You ever have one of those days when you were in a terrible, nasty mood, and you just couldn’t shake it? A couple of years ago, I was having one of those, and I tried a little experiment to try and cheer myself up.
One day after my radio shift in another city, I’d been assigned to work at an event downtown where my job was to represent the station and hand out candy bars. I think it was “Chocolate Day” or something, so that’s why we were doing it, but it was at the end of a long day, and I was tired to start with. The people coming by didn’t want to stop to chat, didn’t care about the radio station, and apparently had no interest in using words like “please,” “thank” or “you.” They just wanted free candy.
So, I got angrier and angrier. These People! Grabbing candy out of my hand like I somehow OWED it to them to be standing here handing them candy bars! They were upset when we ran out of free Snickers. They were angry when I wouldn’t give them 4 more for their family at home. Everybody in such a rush, and jeez, look at the tacky clothes these people have on! Can you smile for one second? Dude, do you really NEED another candy bar? And so it went for a while until this thought popped into my head: “You’re not doing the station any good to be standing here getting mad at people. Shape up, loser!”
I made a little challenge to myself, which I thought would be a little game to pass the time: I would attempt to find one positive thing about every person who walked up. No exceptions. It wouldn’t matter how rude, how hideous, how obnoxious they were. If Joseph Stalin got in line for a free candy bar, I’d find something good about him. (Nice mustache!)
It wasn’t easy. First lady to walk up was tired looking, unsmiling, unfriendly, and not particularly attractive. “Okay, this is going to be a challenge,” I thought. I looked a little harder. Then I noticed something: her nails were nicely done. Perfectly shaped and expertly polished. This woman had obviously either spent some time working on them, or had recently had them done professionally. Okay, I’ll take that. One down.
An overweight man came up with a very out-of-date suit. He was busting out of the thing, which needed a good cleaning as well. Not much to work with here. Wait a minute: this guy has the thickest, nicest hair I’ve seen on a man all day. As a guy with a serious hair shortage, I thought I'd gladly trade a couple years of a co-worker's life to have this guy’s head of thick, brown hair.
It started getting easier. A woman’s nice handbag. A man with a great smile. Nice eyes. A friendly voice, a pair of fun new shoes. An older person who was still in great shape. I never said anything to anyone about it, but the more I did it, the more fun I had. After a while I started to realize a couple things: everybody’s got something. Something they’re proud of, something good about them. Something about their appearance or personality that makes them different and interesting and good. And (miracle!) I wasn’t in such a bad mood any more!
I’m not a doctor, and don’t play one on TV, so I have no idea if this is any kind of approved “cheer yourself up method,” or something which might cause lasting, terrible psychological damage. All I know is it worked for me, and I suspect I spread a little bit more cheer that day than I would have. And Stalin never did come by for his candy bar, which is a good thing, because I think he’d have wanted a Snickers, which we were out of. And you don’t want to make him mad.