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How to stop a negative mood spiral

SAD LONELY GIRL
By Evgeny Hmur | Shutterstock
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There's nothing like grumpy people to bring you down, but you don't have to let others' moods destroy your own.

Have you ever been in a pretty great mood, and then you walk into a room where everyone is grumpy? It’s difficult to stay positive when you’re with a group of people who are unhappy, grousing, or complaining. Usually you have two choices: Stay happy and cheerful and ignore the mood of the room. Or, give in and temper your mood to fit the vibe of everyone else. The first option can be very difficult. The second is easier, but leaves you feeling deflated — and, of course, mars your good mood.

You can find a people who are grumpy and griping just about anywhere. Let’s focus on a few of these groups specifically, starting with coworkers first. You’re probably around them, or at least talking to them (even if you work remotely), throughout the day. When someone makes a negative comment about a project, a fellow coworker, or even a relative or friend of theirs, the wave of grump easily moves from a gentle wave to tidal proportions. What can you do in this situation to turn the tide of grump back? Well, for starters, you can put on a snorkel and dive underwater — in other words, you can just choose not to participate. But if you want to go above and beyond, you can make a positive contribution with a heartfelt (NOT sarcastic) comment, such as, “Hey, Jerry isn’t so bad, what would our office be without his laugh?” It may not turn the tide, but at least you didn’t contribute to making the negative spirit even larger.

When you’re with good friends or significant other, it’s much harder to ignore a bad mood or turn the tide from grumpy to positive. This is because you’re more comfortable around people you love and know well and you’ve probably established a habit with each other of venting about the difficulties in your life. Venting can be good and healthy, but it can also get out of control. If your good friend is in a bad mood that’s starting to drag you down, and he or she has already explained what’s going on, then it’s time to take baby steps back towards positivity. You know this person well, so consider what might help bring his mood up. Food? Cracking a few jokes? Taking a walk? Suggesting a cat nap? If none of these work, give your friend some space and make a decision to stay happy. Mood is often a choice, and you can choose to stay in a good one.

The last group of people you might run into is strangers who are unhappy. You’ll find big groups of grumpy strangers wherever there’s a long line or a waiting room: at the doctor’s office, at the DMV, airport gates, etc. This is usually the easiest group of grumpy people to navigate as you know you’ll never see them again, and what they say and do affects you far less than the moods of a coworker or a close friend. The best form of defense against this group is distraction. Bring a book with you and focus on the book rather than the toe-tapping and the muttered complaints. If you notice an opportunity to be helpful, then help. Hold the door for someone, make faces at the fractious baby, point out posted information that people can’t find. Otherwise, just remember that this too shall pass and eventually you can get out of there and on to the rest of your day.

No matter who you run into, your mood is your choice. It doesn’t matter how annoyed or annoying someone is, you CAN stay happy and upbeat. This might mean removing yourself from the situation, or ignoring it, or saying a few positive things in the face of negativity. But you don’t have to mimic or take on the grump. Here’s to a happy week!

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