When I see him coming, I cringe a little. A tall man with gray hair topped by a ball cap which usually sits a bit too high. He’s in jeans, and always wears a blue windbreaker. In his hand is a leash, and at arm’s length a Dalmatian with a muzzle lead. The dog’s name is, Captain. Honestly, I don’t like Captain. I don’t care much for the man walking him either, though he and I have never really met. We just pass each other early in the morning, several times per week, walking our dogs.
Some time ago this man confronted me about not having my own dog on a leash. I explained that my dog walks off leash because he’s prone to panic attacks on a leash, probably because he was abused as a puppy. He suggested that his dog might hurt my dog and was just giving me a warning. Well, I thought to myself, is your dog that much of jerk or is it just you…? I thought it, but I didn’t speak it. I wished him a good day and moved on.
Since that encounter, we have passed each other dozens of times, always with an obvious tension between us, but we always smile and exchange good mornings. When I see him coming I begin to feel a bad day coming on. As we pass we each other though, and as I say good morning to him, I always feel better. Bad day averted by simply reaching out.
When this happens, I often flash back the character, Lloyd Dobler, from the movie, Say Anything. In one scene, Dobler, played by John Cusack, questions his grumpy sister, asking her again and again, “how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…?”
I’ve never been able to let that go – that very often having a good day, or turning a bad one around is simply a decision, like saying good morning to the man with the Dalmatian, despite that I don’t care for him.
Tricks Of The Trading…
Bad moods happen, and almost always when I least expect them. Hard as it might be, the best way I have found yet to combat a bad mood is by simply asking myself that Cusack question; how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…? By just stopping and asking that of myself, it gets me thinking about how easy it really is to get back on track to a better day.
Most often the answers to that question lay in several possible actions, the first being to go for a walk. Walking in nature diffuses a bad mood quickly – especially if I set my phone to airplane mode. With nothing but the rhythm of my feet, the thoughts in my head, and the sounds of nature, a bad mood doesn’t have much of a chance. Problems, however mighty, soon get small when I’m walking in nature.
Music is another tool I use to pry a bad mood from my head. I dare you to listen to Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross and walk away sulking. Not likely. It tends to bring my inner resolve to the surface. There is a dozen or so songs I know that carry this weight, any one of them can lead me into a better mood. George Harrison’s Hear Comes The Sun being another, and Matthew Sweet’s Divine Intervention. I call these my mood altering songs…
I might grab my dog and just hold him. I’ll say something like, “This may be selfish, but I really need you right now…” We’ll sit on the porch. Feeling his heartbeat in my hand, and knowing that he’s absolutely dependent on me is both grounding and humbling. It’s also a bridge to a more peaceful moment.
Perhaps I’ll reflect on a real tragedy; the illness of a friend or the death of a loved one. Considering this, my bad moods don’t usually seem so bad. Dropping my coffee on my laptop isn’t a nightmare, thinking about a young widow is, but even so, that’s not my nightmare, it’s somebody else’s – which reinforces my point precisely. When I stop and think of the things which might be the cause my bad moods, few of them are ever worthy of that kind of power.
I’ll Come Full Circle Now…
One of the best tools I regularly use to turn a bad mood around is to simply reach out and offer a sincere hello to someone – anyone who’s path I might cross, regardless of how I might feel about them. This could be in the bank, on my street, at the grocery, or back out on the trail. Saying hello to a stranger, a friend, or even an adversary, and actually feeling it from deep within, always makes me feel better inside.
I can think of few better mood altering drugs than the drug of a human connection. The next time you’re having a bad day, try saying hello to a stranger or perhaps even someone you don’t care for. Reach out. It might be just enough to help turn the corner on a bad mood, and it might become an addiction worth keeping. Be well… rc
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