A philosopher was sitting in the shade of a tree next to a beautiful small lake when a troubled young man approached and introduced himself: "Sir, my name is Ben, and I'm miserable all the time. I've been searching far and wide for a wise person who can tell me why I'm always so unhappy. Can you help me?"
The older man paused, and then asked his visitor to fill a cup with water from the lake.
Ben filled the cup. The philosopher then took a handful of salt from his bag and sprinkled it in the water. "Drink this, and tell me how it tastes," he instructed. Ben managed only a sip and exclaimed, "That tastes terrible!"
Then the philosopher led Ben down to the lakeshore. He dropped a handful of salt into the water, waited a moment and then told Ben to drink from the lake.
"Do you taste the salt?"
"No," Ben said, "it dissolved in the water."
The philosopher nodded. "The pain of life is like salt. It tastes the same no matter what, but how strong it tastes depends on what we put it into. To ease your pain, learn to expand yourself. Don't be the cup — be the lake."
Shaking a bad mood is important to functioning at your best. The worst thing you can do when you're in a bad mood is wallow in it, according to Psychology Today.
Bad moods usually come from tension and low energy, according to the magazine. A short, brisk walk or some other exercise can increase your energy, reduce your stress and improve your mood. Listening to music may prompt you to remember a former good mood or good time and produce a conditioned response that makes you feel better.
Most people can manage to do one or both of those things. At least it's a starting point.
If that's not enough to bring about an attitude adjustment, here are some other ways to beat a bad mood. Take up a new interest. Sign up for a class in something you've always been interested in, but don't know much about. Start a new hobby or get out and volunteer for a cause you care about. Getting active will help you move beyond your present mood and connect you to new people and interests.
My favorite way to lift my mood is to be around people who are happy. I love spending time with friends who are experts at seeing the silver lining in tarnished situations. One of those friends shared this marvelous story of a restaurant owner named Jerry.
Jerry is always in a good mood. When someone asks him how he's doing, he always replies, "If I were any better, I'd be twins!"
Jerry is a natural motivator. His staff knows he will always be there for them. My friend even challenged him one day, asking how he manages to stay so positive.
His reply was classic: "Each morning, I wake up and say to myself: 'I have two choices today. I can choose to be in a good mood, or I can choose to be in a bad mood. I always choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim, or I can choose to learn from it. I always choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining, or I can point out the positive side of life. I always choose the positive side of life."
Jerry's philosophy was put to the test one evening when he accidentally left the back door of his restaurant unlocked. He was robbed by three armed men, who forced him to open the restaurant's safe. As he tried to open it, the robbers panicked and shot him.
The paramedics who rushed him to the hospital were encouraging, but when he saw the faces of the emergency room staff, he realized how dire his situation was. The admitting nurse asked him if he was allergic to anything. "Bullets!" Jerry told them. "I'm choosing to live! Please operate on me as if I'm alive, not dead!"
Hearing Jerry's story puts your bad days in perspective, doesn't it? Every day you have two choices: You can enjoy your day or you can hate it. Take charge of your attitude, and everything in life becomes much easier.
Mackay's Moral: Don't let your mood turn into your doom.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.