You know those days when everything seems to go wrong? When your plans fall apart, you can't find your glasses, and then the car won't start? Those kinds of day are the worst. When you're having one of those days, it's hard to imagine a time when things went right or to envision a time when things might once again go your way. And it's even harder to stay in the present because the present is where things seem to be going so terribly wrong.
Staying positive and present in the middle of a bad day is one of the hardest aspects of living a positively present life. No matter how much you realize that being positive and present will benefit you when times are tough, when times are actually tough, it can be really hard not to slip into a negative mindset. When it comes to coping with bad days, I've tried all sorts of different things—everything from indulging in my favorite treats to cranking up my favorite song to letting myself wallow in my frustration to doing whatever I can to distract myself. Some tactics have worked well. Others, not so much.
Last week when my boyfriend was facing a really tough couple of days, it got me thinking about what really works when it comes to conquering a bad day. As with many mental remedies, the perfect cure for a bad day differs from person to person, but I've found that these six methods (either used as stand-alone treatments or grouped together as a bad-day-busting cure) have really worked for me when I'm up against a really rotten day.
FIND SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR.
I know, I know—being grateful sounds so cliche. But here's the thing: it's a cliche because it really works. Whenever I find myself frustrated, angry, sad, or upset, if I focus my attention on something I'm thankful for—even something as basic as just being alive—I find that my thoughts start to drift to a more positive place. It's not an instant fix, but I can guarantee that, if you're having a bad day and you make a list of things you have to be thankful for, you'll find yourself putting the bad day blues in perspective and realizing that, even though things aren't perfect, there are still things to be positive about.
MEDITATE ON A HAPPY MEMORY.
I'm not one to advise returning to the past too often, but sometimes, when things are really heading south, it helps to think back on a really happy, joy-filled memory and recall how it felt to be that excited, happy, or content. The trick here is not to compare that memory with your current state (that'll probably only make you feel worse), but instead to acknowledge that positive moments have happened to you and they're likely to happen again. The more you ponder something positive, the more you'll start to notice positive things happening in the present.
DO SOMETHING TO DISTRACT YOURSELF.
While I certainly don't recommend avoiding negative emotions or situations (it's much better to deal with them than to allow them to build up), when you're having a really tough day and the things that are getting you down are completely out of your control (like a car breaking down), I think it's a good idea to find a way to distract yourself from your frustration or anger and focus on something more positive. Some ways you can distract yourself: watch a funny movie, call a good friend, sketch or draw, go for a run, read a new book, or take an online class. Sometimes taking your mind off of what's going wrong is the best way to reconnect with what's going right.
PUT YOURSELF IN HOT WATER.
Apparently, a study of Yale University students found that those who regularly soaked in a warm bath and had hot drinks (like tea) felt happier than those who had quick showers and very few hot drinks. So if you're having a bad day, try taking a nice, relaxing bath. If baths aren't your thing (or you don't have time), brew yourself a cup of tea and try to take a little time to sip it mindfully. Not only will this allow you to potentially feel the happiness benefits of drinking a warm drink, but it offers you a chance to take a time out from whatever's on your mind. Even the shortest break from racing thoughts and worrying woes can help to make a bad day seem more bearable.
TREAT SOMEONE ELSE TO A SURPRISE.
In the midst of a bad day, it can be difficult not to focus your attention only on yourself and on what's not going well. But if you take a step away from your own racing thoughts and do something kind or surprising for someone else, you'll probably surprise yourself with how good it feels—and how quickly it shifts your attention to a more positive place. When you're having a bad day, treat someone you love to a surprise treat, a quick massage, or a thoughtful note. You'll not only brighten his or her day, but you'll shine some light on your own day as well.
CREATE AN UPLIFTING PLAYLIST.
Music can really set the tone for how you experience the world, so when you're having a tough day, one of the best things you can do is listen to music that uplifts you. Sometimes this is tough to do because you might want to just wallow in songs that reflect how you're feeling, but, believe me, putting together a positive playlist can made a big difference in your mood. Take a few minutes to put together a list of your favorite songs and listen to them as you get ready for your day. It might not solve all of your bad day troubles, but it'll certainly give you a little boost to begin the day. (If you don't have time to make a playlist, you can listen to my Stay Positive! mix on YouTube.)