Some days it seems like every step takes one further from the possibility of having a good day. Each new problem leads to the next and moods sink deeper into misery. The great thing is how easy it is to interrupt that cycle and turn those days around with a simple choice. This technique works especially well when one is aware beforehand that the day will present serious challenges, but with a little willpower it can also be applied after the bad day cycle begins.
I call this technique “The False Positive.” Often, military personnel refer to this as “fake it till you make it.” The concept is simply that despite ones sour mood, the day must continue, tasks need accomplished and relationships maintained. Since there is nothing to be gained through being miserable around, or to, other people, there is much to be gained by simply acting as if you are not just in a good mood, but a great one.
Recently, I went with my Marine Corps unit to Okianwa, Japan, and we enjoyed some wonderful training opportunities. One of these evolutions involved travelling to mainland Japan in a place called Hijudai. In this corner of Japan, nighttime temperatures dropped below 0°F and daytime temps rarely broke 20°F. Snow, freezing rain and wind were our constant companions. For two weeks we remained in those snowcapped hills trying to remain dry and freezing while we slept.
It was in Hijudai that I learned the value of The False Positive. Each morning, I awoke sandwiched between seats of a HMMMV, dreading the inevitable time when I would have to exit my sleeping bag and suffer the frozen world. That first morning I thought immediately of the Marines of my platoon, and how they were also huddled in the backs of trucks, trying to keep warm while their morale declined. I decided I would force a smile on my face, no matter how much that morning sucked, and make it a point to interact with those men in a positive way.
After getting dressed in the frozen mountain air, I walked to the trucks where the Marines were waking up, and began joking with them and displaying a boisterous positive attitude. All the while, I was miserable from the cold and the knowledge that there was no end to it for many more days. The Marines responded in many ways, some cursing me and for my false motivation, others smiling and shivering trying to counter my lighthearted insults and stories with their own. The one thing that was certain is that as they started to respond in engaging and amusing ways, my mood responded accordingly. Before I knew it, I was happy, despite the harsh environment.
Positive interactions with other people, even when forced, lead to a dramatic shift to a good mood. If it is known that it will be a tough day, it is simple to make a choice immediately upon waking to put a smile on, and act as if it will be a wonderful day. Often, this leads to a shift in one’s mood and a very good day at the least. It is even possible to recognize the onset of the mood related downward spiral after it begins, and counter it with The False Positive to turn the day around by force of will. Creating positive interactions with coworkers, friends, and family, even when forced, will create more desirable responses from them, and lead to a better day. Consistently and repeatedly practiced, it will result in a more enjoyable life!