6 ways to turn a bad day into a "good day"

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day  

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day  

As Alexander in the famous children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad day"  can tell us - somedays it might be better to just stay in bed. The trouble is: you never know when you are going to have a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day". They just happen. When that day does happen, here are some ways to "Turn a Bad Day Around"*.  

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage says that “Studies show that when you’re positive, you’re 31% more productive, you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion, you have 23% fewer health-related effects from stress, and your creativity rates triple,”  Wow! I would like to be 31% more productive, have 23% fewer stress related health problems and be more creative.

So, how can we turn a bad day into a good day according to the experts? 

Pinpoint the problem

Have you ever said "I'm in a bad mood"? Someone might ask you "why?" and you answer "I don't know! I just am!"  Maybe your employer asks "Why do have that black expression on your face today?" Or your friend asks "What's wrong with you today?" You answer "Oh, I'm just having one of those days", but you are so busy you haven't stopped to focus on what is happening inside of your heart.  We need to give ourselves an emotional check-up several times a day. If you pray before meals, this is a great time to quiet yourself and ask "How am I feeling? What's going on in my heart?" If we can catch our bad moods early, we have a better chance of turning around our day.  If you find that you are upset, angry or sad try to pinpoint the cause. When did it start? What triggered these feelings? "I'm upset because my ma'am wouldn't listen to my explanation" OR "my friend won't answer my FB pm". Once you pinpoint the cause you can step back and refrain the picture:  "My ma'am was late for work and didn't have time to listen to me. Lord give her a good day today."  OR, "my friend probably has her phone off, is vacuuming, low bat, etc. I'll just be patient. She has a job to do too." Sometimes you might pinpoint an issue that needs addressing and you can pray and plan how to do that.

Take a moment to be thankful

Studies show that it is almost impossible to be thankful and depressed at the same time. When you find yourself experiencing negative emotions or a negative stream of thought - stop and find 3 things to be thankful for. "Lord thank you that I'm inside during this rainstorm and that the roof doesn't leak"; "thank you for this moment to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee"; "thank you for my friend Maria who sent me that funny joke this morning". You get the picture. There are plenty of things to say "thank you" for. Is your family well? kids doing ok in school? Do you have friends who support you? money in your pocket? a flush toilet? Choosing to be thankful is a great way to turn around your day. 

Take action

Do something positive! Taking even a small positive action can re-boot your emotions. Something as small as making your bed, doing some push-ups or sit-ups, eating a healthy snack like an apple when you would normally eat candy, pausing to witness something beautiful, a butterfly on a flower -- these actions can change the flow of your day. Better still, are small actions done for others - a small note in your ma'am's lunchbox saying "Thank you for being a great employer! I hope you have a wonderful day today!"; a FB note to a friend saying "Just wanted you to know that your sharing last Sunday was soooo encouraging. I'm grateful for you!" 

Change your routine

I can already hear you saying, "You're kidding right? My schedule is determined by my employer and every 15 minutes is accounted for. In addition to that she has cameras recording my every move. I can't stay in the CR too long without her commenting on it."  I agree - parts of our lives are regulated by others: bosses, teachers, etc., still we DO control some of our time. Stopping on the way to the market to admire and take a photo of a beautiful butterfly, flower or an interesting street scene can reboot your emotions. For me an uplifting song or music video like the theme to Rocky Balboa , totally reinvigorates me. 

Have realistic expectations

“Expectations can have a huge impact on mood,” says Achor.   “If I expect my flight to be canceled and it’s only three hours delayed, then I’m going to be thrilled. But if I expect it to be on time and then it’s delayed, then I’m going to be upset.” This sounds like I am saying "don't have expectations" or "expect the worst".  I am NOT trying to sell pessimism. We should be optimistic, but we need to also keep our feet planted firmly in reality. A realistic optimist expects life to be tough, but also looks for small graces (like a flower poking up through a crack in the concrete) and is grateful for them. If we expect our employer to be tough, then we are grateful and happy when they treat us kindly. If we expect them to be worried about the food budget, then we are thankful when they tell us to "eat more!" Have realistic expectations and 

Learn from your bad days to prevent future ones

Bad days are inevitable - unhappiness is optional!  When you do have a bad day, take time to review what happened and try to figure out why. If there were interpersonal conflicts, what percentage was your responsibility? What triggers set you off, made you lose your temper, started the black mood, etc.? What can you learn from this "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day".  Determine what you will do in the future to lessen the impact of a "Terrible, Horrible, No good, very bad day." Write it down. I hope that all your days are fantastic and full of balloons and butterflies, but when life finally does happen, and the sky comes crashing down, take action early and turn it around.

** Adapted from an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled "How to turn a bad day around".

Allan SmithComment