How to Turn a Bad Day Around: 5 Helpful Steps

“If you’re in a bad situation, don’t worry it’ll change. If you’re in a good situation, don’t worry it’ll change.”
John A Simone

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

Not all days start off well. And sometimes you just wind up having a bad day.

But there are ways to turn it around.

Now, days can turn out bad in different ways. And have different solutions.

In this article I’d just like to share 5 general steps I often use to change my thoughts and emotions during a bad day. Going through these steps often allows me to change what is inside of me and so that allows me change the day for the better too.

1. Think.

The first step when I’m having an unmotivated, sad, tired day or one where I wind up in one negative situation or more is to use my mind.

How? Well, I start to see my day from a better and more helpful viewpoint by using questions.

So you can ask yourself questions like:

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

2. Use your body.

If I can’t think myself out of the situation, if that doesn’t change my thoughts then work with my body instead.

I work out with free weights for maybe 30 minutes. Then inner tensions lift from my body and mind. A pessimistic viewpoint tends to get replaced.

And I feel more powerful, energetic, positive and focused when I am done.

A much better headspace and bodyspace to be in to turn that day around.

3. Accept what is.

It is often a natural impulse to try to deny negative feelings or thoughts when they show up in your life. Perhaps you try to not think about it, perhaps you try to push that feeling away. Or you tell yourself that you need to focus like a laser beam on the positive by using the questions from step #1.

I have found that in many cases it is actually better to just accept that the negative feelings and th0ughts – or whatever are left of them after having worked through step #1 and #2 – are here right now (although it can be hard to sometimes convince your brain that this is a good option as it wants to deny or reject what is).

By accepting that you feel this way and that these thoughts are floating in your mind you stop feeding more energy into them and you stop making them strong. After a few minutes of fully taking in this uncomfortable feeling and thoughts and accepting that they are here then they start to lose steam. They just seem to float away and you once again feel more open and are able to think more clearly.

4. Tap into gratitude.

This one can be helpful too. Perhaps not when you are having really bad day. Or not right away, if you feel shocked or totally overwhelmed emotionally.

But after a while, when you have calmed down a bit then it can be helpful to tap into a bit of gratitude.

Because your pain and sorrow can in retrospect be a gift.

Your sorrow expands the spectrum of human experience, understanding and emotions for you. You become more grateful because of your sorrow. The sorrow carves deeper. And the deeper it carves, the more joy you will also be able to contain. The sad times make the happy times even sweeter.

So the bad times can help us to enjoy and appreciate the good times even more. But I have also found that when I have a pessimistic mood or low energy or no motivation or all of them then that can help me to think in new ways about things. My lowest days often turn out to be some of my most creative days.

So the bad day may not feel good. But I also know that it often will bring me positive things based on how things have turned out in the past when I was in the same situation.

5. Just be with your day.

This last step is more of a reminder if you can’t seem to get the steps above to work. Because that happens too. But it can also be another way to tap into acceptance and to help yourself.

Now, this blog was never about life being perfect or positive or awesome all the time. That is just perfectionism rearing its ugly head. This blog 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 both in your everyday life and when big things happen.

But there are still natural valleys and peaks in life.

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

If you found this article helpful, then please share it with someone else by using the buttons below. Thank you! =)

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I’ve started using physical activity more and more as a way to get over a hump. Unfortunately, just came out of surgery and doc says I can’t do any strenuous exercise for at least a few more days. It’s driving me crazy.

  • Hi! Henrik! I love the first tip about looking for learning opportunities and about taking action to turn this day round. Great stuff! I’ll come back to read more of your posts!

    Have a great day!

    My own blog:

  • Krishan Grover

    This is a great piece ( How to turn a bad day around) and puts life in prespective. Let us make the most out of life and not brood over small set backs which happen every day in life. Keep up the blog. I find the articles here very refreshing.

    Krishan Grover

  • It also helps for me to talk to friends via instant messaging or the phone. They usually make me feel better!

  • becky

    Another great post with great practical tips. I can’t recall where I got this technique from, but if I am feeling negative towards myself or someone or just blah, I do a little meditation. Breathe in/out slowly and picture myself and say and feel “May I be happy, May I be safe, May I be healthy, and May I live this day with ease”. Then I go on to picture people in my life and repeat and feel good thoughts for those I am close to and those I have issues with. At the end, I feel happier and at peace.

  • Great post.

    we tend to over complicate things.

    good simple tips


  • Simple advice to diffuse a potentially complicated day. Simply beautiful!


  • I like the question you ask yourself: What is one small action, one small step I can take to start turning this day or situation around?

    I will be using this in the future. Thank you!