It was one of those days. You know the kind. I was grumbly, the toddler was whiny, and there were a million things to do. Nothing seriously wrong, just everything a little off. That kind of day.
By the time the teenager came home from school, I was full-on cranky. I knew that I was prepared to snap at any little upset, so I worked hard to keep my mouth shut.
On our way to the orthodontist, the teenager took over the radio. He changed the station and turned it up, I turned it back down. I was in no mood for loud music. I just wanted quiet.
But then a weird thing happened, I came into awareness. I recognized that I was in a bad mood and that there was no reason to be cranky toward my teen.
In that moment, I made a conscious effort to change the way I felt (or at least fake it as best I could). I did the opposite of what I thought I wanted in that moment. I said to my teen, "You know what? You're right. We could use some good music," and I turned the radio back up. Then we car danced. Both of us.
I'm not going to pretend it completely turned my day around, but I definitely felt a small shift. (A shift that was undone when I praised myself for arriving at the orthodontist 5 minutes early only to find out I had the appointment time wrong and was, in fact, 55 minutes late. It was that kind of day.)
After the orthodontist, I took my teen for our customary milkshake. (This is something my mom did for me after every orthodontist appointment when I was a kid. Not only was it a special treat, it also helped numb the teeth a little from the tightened wires. I've carried on that tradition.)
While in the drive-thru lane, I once again acknowledged the grumpiness, saying to myself, "I'm frustrated today." And because I was frustrated, I tried to give someone else a good day: I paid for the meal of the person behind me. "I don't know them," I explained to the drive-thru attendant. "Just tell them to have a good day."
My teenager thought that was pretty cool. "Whoa! That was like a movie. I mean I've seen that in movies and stuff, but I didn't know people actually did that. I wish we could see his expression."
It occurred to me I had possibly just imparted a lesson about kindness. In the midst of my own grumbliness.
I drove away listening to him chatter and watching him twist in his seat to try to see the other car leave.
That was when I smiled. That was when I decided the day wasn't all that bad.
Try it. When you find yourself in a grumbly moment, do the opposite of what you want to do. Maybe you'll make someone else smile and maybe you'll even find your own smile in the process.