Everyone has had bad days. Sometimes, they seem to start as soon as you get out of bed. Your alarm goes off, and you are grouchy and irritable already. Your spouse drank the last of the milk, you spend 15 fruitless minutes looking for your keys and then you get stuck behind an 18 wheeler that should not even be on the road you take to work. Other times, you wake up in a perfectly good mood, and the world seems determined to ruin it. Your daughter is practically looking for topics to fight about, and you run late to work. Your boss wants you to completely redo your previous project, and your inbox is full of people reporting problems. To make matters worse, the coffee machine is broken. By noon, what started out as a perfectly good day has become seemingly endless misery, and you are counting the hours until you can go home, go to bed and pray for a better day tomorrow.
Bad days are no fun, but there is no reason that you have to stay at the mercy of a miserable morning. You can climb out of your funk and improve your mood. Escaping the doldrums does not require an hour of yoga and meditation either. Here are four simple, painless things you can fit into your normal schedule that can turn a bad day around.
Drop a Beat
Most people are at least peripherally aware that music affects their mood. If you doubt that fact, sit down and listen to 10 sad songs in a row. Then, play a set of 10 angry songs. Finally, tune in to 10 sugar sweet love songs. The odds are that you will go from neutral when you start, to sad, to wanting to pick a fight, to wanting to go kiss your significant other.
Music has a large effect on human emotions. This is a large part of why films have soundtracks. Darth Vader would not be as intimidating without the iconic “Imperial March” playing in the background, and Dumbledore’s death went from painful to agonizing with the addition of “Dumbledore’s Farewell” playing in the background. Horror and suspense movies are masters of using soundtracks to turn what would be uninspiring events on screen, a shadow at the window or a person standing still in a walking crowd, into something terrifying. You can achieve the same emotional manipulation that expert filmmakers do by making a soundtrack for how you want to feel in your own life. If you want energy in the morning, play music with a swift tempo and inspirational lyrics. To relax at night, play something slow and soothing. To help turn a bad day around, play music that will lift your spirits. Inspiring or happy lyrics, a swift tempo and a beat that makes you want to dance in your seat can bring some light back to a miserable day.
Take a Walk
It is not unusual for a bad day to have been caused by a specific incident that you simply cannot seem to get out of your mind. Sometimes you might wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but most of the time when you have a bad day it is because events around you seem to be conspiring to either irritate you or make you miserable. Your boss suddenly drops half a dozen extra projects in your lap when you are already dealing with a busy week. Your son spent the morning fighting with you about the most inconsequential things. Your computer keeps freezing. You absolutely hate the world right now.
As a child, your parents probably told you to walk away when you were angry. That advice continues to hold true in adulthood. When you are angry, miserable or simply so ready for the day to be over, walk away. Go walk a lap around the parking lot at work or around the block if you are home. If an actual walk is not in the cards, mentally walk away. If the computer keeps freezing, step away from it for a few minutes. Go refill your coffee or grab a snack. Set what is driving you crazy aside, and go find your sanity again. Then, go wrestle the monster into the ground.
You may have been told in the past to “eat the frog” or “don’t multitask. Work until it’s done!” This is perfectly valid advice, but sometimes eating the frog or chaining yourself to your desk until that project is complete is not helpful. You stare blankly at the screen. The blinking cursor mocks you. You read the numbers four times and have no idea what they say.
Multitasking actually lowers your productivity, but sometimes you need a break from your current task. Spinning your wheels aimlessly on a project you are stalled on can actually waste more time than if you walked away for a few minutes. So, when you find yourself at a loss as to how to continue a project, let yourself procrastinate productively. Do something that needs to be done but is unrelated to your current task. Put your analysis of this quarter’s numbers aside and write up the email reminding your team about the monthly meeting. Stop fighting with the building instructions for a piece of furniture and go put the dishes away. Productive procrastination will let you take the break you need without wasting precious time. Accomplishing one thing can also give you new motivation to accomplish another and let you come back to your original task with new energy and determination.
Share a Smile
“Turn that frown upside down” may seem like an inane phrase that is meant to be chirped at a grumpy three year old, but it might be the simplest and best way to turn a bad day around. Bizarre as it may sound, your body language and facial expressions influence your mood just as much as your mood influences your expression and stance. If you stand in a confident manner, you are more likely to actually feel confident. If you curve the inside edge of your eyebrows up, you are likely to feel sad. The emotion you trigger then makes it more likely for you to stand in a certain manner or wear a certain facial expression. You actually feel that emotion which makes you show it in your face and body. A feedback loop is formed. Although this feedback loop can make it very difficult to get out of a funk, you can hijack it to improve your mood. Sit up straighter in your chair or stand with your shoulders squared. Smile and relax the muscles in your neck. It will not be an instant cure, but forcing yourself to express happiness even if you do not feel it will make your day a little brighter.
To get the most out of a smile, share it with someone else. Take five minutes to call your sister, and laugh about something ridiculous. Text your spouse, and tell them you love them. Find a joke online, and share it with your coworker. You are more likely to laugh when someone else is laughing, hence the reason TV shows have laugh tracks, and laughter is a surefire way to lift your mood.
Bad days are less than no fun, but a few bad moments do not have to determine the course of your entire day. When you seem to be having “one of those days,” take a breather and make a conscious choice about how you are going to feel for the rest of the day. Are you going to wallow in your misery, or are you going to cheer yourself up? Make your decision and stick to it. You are welcome to spend hours hating life, but that seems like an awful waste of day that could be spent conquering those daily irritations and replacing them with smiles and joy. Life is too short to do anything else.