“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. And this week I’d like to share how I do that.
This is 9 tips and habits that help me to turn a bad day around. Most of the time I use more than one of these habits to do that.
I usually start turning my day around with shaking things up by using my body in some way.
The first thing I almost always 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 1-2 minutes.
This calms my body and mind.
2. Do a power pose.
Then I sometimes 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 or Superman 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.
3. Work out.
Another habit I use several times a week to shake things up by using my body is to lift free weights in my home. I do this for about 30-40 minutes and it helps me to release tensions and worry.
And after I am done I feel more powerful, focused and energetic.
Just by hugging someone quickly you can feel safer and more optimistic again. And an embrace that lasts 30 seconds or a minute or more can recharge your your batteries and release an unexpectedly large amount of stress and tensions.
5. Pet an animal.
If I don’t have anyone close by to hug during a bad day I usually just pet our cat for a few minutes. It has a very similar calming and stress reliving effect.
And it makes him very happy and that in turn boosts my mood.
6. 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?
7. Go out into nature and enjoy the spring.
Leave your couch or workspace for a little while. Talk a walk and just soak in the spring sun and warmth. Enjoy the birds singing and the nature starting to blossom after the cold winter.
Just being out there in nature tends to make it easier to think optimistically again and to start looking for practical solutions or upsides. Or you can simply be there in the moment fully and let your thoughts about for example work rest for a while (and then later on you can return to that with fresh eyes and a calmer mind).
Another upside is that the sunshine and exercise during this 20-30 minute pause in my day also recharges my energy.
8. Accept what is.
One thing that sometimes work better than just about anything 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.
9. Remember: sometimes a bad day will just be a bad day.
Now, from time to time, even if you use several of the techniques above – one after the other – 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.