After more than a decade practicing business law and going through a divorce, Dannie De Novo made the switch from lawyer to personal and corporate success coach.

“I have always been fascinated with the personal development industry, but I really started studying that area two years ago,” De Novo recalls. “I fell in love with it and knew that it was what I wanted to do—that I wanted to help people avoid a lot of the pain and suffering that I had gone through unnecessarily.”

In her teens and early 20s, De Novo experienced a period of deep depression. After her divorce and career switch, De Novo realized she wanted to write a book to bring awareness to depression. De Novo bounced the idea off one of her mentors who told her, “If you really want to help people, talk about the positive side of things—not the negative.”

De Novo’s new book “Get in a Good Mood & Stay There” (Hasmark Publishing, September 2018) is wisdom from De Novo’s own experiences for finding your good mood and staying there.

“I wrote it so that anybody could pick it up no matter where they were in life and find nuggets to help them along the way,” she says. “I think no matter where we are, sometimes our issues are a little bit unique, but sometimes we struggle with the same things.”

We asked the author and mother to share how rituals like movement and meditation affect mood, why we can’t blame our bad mood on other people or our situation, and when it’s time to move out of emotions and find your way back to a good mood.

24Life: How does being in a good mood versus a bad mood change not only your life but also your health?

Dannie De Novo: It changes the choices that you make, your decisions. It changes your interactions with other people. It changes how you view yourself.

When you’re in a good mood, you feel like taking better care of yourself. Maybe you don’t want to go to the gym, but you know that once you get there, you’re going to feel good after your workout, so you’re just going to perpetuate that cycle. You want to eat healthy because you know that that’s going to fuel your workout and that’s going to fuel your mood down the road. You start taking better care of yourself, and you start being more loving toward yourself, which I think really affects your overall health.

24Life: How does prioritizing your health put you in a good mood?

DDN: I think it’s paramount to being in a good mood. If your body, if your instrument is not in good working order, how do you expect anything else, including the energy around you, to be in good working order?

I don’t think there’s any one little piece to all this that I would say in and of itself is the most important. But what I really wanted to get across in the book is that putting all these little habits in place day after day is what’s going to sustain this good mood. And movement in general is such a big part of that; if it’s missing, you have this gaping void. There’s really nothing else you can fill that with. It’s part of this overall ritual practice that has to be in place for that good mood, for that happiness level to be sustained over long periods.

24Life: How have you experienced this in your own life?

DDN: I was very active as a child and as an adolescent, and then I went through depression. It derailed a lot of my physical activity. [Later in life], I did not make it a priority, and I suffered because of it. Once I started really studying, I knew that I wanted my physical health to be a priority for my good mood, for myself, for my daughter. And so I went from a pretty sedentary lifestyle to walking into a CrossFit gym. It wasn’t easy, but I told myself that I was going to commit to it, I was going to go at least three days a week for the next three months. And if I couldn’t hack it or if I just didn’t like it at the end of those three months, I could find something else, but I was going to commit to doing this.

I fell in love with movement, I fell in love with challenging myself on a physical level, and I fell in love with the people at the gym. Once I started exercising, I had more confidence.

I’ve said on my podcast a number of times, when my physical health and my exercise are going well, when I’m eating right, everything else seems to fall into place. When those things are out of whack, I find that I have an uphill battle in just about every other part of my life.

24Life: We tend to blame our mood on everything around us—our situation, job, other people. Why is this blame misplaced?

DDN: It’s entirely misplaced. We are absolutely responsible for our own moods, and we are responsible for [how we respond to] everything happening in our lives. That’s a really hard concept to accept, but once you do accept it, it’s also very freeing. Once you realize that you’re in control of your reaction, you also have the ability to change everything. Being in a good mood is a choice; it’s a daily choice that you need to make. It includes doing these rituals, putting these practices into place, doing the things every day that maybe you don’t want to do, but the collective result is so much bigger than the sum of the parts.

24Life: In your book, you say that happiness has to start with living in the present—why is that so important?

DDN: Most spiritual experts will tell you that now is the only time that you have. We as human beings tend to either live in the past or live in the future. If you’re living in the past, then you need to forgive what has transpired. Learn from the past and take those lessons with you, but everything else should stay in the past. It’s time to let go of that pain, those old stories, those failures and realize that that was how you used to think and that things are going to look very different for you in the now.

A lot of people tend to live in the future. They’re very attached to the things that might happen for them in the future. “I’ll be happy when I lose those 5 pounds.” “I’ll be happy when I graduate from this program.” “I’ll be happy when I’m making X amount of dollars.” And then you get to those benchmarks and you realize your level of happiness really hasn’t changed and you’re losing what you have right now; you’re missing today, which is the most precious and valuable time that we have and the only time that you can really sit in the moment and feel at peace. You can’t be at peace in the past, you can’t be at peace in the future, but right in this moment, you can be at peace.

24Life: When is it OK to sit in the unhappiness?

DDN: Don’t sit in it. Feel the emotion, acknowledge the emotion. Shine a light inward, look at the emotion: Why is this coming up? What’s behind all this? Really get that information and then remove yourself from it. Look at the situation like an unbiased observer would look at it. That detaches you from the emotion. Instead of “I am frustrated,” now it’s just frustration, and how do I deal with frustration?

Once you break it down and realize what’s going on, do something to shift your mood. Do some gratitude, do some meditation, play an upbeat song that you know always puts you in a better mood.

Sadness is going to come through, frustration’s going to come through, difficulties are going to come through. I’m not saying that you’re not going to swing to those emotions. But the danger is really sitting and dwelling in them. When you’re dwelling in that frame of mind, you’re creating more of the same, so it’s really important—once you realize you’ve hung around there long enough—to shift back onto a higher level.

24Life: You are a huge proponent of meditation—why is this practice so important and influential?

DDN: Bar none, it’s the most important thing that I do every day. Meditation gives me that spiritual connection that gives me a sense of purpose. It makes me feel like part of something, that sense of purpose and that sense of connectedness. It’s what I use to ground myself. It’s what I use to check in on my body, on my mind and on my spirit. It’s what I use to listen for guidance from the voices inside that are telling me something’s not aligning with a core value. It allows you to still your mind and let the guidance pour in, and it takes a lot of the anxiety and frustration out of the equation because you’re having these pure thoughts that are guiding you toward your goal and your overall happiness and sense of purpose.

24Life: What is next for you?

DDN: My idea of true happiness is being able to get this idea out to as many people as possible. I just want to help as many people as I can, and I want people to know that happiness is a choice—that they are deserving of it, and they can have it just as easily as anybody else.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Dannie De Novo