshots that end up being used for my public speaking engagements and those hideous running photos that turn what was a good race experience into something to be forgotten as soon as I see them. I can run 13.1 miles powered only by vegetarian cola bottles, but when the email comes through, I click the link, and I find the official photographers have captured what can only be described as me as a manatee, lolloping along, any pride I had in my accomplishment vanishes. I know better, but in instances like that, looks matter and a bad photo can ruin your day. So what is the answer? How can you turn that frown upside down in this instance? Martin recommends hanging out with a grandparent or someone of their generation. The attractiveness of youth is something you can't hold onto forever, so the best person to put this into perspective is someone with the wisdom that comes with ageing. You will never again be as young as you are now, no matter how hard you try, so appreciate it while you can. And also, my special tip, always leave a pre-vetted photo at home when you go travelling in case of kidnap or other mishaps, as in those moments a family cannot be trusted not to hand one of those running photos over to the press.

Let's move on. Lockdown has calmed me, but in recent years I've had moments where I just get overwhelmed by choice, end up frustrated, and leave empty-handed. I hate being rushed for fear of making the wrong decision, but it's somehow socially unacceptable to spend 15 minutes going back and forth between flavours at the ice cream farm while the queue grows behind you. (I do have a solution for this – put your full menus and prices on your website so I can spend as long as I want deciding before I get there, but no one ever asks me). Removing excess choices is a method Martin has used, and recommends, for when things are getting out of hand. By having a pre-vetted go-to list, for example, which restaurants to go to when you need a last minute take away, you save time and worry, because even if you make the 'wrong' decision, you know you're still going to have a decent meal. Choices take a lot out of us, and we make them constantly throughout the day – what to wear, what to have for breakfast, which route to run (or even whether to run at all, or simply have that extra hour in bed). People think it's boring but for me, routine is a wonderful thing because you've already made the choice in advance. By reducing choices, or at least reducing the number that need to be made on the spot, you can be confident in your decisions and avoid the risk of a bad mood.

Martin calls on research, especially psychology-related, throughout the book and introduces the ideas of specialists in the field, for example, Dr Jean Baker Miller and her work on female relationships. Again, this hit close to the bone. Friendships are important, but they are also personal and so for some people that does mean a big girl gang, while for other people it's a few people that give you all you need, and others with whom your bond remains even if you go a year or more without speaking to them. Whatever your situation, there's nothing like feeling left out (whether you were or weren't) when you hear of a party you weren't invited to, or can't keep up with a conversation because of all the in-jokes you aren't privy to. The key is to work out what really matters, how you can sort the real truth from the version you've constructed in your head, and how you can deal with it all.

I could go on and on, and probably write as many words as the book itself, but needless to say, I found it a great read, if a little uncomfortable at times when the examples reminded me of things that make me sad in the way they apply to me. There are a lot of take-home messages from the book, and techniques you can try. I'm already taking the time to stop and ask myself if I'm mad for the sake of being mad if I'm deliberately trying to start arguments, and why. Because there's always a why.

I would recommend this book and wish I'd read it earlier. You can take from it what you will, and this may change with time, so I'll definitely give it another read in a year or two…or sooner if someone again refers to me as wife of Dave.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review. If this is your sort of read, you might also enjoy 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin Beyond Thought by Chris Dhladhla or Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day

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