The Best Way to Fix a Bad Mood
About the Guest
When a bad mood starts creeps into your mind, consider doing an act of kindness. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson on FamilyLife Today as they talk with author, Nicole Phillips, about the secret to chasing the clouds away!
When a bad mood starts creeps into your mind, consider doing an act of kindness. Author Nicole Phillips talks about the secret to chasing the clouds away!
The Best Way to Fix a Bad Mood
Bob: Nicole Phillips remembers having a conversation with a friend, and Nicole was venting about her husband.
Nicole: I was just letting my husband have it. He wasn’t there, but I was saying to her, “I can’t believe it. He came home, and he expected me to have the kids all bathed.” I just went on—I don’t know—all of these things. “He travels for work all the time, and he never even acknowledges that I put a note in his suitcase every week.”
Andrea sits there and she lets me go, and then she says, “And he cheats on you.” I looked at her and said, “No, he does not!” She said, “Yes, but he gambles all of your money away and when he has any free time at all, he likes to spend it with his buddies.” Then all of a sudden, the light went on and I said, “I get it.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 24th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s a choice for us—the things we decide to allow our minds and hearts to focus on—to dwell on. Nicole Phillips says we should choose kindness. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I had something happen to me when I was a junior in high school that really marked me.
Dave: You can remember that long ago.
Bob: I remember—[speaking in a mature voice]: “Back in my day, son,”—I’ll tell you the truth. I was standing by my locker, and I was talking to Becky Voss. Becky was a senior, and I was a junior. The fact that I was talking to a senior girl was pretty cool; right? We’re just chatting about stuff. Somebody—there was a group of three girls, who walked down the hall, and saw Becky, and said something about her—not to her but about her—loud enough so that she could hear it. I don’t remember what it was, but it was something obnoxious, something—
Dave: Girls never do that in high school, do they? [Laughter]
Bob: I heard it and I looked, first of all, to see, who are those girls and what are they saying? Then the next thought was, “How’s Becky going to respond? She had to have heard this.” I looked at her and I’m thinking, “Is this going to be like roller derby going to break out?” [Laughter] A good fight between girls in the high school hall is something you all look forward to during the school day. I thought maybe they’ll get into it, and they’ll fight.
I looked at Becky and at first, there was this look on her face that was kind of like shock—she’d just gotten slapped verbally—then she took a breath, she looked at me and she said, “You know, she’s probably having a really bad day.” I thought, “You’re not for real—” Right?
Ann: How gracious.
Bob: “—that that would be your response to this act of unkindness.” I’ve never forgotten that because she modeled kindness in the face of adversity.
We’re talking about kindness this week. It’s such a powerful quality in relationships—in our own lives. When we become intentionally focused on being kind people, God does a transforming work in the midst of that. We’re talking about that with our friend, Nicole Phillips, who is joining us. Welcome back.
Nicole: I love all of you! [Laughter] Bob, Dave, Ann, good luck getting me out of here because I just love being with you!
Bob: I’m just really tempted to say something mean about you right now and just see—
Nicole: Go for it. Let’s do it; let’s do it.
Dave: Go for it; let’s see what happens, Bob.
Ann: I’m not. I’m going to put her in my pocket and take her home. [Laughter]
Bob: You and Nicole just kind of merged together instantly.
Nicole: We’re twins.
Ann: I know!
Bob: And part of it is because you’ve had the experience of going from inner meanie, which she talks about in her book—
Ann: I love that term, “inner meanie,” which is a chapter title, “The Inner Meanie”; isn’t it?
Nicole: It was going to be the title of the whole book—until the publisher got ahold of it—like, How Do You Deal with Your Inner Meanie? Yes.
Ann: I think that we both used to be inner meanies, and we’ve learned that doesn’t get you anywhere.
Bob: Yes; you’ve had this experience now—for ten years—of looking for and proactively seeking to be kind—not just to your husband and to your kids—but to strangers.
Nicole: Absolutely. I’d love to say that it’s because I want to spread light to everyone in the world; but there are days when I have to do an act of kindness to get out of my life—out of my own mind. Because I have struggled with depression in the past, I can feel when that dark cloud wants to come rolling in now. I know, instantly, that I have to be proactive about rerouting that day.
Dave: Doing an act of kindness or being kind to somebody gets you out of that darkness?
Nicole: Yes! It’s based on God’s great works, but it’s also based on physiological principles. For instance, there was one day, when I woke up and I was feeling terrible, and just really crabby, and upset about a few things. I went to the gas station, and I bought a two liter of Mountain Dew®—big ole bottle of Mountain Dew.
Dave: That’ll do it.
Nicole: Yes; I took it—I didn’t drink it—I took it to my neighbor, who lived down the hill. She lived in a very shabby chic—only there was no chic about this little cabin—she’s a grandmother, and she’s raising four kids. All of the grandkids’ parents are in prison. The only thing I really knew about this woman was that she would stand on her front porch and drink a two-liter Mountain Dew.
I stopped at the gas station, bought the two-liter of Mountain Dew, parked in front of this woman’s house, walked up, knocked on her door. When she answered the door, I was like, “Hi! I’m Nicole.” I handed her the Mountain Dew—[Laughter]—just kind of shoved it at her. She looked at me and she was like, “Ummm.” I said, “I just want you to have this.” I was still grumpy at that moment but I turned around, and I got back in my car.
As I was driving home, I couldn’t help but giggle at myself, like, “That was kind of fun. I wonder what she’s thinking right now.” In that moment—like the rest of the day—I was just thinking about me being so obnoxious with this Mountain Dew. [Laughter]
Dave: That brought a little bit of joy to you.
Nicole: It brought joy.
Bob: Did you ever follow back up on her? Did you ever—
Nicole: Yes; she and I became very good friends after that.
Bob: You were her Mountain Dew supplier.
Nicole: I was her Mountain Dew supplier, yes! Her grandkids became friends with my kids. I actually had the privilege of taking one of her grandsons to the women’s prison, an hour-and-a-half away, where his mom was incarcerated.
That was a really big deal because when I was a young child, my mom fell in love with a prison inmate and I spent every other weekend at the prison with my mom’s husband, because she ended up marrying him. So, being able to go back into the prison, as an adult—and being able to get over any shame, or fear, or judgment I might have had about that time in my life and instead, know that I was allowing this mother this great privilege of being able to see her son—only God can do that.
Dave: I’ll add this—my youngest son’s senior year—instead of saying, “You’re going on a senior trip with all your friends,”—“We’re going to go on something together, so grab your best buddy.” We end up in Florida on a little vacation. That’s a big deal when you’re from Michigan; right?
Nicole: Yes! [Laughter]
Dave: I can’t tell you one thing about that trip except this moment. We’re driving around in our rental car, we’re late to something, and I’m grumpy. There in the back, Cody and Matt—and they’re just being ornery—I’m negative. I’m not having a good time, and we’re on vacation! It’s my son’s senior year—my last son—it’s like, “I should be making this good.” I’m just in a bad mood.
I turn in this cul-de-sac, we’re just about to turn around and go the other way and we see this car stuck, not a Michigan snow, in Florida sand. We look over there and we’re like, “Hey, we should stop and help them.” I’ll never forget it, this older woman was just—she couldn’t get out—she was almost in tears—it was like a real deal—you can’t get out.
We got behind there and we pushed, and we pushed, and we pushed. Finally, that thing came out. When we got back in the car, my whole negative attitude was gone. That’s what you’ve said throughout this whole book, this really does do that.
Ann: You give some helps like, “Okay, here’s where we can go.” You say, “How do we say, ‘No,’ to the negatives?” You have six things that I think are super helpful. One is “Make a decision to stop saying negative words.”
Dave: Stop with the first one! How do you stop saying negative words?—because I want to stop them, but—
Nicole: Yes, you make a decision.
Bob: Or back in 1 Peter 3 here, where it says: “Keep your tongue from evil.” If you have to grab your tongue,—
Dave: —grab it, yes.
Bob: —grab it.
Ann: And we’re discipling our kids by our words. If we’re always negative, we’re just breeding that in our homes.
Number two: Get an accountability partner. Sometimes, we can’t hear ourselves. Appoint someone to point it out. Now that’s tricky.
Nicole: That is tricky. You have to find somebody, who is very gentle with you but also, very truthful with you.
Ann: Did you have that?
Nicole: I did have that. It’s my very best friend, Andrea, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota. I will remember always the day I was sitting on her couch, and I was just letting my husband have it. He wasn’t there but I was saying to her, “I can’t believe it. He came home, and he expected me to have the kids all bathed.” I just went on—I don’t know—all of these things, “He travels for work all the time and he’s never home. I even do his laundry for him. I put notes in his suitcase every week. He never even acknowledges that I put a note in his suitcase every week.”
Andrea sits there, and she lets me go. Then she says, “And he cheats on you.” I looked at her and said “No, he does not!” She said, “Yes, but he gambles all of your money away.” I said, “Andrea, stop it!” She goes, “Yes, and when he has any free time at all, he always likes to spend it with his buddies.” Then all of a sudden, the light went on and I said, “I get it.” She said, “Nic, your husband, is a good man.” Yes!
I needed her to say that to me because in that moment, I knew my words mattered. Even if my husband was nowhere to hear them, I was hearing them and again, that changes my focus on things.
Ann: That’s a good friend.
Number three: “Snap that rubber band.”
Nicole: Yes. If you want to wear a rubber band around your wrist—and these are things I would say, “Do all of them simultaneously, and you’re going to see a drastic change in the way that you look at the world within a month,”—but you wear a rubber band. When you can feel yourself thinking a negative thought—before words even come out of your mouth—when you feel that negative thought, pull that rubber band and let go. It’ll pinch; right—it’ll snap. That is a physical reminder to your mind that, “We’re not going to do that anymore; we’re going to move away from that behavior.”
Ann: I read a book and did a Bible study with the Lions’ wives called What’s It Like to Be Married to Me. It was a great book. That was an exercise in her book, too, “Wear a rubber band. When you start thinking negative about your husband, you snap it.”
Ann: These women came to the Bible study the next week, and their wrists were all red: [Laughter] “We need to get rid of this rubber band.”
Number four: “Use a predetermined exit plan when someone starts complaining about someone.”
Nicole: Yes, for everyone who’s listening to this, you have decided; right? You made that decision—I’m not going to say negative words. I’m not even going to entertain negative thoughts in my head. Well, the problem is no one else around you knows that this is how you have decided to change.
Let’s say you’re a teacher. You go into the teacher’s lounge, and all of the gossip starts up that always starts up. You need to know what you’re going to do, in that moment—when that happens—to maintain the integrity of the decision you’ve made. That might mean saying to somebody—who asks your opinion or wants to gossip—like, “You know what? I have decided I’m going to work on having a more positive mindset, so I’m trying to keep my opinions to myself today.” You can be honest that way.
Or if you feel like this isn’t an area in which you want to be so blatantly honest, get up—if you’re sitting in a restaurant, if you’re sitting in a teachers’ lounge, or a nurses’ station—get up, go to the bathroom, take a moment to regroup or go find some napkins, or whatever you need to do to be able to step away from that conversation. Allow it to wind down, and then rejoin.
Dave: You know where this—it doesn’t just happen in a teachers’ lounge obviously. It often happens at the Bible study.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say.
Dave: Here’s how we do it at the Bible study. We don’t act like we’re complaining or speaking negative, we offer it as a prayer request—
Bob: Yes, right.
Dave: —“I need to pray for my wife.” “Really? Aww—” Then somebody else chimes in about their wife. I’m doing it nice, but it’s usually—it could be the other way—the wife talking about her husband. It can become a thing that actually feels spiritual, but we’re really gossiping and speaking negative.
Nicole: Well, I was in a Bible study and they made a rule that you weren’t allowed to pray for other people. I was put off by it [Laughter] like, “Why are we here?” And they said “No, it has to be a prayer for you,”—so—“God, help me to see differently,” “Help me to love differently,” “Help me to be a support to this person, who’s having a hard time.”
Bob: I have a friend—to your point, Dave—who quit her job because every day at work, the other women in the office were having toxic conversations about their spouse. She began to recognize the impact that was having on how she viewed her spouse. She said, “My marriage is more important than this job. I’ll find another job.” That was a big step for her to take—
Dave: That’s good.
Bob: —but she was fighting for her marriage.
Ann: Yes. Nicole, I want to hear your favorite random act of kindness that you experienced.
Nicole: It ended up being random, because I didn’t know that it was going to happen this way. Five years ago, I had breast cancer. I really had learned how to renew my mind,; I really learned how to stick close to God. I really learned that I knew I needed to act with kindness when I was fearful or had worries about it.
On one particular day, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. It was raining and storming outside. It was also raining and storming in my mind on this particular day—it was too early in the morning, I didn’t have time to renew my mind yet; right? I’m laying there, and I’m thinking about this breast cancer and what else it’s going to take from us. As I’m laying there, looking out the window at this storm, I think about my neighbor down the street.
Now, this is the same woman that we’ve talked about earlier that I gave the two-liter of Mountain Dew to—the grandmother, who is taking care of her grandkids. On her lawn was a tent. There was a woman living in that tent, who had just got out of the drug treatment program. She woke up, and every morning at 4:30 in the morning, she would walk to her job across town at the dry cleaners. She was saving up to be able to find housing but she had to be able to prove—through the treatment program—that she was able to sustain an income.
It’s 4:30 in the morning; it’s raining. I know that this woman is getting up and walking in this. I’m laying in bed, and I think to myself, “You should really go help her. You should give her a ride, or call her a taxi or an uber, or something. There’s something that you need to do.” I felt the Holy Spirit say that to me—and I said, “No.” [Laughter]
Bob: It’s 4:30 in the morning.
Nicole: It’s 4:30 in the morning, and now, I’m getting mad. I’m having like an angry conversation with the Holy Spirit at this point. I’m like, “No! This cancer is trying to deplete us financially, physically, mentally, emotionally—everything—like I’ve got nothing left to give.”
Ann: “I need to wallow in my own pain.”
Nicole: Yes! “I’m going to sit here, at 4:30 in the morning, and wallow in my own pain.”
Nicole: I had this heated conversation with the Holy Spirit and then, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Ooohh, yes; right. So then, of course, when I woke up later in the day, I didn’t feel any better about myself—I didn’t feel any better about my battle with breast cancer. But about 2:00 that afternoon I was driving downtown. I saw this woman walking on the side of the road, her name was Dawn.
Dawn’s walking down the side of the road. I pull over in my minivan, and I say, “Hey, Dawn! How are you doing?” She said, “Good.” I said, “Do you want a ride home?” “No, it’s a beautiful day. I’ll walk.” I said “Dawn, did you walk to work this morning in the rain?” She said “Yes, I did.” She said “No problem. I’m going to be able to save up for a bike. By the time I get my next paycheck, I’ll be able to buy the bike.”
I just stopped in that moment—because I knew it—I knew what came next. The Holy Spirit was never asking me to get up at 4:30 in the morning and drive this woman. The Holy Spirit was asking me to give her a bike.
Nicole: I looked at Dawn and said, “Dawn, you need a bike? I have a bike in my garage, come and take a look at it.”
She came, and she walked up my driveway. I walked down my driveway and I pull out the bike and said, “What do you think?” She said, “Yes, this is really great. That will be great. I’ll be sure and get it back to you right away when I can save up for a bike.”
I said, “No, no, no, no, no, no—I want you to have it. This is a gift. Please keep it.” She looked at me really kind of skeptically and she said, “Why would you do that for me?” I thought, “How little kindness have you been shown? How few breaks have you gotten in your life that this would seem so foreign to you?” I just said, “You know Dawn, I see you. I see how hard you’re working to make the decision to stay clean every day, and I bet it’s not easy. Even bigger than me seeing you, God sees you, and I just want you to have this.”
But the big thing that that taught me, through this random act of kindness, is that kindness will never ask for more than you have to give. God is not going to ask for more than you have to give. You can trust Him! You can trust that even when it looks like He’s going to ask you to go out on a limb and do something that really feels uncomfortable He knows what’s on the other side of that cliff. He knows. He knew that I could not get up at 4:30 in the morning, but He knew that Dawn needed that bike, so He allowed me to be the connector there.
Dave: I just thought, you say kindness is about the giver, the receiver, and the witness. I’m a witness. We’re witnesses right now to you, being the giver, and Dawn, being the receiver, and I’m tearing up. Simple kindness is powerful.
I thought, “Boy, oh boy, if the church was known as kind people, you wouldn’t have enough seats, people would be running in our doors. If our neighbors saw us as kind neighbors, you wouldn’t have to lead them to Christ, they’d be coming to you, saying, “What do you have—because I don’t see that.” If our spouse felt that we were that kind to them when they didn’t deserve it—I think they’d be interested in why—and the why is Jesus.”
Nicole: Well, Dave, I’ll take it a step farther. You don’t have to give somebody a bike, just watch your words, because everyone around us is listening. They can sense whether we’re complaining about someone or something—like, your chicken tenders are burnt—are you really going to throw a fit in the middle and make somebody, who’s earning minimum wage, feel bad? Are you going to do that—or are you going to walk in the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to say, “Hey, this time, let it go.”
Ann: That’s good—our words have so much power. Then if you can’t think of any acts of kindness, you can get your book. You have 365 kindness ideas in the back that we can follow. Great job, Nicole!
Bob: Thank you for being here and—
Nicole: Oh, I’m not leaving. [Laughter]
Bob: Okay! Well, we’ll see you back tomorrow then; okay? [Laughter]
We are making your book, Nicole, available to our listeners this week—any of our listeners—who can help support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today with a donation. We are a listener-supported ministry. FamilyLife Today is on the air today because listeners, like you, said, “This is important for me; it’s important for our community; it’s important in our world. We want to see this kind of thing grow and expand,” so you went online, or you called and made a donation. Thank you to those of you who made today’s program possible.
Let me encourage the rest of you, who are regular listeners, make tomorrow’s program possible by making a donation today. You’re helping to effectively develop godly marriages and families when you do that. We’ll say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of The Negativity Remedy: Unlocking More Joy, Less Stress, and Better Relationships Through Kindness by Nicole Phillips. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make your online donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate by phone. Again, the website to donate is FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to donate: 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, what we’ve talked about today I think is vital, really—for every marriage, for every family—to have a mindset shift where we’re focused on positivity—where we’re focused on kindness. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife®, is here with us. You agree that this is foundational.
David: You know, I’ve loved listening today because it really lifts my eyes above my current realities into having hope and joy beyond current situations. It reminds me of a friend, who went skydiving and as she was facing the ground, going through the air, the person that she was in tandem with forced her head up and looked to the west where he was making her see the sunset.
I think that’s what we desire to do at FamilyLife is lifting our eyes to the eternal perspective—lifting our eyes to the hope we have in Christ, lifting our eyes to what’s possible in our relationships and the grander horizon that God has called us to and the joy that He’s offered us.
I hope that’s what you encounter when you listen to FamilyLife Today. That’s why I’m so grateful for Legacy Partners—generous partners, who give monthly, to FamilyLife in order for us to keep bringing that hope, to keep lifting people’s heads, to keep pointing people to Jesus in the grander narrative that He’s invited us into. Thank you so much, Legacy Partners, for being a part of what we do.
Bob: Yes, we are grateful for your ongoing support.
We hope all of you can join us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to hear a conversation about what it’s like to be a second wife—to have the shadow of a first marriage and a first wife hanging over your current marriage—it’s a fascinating conversation. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. We got some extra help today from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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