When something goes wrong, it’s tempting to write the whole day off as “bad.” But the ceiling of your day’s potential lies wherever you set the bar. So why doom your day for the worst when you can turn it around for the better?
Even when it feels like there’s a whirlwind force of misfortune outside of your control, the truth is that it’s entirely possible to catch a “bad” day in its tracks and redirect its path. Each turn of events is a test of your resilience: You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. So instead of letting stressful events detract from your happiness, here’s how to reclaim your day, no matter what life throws at you:
1. Isolate the incident
The bad day domino effect only has as much power as you give it. So, if your bus is running late and you spill coffee on your white shirt as you wait, you may think, “This bus is out to get me,” or “This day is a total disaster.” This is an example of Overgeneralizing, an automatic or habitual way we think (referred to as a Thinking Trap in meQuilibrium), where we turn specific problems into sweeping and unsolvable “truths.” You can escape this Thinking Trap by looking at the situation from a neutral perspective. It wasn’t some cosmic force that made your bus late or your coffee spill. These isolated incidents are unrelated and don’t foreshadow the fate of your day. Allow yourself to feel angry or frustrated, and then move on with an open mind.
2. Think positive
There’s validity to the phrase “find your happy place” when things around you feel chaotic. Your brain is already scanning for the negative when left on autopilot, but you can choose to intervene and redirect your thoughts. At the end of a long day, make a point to focus on that one good thing that went right. Even if it doesn’t seem like there is anything positive available at your fingertips, research shows that just looking for the positive will make you feel happier and more in control of those negative emotions.
3. Reach out
Isolation is a natural response to stress. But it’s been found to have many negative effects, including a reduced lifespan. Social support, on the other hand, is linked to increased resilience to help you tackle your stress and grow stronger in the face of it. Note, however, that the goal isn’t to spread negativity. Call a friend or family member at the end of a long day or grab a coworker for a coffee break after a tough morning. Share your stress productively by keeping it solution-focused or vent and then move on.
4. Take action
Experts say that your brain records each victory, which is exactly what you need when you feel like you’re slipping under. It doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, as Admiral William McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and author, likes to say, when you feel stuck in a rut, take a minute or two to complete a simple task and cross it off your list. It might even instill you with the agency you need to carry onwards and take control of your day. To that end, check out these nine mood boosters for inspiration. From writing a thank you note to cleaning your desk, you can complete each in five minutes or less.
Instead of blaming your day, reclaim it. You only get one today, and it has as much potential as you allow it—so harness that potential and use it to maximize your own.
Elior Moskowitz is the Content Coordinator at meQuilibrium. She is a frequent Cup of Calm contributor and writes about leadership, lifestyle, and wellbeing. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from the University at Albany.