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Six Ways to Improve Your Mood

By Diane Berry #102219

Question: My husband and I have recently retired and taken to the road full time in the hopes of finding the peace and contentment we feel we have earned. But we seem to be running into many people who are rude and disrespectful at every turn. The city we came from had lots of competition, so people worked hard to keep their customers. It seems, in this day and age, wherever we go, people feel they needn’t provide excellent service. Are we being too sensitive?

Dear Sensitive,
What a great question! It sounds as if you and your husband have worked hard for many years to achieve the kind of retirement you wanted, and now that you are there, you are allowing others to “spit in your soup,” so to speak. I have often told my clients that I think everyone should work with the public at some point in their lives, but the reality is, there are all kinds of people in the world, some who have a knack for providing excellent service and caring what their customers think and some who do not.

But perhaps you are taking this a bit too personally. It sounds as if you take it as an almost personal affront if a waiter is rude or if a store clerk was distracted or unhelpful. Remember, he or she may be having a rough day. It may actually have nothing at all to do with you, in fact. But taking it personally and letting if affect your mood can really put a damper on the wonderful retirement you have earned for yourself.

Here are some ideas for taking back the terrific lifestyle you have achieved through your hard work:
1 Stop taking things personally!
This is your first and most important step. Refuse to let someone rain on your parade. If you are at a restaurant and the waitress is rude or inattentive, tell yourself that she may be dealing with a sick child or a nasty boss. Chances are that is the truth. In a wonderful book, entitled The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz advises us to “Refuse to take anything personally” because 95 percent of what anyone else is dealing with has nothing to do with us. Why let it ruin your day? Brush it off, and enjoy the time you have earned.

2 Reward great service!
Patronize those places where you do receive great service. If you are staying a week or more in any location, you will most likely have occasion to visit a grocery store or restaurant more than once. Patronize those places where you are treated as you prefer to be treated. It is nice to make it known, also, to the clerk or waiter, and to their supervisors, that they are the reason you returned. You will make their day, and that just may improve yours. Do not feel compelled, however, to share your alternative experience at their competitor. That tends to stifle the wonderful compliment you have shared with them with negative energy.

3 Choose to be happy.
We are each in charge of our own mood. We can choose to focus on the negative things in our lives or on the positive. Rather than focusing on the lousy service you have received, focus on the wonderful meal that you eventually received. If the meal is not wonderful, perhaps it can be sent back until it is suitable. You can also let your tip convey your displeasure with the lack of service.

4 Kill them with kindness.
The old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” can work well in an occasion like this. If the person providing your service is in an unpleasant, unhelpful mood, make it your mission to cheer them up. They are working today, and you are free to come and go as you please. Give them some of your cheer. It is likely that the friendlier you are, the friendlier and more helpful they will be as well.

I recently moved to a new city and noted that the woman who I dealt with nearly every time I entered our small post office typically had a rather lousy disposition. I made it my job to brighten her day. So I took the trouble to look at her name tag and on my next visit, I asked brightly, “How are you today, Betty?” She stopped, looked up at me and smiled! Now, every time I enter the post office, she asks me how I am and how she can help me today. And she always tells me to have a nice day as I am about to leave! What a remarkable change. You, too, can have that effect on others you come in contact with. It just takes determination not to let their sour mood ruin yours.

5 Reward yourself following unpleasant experiences.
There will most likely be times you will have to deal with people who are not pleasant. Since you are retired, your time is your own. When such an occurrence disrupts or disturbs your day, do something nice for yourself. Take yourself out to lunch, take some time to listen to relaxing music, go for a walk in a beautiful place. My bet is, in a short time your mood will improve, and your unpleasantness will be all
but forgotten.

6 Judge ye not.
Make certain you are not judging others too harshly. Since you picked up and took to the road, you have no doubt left behind a few favorites at your former home. Perhaps you left a favorite waitress or grocer and are now comparing your new experiences to these people you have known for years. Try to appreciate each new contact and experience for what it is rather than to judge what it is not. And recognize you may be experiencing a bit of grief for what was, even though your new lifestyle is what you wanted. Change, even positive change, can be a double-edged sword.

These ideas should help you to focus on the wonderful new life that you have and prevent you from getting stuck on your unpleasant experiences. And hold onto the idea that if any city, town or RV park holds too much unpleasantness, you can always pick up and move on to someplace new. With the wind at your back, your mood is sure to improve. Happy travels!

Diane is a therapist in private practice who works extensively with clients on stress management and relationship issues. She and her family are also avid RVers. Her articles are meant to provide information of a general nature and are not intended as specific psychological advice or to take the place of consulting with a health care professional.

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