How to Turn a Bad Day Around

by Henrik Edberg

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

Some days are great, better than you would have expected when you rolled out of the bed in the morning.

Quite a few days are just good and OK days.

And then we have the other ones. The days that just wind up being bad.

What do you do then? I used to let them drag me down and I often wound up having not just one but a couple of bad days because of whatever happened.

Nowadays I do things a bit differently. I follow four general steps that I use to change my thoughts and how I feel if I find myself starting to have a bad day.

And I’d like to share those steps today.

1. Shake things up by using your body.

This is currently the first step I take. Well, most of the time at least. Sometimes I start with step #2 – find a new viewpoint – so you may want to see what order works best for you.

So I am having a sad, unmotivated, tired day or one where I wind up in a negative situation or more.

  • Breathe. The first thing I do is to just breathe. I breathe deeply through my nose by using my belly. I focus only on the air going in and out for about 1 minute.
  • Do a power pose. Then I follow that up by striking what Amy Cuddy calls a power pose for about 2 minutes (check out her TED talk, it’s really good). The simplest way to strike a power pose is to stand up confidently like Wonder Woman with your legs apart, head up and your hands on your hips. It might sound odd but it can really change how you feel in a quick and positive way.
  • Work out. A third step I sometimes use to shake things up by using my body is to lift free weights in my home. I do this for about 30 minutes and it helps me to release tensions and worry. And after I am done I feel more powerful, focused and energetic.

2. Find a new viewpoint.

The body tips above often work well to change my perspective by altering my emotional state and energy level.

Sometimes something more is needed though.

So I start looking more actively for a better and more helpful viewpoint by asking myself a couple of questions.

Three of my most commonly used questions that help me with that are:

  • Will this matter 5 years from now?
  • Who cares?
  • What is one small action, one small and practical step I can take to start turning this day or situation around?

3. Accept.

A third and powerful step that sometimes work better than the two above is simply to accept what is at this moment.

To not deny or try to push away negative feelings or thoughts that show up. Even though you may feel an impulse to do so.

Instead, just accept what is right now. The thoughts and feelings within you. And just be with them fully and observe them flowing through you.

By doing so you are not giving up.

No, because when you accept what is then you stop feeding the negative thoughts in your mind with more energy. And so they become weaker.

They start to lose their grip on you after a while and then they float away. And so you feel more open and are able to think more clearly again.

4. Sometimes a bad day will just be a bad day.

Now, from time to time, even if you use the steps above you won’t be able to turn a bad day around. That has been my experience at least.

Because no matter what habits you adopt, life will never be perfect, positive or awesome all the time.

And this website was never about living some kind of life that only exists in a perfect dream anyway.

This website is about replacing unhelpful habits with better ones. It is about raising the percentages of times where you can handle things in a better way. In your regular, everyday life. And when bigger things happen.

Because that will make a huge difference.

But still, life will have natural valleys.

And a bad day will sometimes just be a bad day. And that’s OK. That’s life.

But the interesting thing is this: if you accept that life is like this sometimes – and let go of the dream of perfection – then you’ll create less suffering for yourself and life will become lighter, simpler and happier.

So in the long run there is an upside even to a bad day that you may not be able to turn around.

Image by Luis Hernandez – (license).

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Julie May 22, 2014 at 7:10 pm

I’ve just recently found your blog and find it so helpful. Thank you so much for putting it out there and adding perspective to my life.

haftom May 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm

sensational,really intersting!!

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Glad to hear it, Julie!

joyce colburn May 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I thought this was an excellent post and retweeted it. I like the sometimes its just a bad day and will this matter in 5 years?

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Thank you for saying that and for spreading the word!

James Murray May 22, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Brilliant advice simple and effective
Thank you!

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:14 pm

You’re very welcome, James!

Kim May 22, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Great write up, Henrik! If it weren’t for bad days, we wouldn’t know what a “good day” feels like! Very inspirational.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Thank you, Kim!

sherwood8028 May 22, 2014 at 8:17 pm

First off, there are no bad days. You have be talking about your response to others, your surroundings or possibly a situation you have caused.

So, your first step is to accurately define your impression of a bad day.

Who caused it? Your impression of others who might have caused it

How did you get into the situation in which you find yourself?

Finally, if you caused it, you have to ask yourself why?

That ought to keep you busy until tomorrow when you will have forgotten all about that day – if you are lke the thousands of others around you, in way or another.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Thank you for sharing your advice!

Kush Sharma May 22, 2014 at 8:26 pm

“Sometimes a bad day will be a bad day”. This is true and sometimes we just need to accept. Accept but not give up.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Well said, Kush.

Joanne May 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Awesome link to the TED talk, thanks for sharing it!

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:16 pm

You’re very welcome, it’s one of my absolute favorite TED talks.

Sandra Pawula May 22, 2014 at 11:59 pm

This is exactly what I needed today as yesterday’s difficulty inched it’s way into today. I can see exactly what you mean, how a bad day can become several bad days.

These are all excellent tips and they have worked for me too at one time or another. I especially like the idea that sometimes we just have bad days. If we can accept that and let go, it’s easier to move on.

I’m ready to try some of these out right now!

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me, Sandra!

Joan A. Di Masi May 23, 2014 at 12:05 am

This is really good. Something positive to focus on when the day is going bad.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Glad you like it, Joan!

nancy mcginnis May 23, 2014 at 2:40 am

Your web-site has helped me sooooooooo much and toights article about turning a bad day around is so perfect. I have actually tried this and it does wotk a lot.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:18 pm

That is wonderful to hear, Nancy, thank you!

poonam May 23, 2014 at 4:53 am

nice :) ,

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Thanks! :)

Chas May 23, 2014 at 5:01 am

“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Good one. :)

Dan Erickson May 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Bad days are all in our head. We create them. If I drop something in the morning I might say, “Great, this isn’t going to be a good day,” and wham, I’ve started myself off to a bad day. I agree with number three: just accept, not the bad day, but the things that happen that you might label bad. Then don’t label them as bad, bus just as life.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Thank you for sharing what works for you, Dan!

Element Magazine Australia May 23, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hey Henrik, thanks for sharing this post. I totally agree with you that in life, there will definitely be those days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed and feel like everything out there is against us. What worked for me is that I chose to be thankful for simply being alive on the day itself (despite how I’m actually feeling), because that means that we all live to fight another day.

Henrik Edberg May 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Good advice, thank you for adding it!

Emily May 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Another fantastic post! These strategies are easy to remember and effective. I started my day by reading this, and I think it’s perfectly suited to a new morning.

Wal Herring May 23, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Great ways to turn your day around, will definitely try! One i have been using recently – is just repeating ‘i love myself’ over and over. For some reason it seems to stop my world and i notice more. I guess this is an extension of the above – acceptance.

Patrick Banks May 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Good post . We all know those kind of things but somehow tend to forget their importance in our daily lives. I totally agree with you that acceptance might be the most important factor of those. Sometimes self-observation without giving names and values to the situation can bring us not only better solutions but also peace.

Mathew May 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm

”Life will never be parfect, positive or awsome all the time” This is good to know. Thank you

ness May 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Thanks for sharing the TED video -I’ll use the wonder woman pose for years to come! :-)

Nitin Verma May 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Very thoughtful and inspiring.

Take care,

Noel May 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

great post here Henrik! We all have bad days where nothing’s just going our way but one thing I learned, which you also pointed out above is that we just have to accept it. There are things that are beyond out control and when these things happen, our best weapon is to change our attitude instead. Since then I’ve learned to simply move on and not dwell on it because my day gets ruined, my relationships get affected and I lose in the end.

jessica May 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

I love this article, very inspiring and very good to read!


Jess, xoxo

Cody Butler May 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

As you say sometimes a bad day is just a bad day, they’re going to happen. The key really is how we respond to bad days. Trying to avoid them is just dumb, learning how to respond to them is a much more productive pass time. But if I had to give and answer to the question “how to deal with a bad day?” The gym is the answer, 20 minutes on a running machine will certainly change your state of mind.

Brian Wingfield May 28, 2014 at 3:54 am

Your posts are great! They are always spot on & inspiring.

Sassie May 29, 2014 at 9:13 am

Hi! I love how you bring your point across in a crisp and fresh way! Very enjoyable read! Here’s mine. :)

deborah May 29, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I think that mindfullness and acceptance are the two most powerful tips. Posture and exercising work on the body reaction and regarging exercise it helps increasing the level of enddorphins and so it is objectivily helpful.
But when you find yourself in a bad situation that you can’t completely change right now, I ask myself “How can I make it a little bit funnier? How can I change my attitude towards it a little bit to cheer me up?”.
I use exercise as well, but I also try to have more fun: taht includes watching funny tv shows, spending more time with my family and friends and including more spare happy time for myself. That helps a lot.
Even if it’s not just a bad day but a bad month.

Hope it helps


Tatyana May 31, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Excellent tips! Good steps to follow. Actually, sometimes we just should accept the fact that it’s a bad day. No more. It’s not the end of your life. Just reality.

????????? June 1, 2014 at 12:02 am

Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment
(it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll
just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything.
Do you have any tips for newbie blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

Little Owl June 1, 2014 at 6:58 am

Even bad days have good moments, you just have to recognise them and hold on to them until the bad day becomes a good day :)

Everyday is a Holiday! June 7, 2014 at 7:15 am

Thank you for sharing. Wonderful and well written!

Acceptance is the key to life. Bad days challenge us and they show us where we are during that season. In or out of balance. Are you out of pace with the Universe? God? Do we realize everything is already planned? Whatever your beliefs may be, at the end of the day, it’s all a part of life.

Lynsey Moffett June 16, 2014 at 9:14 am

Another fab article, thank you Henrik! :-) keep up the good work!

Jack June 20, 2014 at 7:48 am

Wonderful post Henrik! To accept is a hard part to do. But need to walk and live another day. Thanks for sharing.

Jared June 29, 2014 at 11:50 pm

This is exactly what I needed today. I was grumpy and blaming everyone else for my troubles. Your positive blog helped turn the day around. Thank you so much.

Maureen Coffey July 1, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Well … just don’t think about it as a “bad” day. Rather see it as a challenge and tell yourself that this day was the way it was because the way you approached it. That way – no more “bad” days as such. “but by the seeds you plant” – this actually is the fault line of our times: we see “instant gratification” everywhere and TV shows good weather and beautiful people in expensive cars. And these “people” pop up on screen without a history as such – they never seem to have had to plant. Now with student loans ballooning to levels never before seen in history, people actually do not really “plant” – they borrow seeds left right and center.

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