Fans of Grumpy Cat, Oscar the Grouch, and Andy Rooney, stand and cheer (or stand and kvetch, if that’s more your style): October 15 is National Grouch Day. And why not? Why shouldn’t curmudgeons have their day (they have their own society, apparently). After all, there’s International Day of Happiness and Happiness Happens Day. Well, grouchiness happens, too.
National Grouch Day seems to have originated with Sesame Street and Oscar, the crotchety muppet who lived in a trashcan. That would certainly make me grumpy—although Oscar (unibrow) and Andy Rooney (bristle bombs) both had some serious eyebrow issues, so maybe that’s the problem. In any case, let’s take a moment to celebrate those people who aren’t annoyingly chipper and full of false cheer.
It’s not like most people set out to be grouchy, says therapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks, author of The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women. “People are born with constellations of personality traits and dispositions that, when coupled with experience, can lead to a less than agreeable disposition,” she says. “If you have a temperament that is less agreeable than those around you, you may be labeled a grouch just because you’re experiencing life differently.”
In some ways, people who are moody or pessimistic may be at a health advantage. Research has shown that older adults who are pessimistic about their future actually live longer and are less likely to live with a disability, says Hanks. And people who tend toward pessimism may use negative thinking as a motivational strategy, she says. “While they may be a drag to be around, they may actually be trying to improve themselves.”
Still, if you’re not happy with your mood (or with your resident crankypants), consider these 6 ways to un-grouch a grump.
1. Schedule grumpy time. Take 5 minutes and allow yourself time to be miserable, complain, and go to the “dark side,” says Hanks. “Sometimes your inner grouch just needs some attention and then it will have less influence.”
2. Do something silly. Reconnecting with the child-like joy of blowing bubbles or jumping in rain puddles can put a smile on your face, says Hanks.
3. Eat happy food. If you’re grouchy and you’re eating the standard American diet, you may want to change your food to change your mood, says Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale. “You can look at your diet as the lens with which you see the word,” he says. Build that lens with better ingredients and your view may change. What foods? “We want to see people eating foods high in B vitamins and folate–mussels, other seafood, eggs, and leafy greens like kale,” he says. Foods rich in omega 3s, like salmon, are also mood-boosters.
4. Do something kind. Thinking of ways to bless another’s life, even in a small way, like paying the parking lot fee for the car behind you or taking a flower to a neighbor, is a great tactic to beat a case of the grumps. Random acts of kindness will quickly overshadow your inner grouch, suggests Hanks.
5. Name your grouch. “Giving that grumpy part of you a name may help validate your feelings while at the same time helping you to distance from it,” says Hanks. Negative feelings and thoughts may be one aspect of your experience, but they are not you, she says.
6. Be good to your gut. “There’s not a lot of data, but I think there’s a notion now that one thing that contributes to mood is having a healthy gut,” says Dr. Ramsey. “If someone is grumpy and they eat a bad diet their digestion is affected; they may have reflux or irregular bowel movements.” Adding fermented foods like yogurt might be helpful, he says.
Keep in mind that if your grumpiness gets in the way of enjoying the high moments in life (like that Grumpy Cat costume you bought for Halloween), it might be time to see a doctor, says Dr. Ramsey. “Certainly there are people with temperaments that are slightly more ‘grouchy,’ but anytime someone has trouble seeing any positivity in the world — that does merit a closer evaluation to determine if they are depressed,” he says.