How to Stop Feeling Grumpy and Start Feeling Happy
It’s a ten minute trip from my home to the psychotherapist’s office and I was trying to be mindful as I drove.
I remember briefly focusing on the ridge of stitching on the underside of the steering wheel and feeling its hardness under the back of my fingers. I remember trying to focus my attention on the feeling of my bum on the car seat. I remember focusing on the sound of the air blowing in through the open passenger window.
Focusing on the moment is what mindfulness is all about and I’m trying to be a good student because I want to get over my depression, find my inner strength, enjoy a less hectic life, learn to cope with boredom and just let go of everything.
I want to love my wrinkles, have great self-esteem, tell people the truth about myself and ask myself questions like Why be Happy When You Could Be Interesting? because I like philosophizing about life, not because I’ve forgotten how to be happy.
In short I’ve been feeling horribly grumpy but I’m making progress so here are my thoughts on how to stop feeling grumpy and start feeling happy.
1. Notice what you’re thinking about
Inevitably thoughts came to me during that short drive and I was soon swept away in those thoughts, thinking about how hard and boring it is to be mindful. Wondering how mindful people have time for mindfulness.
Thinking about how I don’t really want to find the joy in every moment if it means finding joy in brushing my teeth, doing the washing up or mopping the floor.
Thinking that being mindful all the time sounds as boring as bat shit and how I prefer to do dull tasks as fast as possible so I can move swiftly on to doing things that I actually enjoy like reading, writing or walking.
I didn’t take time to get in touch with my feelings and feel my feelings because I was too busy thinking but I can now see I was feeling irritable, irritated by feeling irritable and angry at how angry I was feeling a lot of the time.
2. Think about if your thoughts are rational or irrational, helpful or unhelpful
Then I started thinking about Bear Grylls because, if left to its own devices, the mind jumps around like a hyperactive kid on a trampoline and comes up with all sorts of random connections.
So I thought about how Bear probably doesn’t need to practice mindfulness because if he feels bored with life, as I do, then he just jumps out of a helicopter, parachutes into the jungle and spends five days in survival mode trying to get back out again.
Now that kind of thing could really make you feel alive and keep you in the moment in a way that brushing your teeth just won’t.
Then I start thinking about all the places I could run away to and all the adventures I could have if I was Bear and not a responsible, self-employed mother of three.
And I was conscious of how much I enjoy thinking about life and philosophizing and I started wondering when people who are fully mindful actually think and what they find to talk about when they get together.
3. Use grumpy people to teach you how to be happy
All of these thoughts had come to me in just a few moments and I was almost at the therapist’s office now.
Then, as I pulled into the car park there was an old man walking across the tarmac carrying two bags of shopping. I wasn’t really conscious of him but I guess I unconsciously slowed down to avoid running him over and I was consciously thinking about how annoying old people are ambling along, getting in the way and slowing down busy people like me.
Then as I drew alongside him I did become fully conscious of him because my passenger window was open and he took the time to call in at me:
And I was shocked and amused by that little wake up call and the lesson in mindfulness and the realization that I’m not the only grumpy old person who gets irritated for no good reason.
4. Don’t try to force yourself to be happy, it won’t work
You see I’m not feeling depressed any more. After three months on anti-depressants and six weeks of therapy I really do feel much better. Now my feelings of depression have been replaced with a general and fairly constant bad mood.
I am irritable, grumpy and even angry a lot of the time. I am frustrated with myself for feeling like that and I can see why I don’t like my personality.
I am not the sunny, happy person I would like to be. And of course the gap between what I would like to be and the reality of being a grumpy, frumpy wowser* is making me even more annoyed, with myself and the whole wide world.
So I need to forget about that gap and think about how good it is to feel grumpy and not depressed any more.
5. Start thinking in shades of grey
The more I become aware of my emotions, the more I can see how strong they are and how powerful they are in coloring my world where everything is divided into black and white, right and wrong, love and hate.
For example, the very next day I climbed onto my bike to ride my daughter to school thinking about how I love biking then Kiara said:
“Mummy where’s your cycle helmet?”
And I immediately thought about how I hate wearing a bike helmet, how stupid the law is and how much I hate living in Queensland where I have to abide by such arbitrary laws.
But I put on my helmet and we cycled off past a tweeting bird and I thought:
“I love birds!”
And my mood soared. But almost immediately I saw a crow perched on a rubbish bin and thought:
“I hate crows.”
Then I saw a beautiful flower and thought:
“I love nature.”
But then we passed some litter and I thought:
“I hate litterbugs.”
And so my thoughts go on and on with endless labels and everything sorted into things l love and things I hate, and every one of those thoughts either causing me to feel instantly happy or instantly irritated.
Nothing just is and yet it is. That is what I need to think, that is what I need to see.
*Wowser is an Aussie word which originated to describe people who don’t drink (I quit drinking in at the beginning of 2013) and now means a general party pooper.
Have you got any tips on how to stop feeling grumpy and start feeling happy? Or any thoughts at all? Leave a short word below. Thank you.
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I’m not sure if I should say I’m happy you’re grumpy since that’s better than being depressed, but definitely it seems like movement in the right direction even though not exactly delightful.
This last bit in your article is such perfect example of how attachment and aversion just keeps spinning us around and creating suffering for us. As you know, the whole idea of mindfulness is experience the richness of the moment without all the labels. But I guess there are too many moments that seem boring! I’m lucky because being mindful doing boring tasks makes it so much easier for me. I hope that happens for you too because we can’t entirely avoid the boring tasks in life. Good luck!
Lol, that is a great point.
Yes, it was a wake up call for me. All those labels and aversions.
You are an inspiration and must have worked hard to get to that place. I am following in your footsteps. Thank you for leading the way :)
Well my tips are twofold. I try and appreciate what I have, not what I don’t. There are peeps in the world that would kill to have 2 healthy kids, a roof over their head, food in their belly and a husband that does not force me to work. Once I start a list it grows and grows. I just keep think ing, hell it could be so much worse.
The other key for me is exercise. You got on the bike on a beautiful day and you said your mood soared. That endorphin rush is lovely. I just went for a walk and it made me feel better. I noticed things and they pleased me…that makes me happy.
Sorry to hear you are bored? Sounds like you need an adventure to look forward to. I am always planning one of those.
I Google plused this post cause I enjoyed it. That made me happy too.
They are excellent tips and they made me laugh too. Your husband sounds wonderful ;) And thank you so much for sharing the post. I really appreciate that.
Hi Annabel, I have many theories & must dig out your number as would prefer to communicate privately (call me old fashioned!). Still wish you were about to chew the cud. Miss you both after all these years. xxx
I can understand that! I know these posts on depression aren’t getting so many comments because a lot of people aren’t comfy sharing details like that online which is totally understandable. I am getting a lot of private emails though which I love :)
This post just makes me love you more. We do all this “stuff” in the world, and we’re creative and ambitious and spinning all kinds of proverbial plates in our lives and yeah, sometimes we get really freaking grumpy or depressed or whatever. Surrender, practicing non-attachment, surrounding ourselves with support (whether that be therapy, supplements, fun people, or whatever works) is what is needed when we choose to live a big life. And you, my dear, are courageous in your grumpitude.
I’m on the roller coaster too, always have been. Every year I learn to enjoy the ride more, that’s the journey for me.
Hugs and empowering fist pumps to you from halfway around the world!
I hope you realize how much (and how many) you’re helping others by sharing your journey. You may be grumpy right now, but you are very brave.
I find myself saying things while driving I would never say in public. I feel it’s better to just let fly when I’m alone and can’t hurt anyone, than to keep that bitchy side bottled up until I explode on someone I truly care about. Maybe I’m nuts, but so be it.
This is so true, finding positive thoughts in every single thing is a great way of staying happy. I really loved your illustration with the pictures of the bird and the flower.
I am now following you on twitter and have subscribed to your mailing list. Keep these amazing posts coming.
I love being mindful while driving. I ‘try’ to practice meditation while driving by just focusing on the road ahead and my breath. It’s hard but if I can just do it for a few minutes I arrive at my destination a lot calmer and with less chatter in my head.
Sending good energy across the miles to accompany you on your journey…
I thought Bear Grylls was Rich for a minute haha I love that photo you have, it has inspired me to look mine up and remember the feelings I had when it was taken. When I am grumpy I look at old photos…no better way of cheering yourself up…especially if you have a large glass of wine by the side of the photos to sip on haha
I love this post Ani! I have had a bout of these feelings (for about 3 years haha) and now I have added hormones after having my lovely baby. You know you should be so grateful for this wonderful life, but sometimes it is hard to see just how lovely it is when one seems to be struggling to keep ones head above water, or sees some ass dropping litter when you were having ‘a moment in nature’. Lots of things help though, your post for one, my post natal group for another (I have stopped trying to pretend everything is great and actually started to say how I really feel and it has been surprising how many people are the same) You see, I look angry, not hurt, not in need of a cuddle, but full on stay-away-from-me-or-I-will-bite-your-freaking-head-off-angry’ and that doesn’t get much sympathy but rather than sit at home and kick myself for that as well I have today said, sorry, for my anger disguises my hatred for myself, it helps me pull through the day and by the way I feel fabulous today! hahaha Life/hormones? who’d have ’em? Hope you are feeling good today fellow followers of Ani xxxx
You are truly amazing at this blog writing…You are my inspiration! How amazing you are to feel grumpy and still do/act and create something bloody terrific! Don’t stop! (or I will get angry hahaha)
I get called grumpy a lot. I have been called that by my sisters since I was little and boyfriends in the past. I wrote them off as just being mean. I don’t actually feel unhappy but I get easily irritated by things other people do. Mostly people I live with. I don’t get irritated by people at the grocery store or by “litter bugs” or even by my son most of the time, but when it comes to living with someone (i am thinking of my boyfriend when we lived together and my sister now) they think I am grumpy all the time. I often don’t want to be bothered by them and everything seems to be a bother. I will try the things you mention but I feel like they don’t apply specifically to my “grump.” Also, nobody gets less grumpy when they are called grumpy, just sayin’
This is exactly how I feel, Carolynn – it’s the people that I’m closest to that I get irritated by, and grumpy with – not strangers. I’m also fine at work. It’s something that I’ve become increasingly aware of, but I’m sure that I didn’t used to be this way. I’ve only just started on my journey of how to sort it out and I’d be interested to know whether anything has worked for you. Thank you for helping me to define my problem. Now I just need to find out what is causing it, and work on that. Best wishes, Claire
This is so well written and I found myself chuckling and giggling throughout. My grumpiness has left me Thank you!
Wow. After reading this, I’ve come to the conclusion that you and I are identical twins that were separated at birth.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Now I don’t feel like I’m on the only human being in the universe endlessly riding the grumpy-happy rollercoaster! I can totally relate to the constant feelings of “I love this, I hate that” caused by all the little things going on around me.
For example, yesterday my cat amused me by running frantically through the house and bouncing off the walls, and I thought, “I love cats!”
Then the phone rings, and I imagine it’s someone calling to ask me to do something stupid for them (because that’s the only reason why anyone ever calls me), and I imagine what life was like before the invention of the telephone, how peaceful it must have been, and how easy it was to get some alone time. And I thought, “I hate phones!”
Instant happy, instant grumpy.
I’m also taking antidepressants, seeing a therapist once a week, and hoping to learn how to live better and more in the moment. I’m just beginning my journey, so I don’t really have any tips to give (yet!). But it’s good to know I’m not the only one who experiences those thoughts and feelings! Thanks for sharing!