It's a scientific fact— our brain weighs dramatic, uncommon, outstanding occurrences more than the typical ones.
Just listen to the amount of people that will insist that the world is falling apart, despite the fact there is less danger, death, and disease than there has ever been in human history.
Why? All the terrible stuff is sensationalized. It's what we see on the news. "Man shoots up school" is much more shocking and memorable that "girl helps old man with groceries". Unfortunately, our brain reacts the same way to everyday events in our own lives as it does with the bits of news. Our day is plodding along, maybe not terribly exciting, but just fine, and then suddenly— BAM. The shitty thing has happened, and suddenly everything has gone wrong today.
Where did that idea come from? I mean, the day may not have been one to tell your future-children about, but it has it really been horrible from the start? Chances are it hasn't. Our brain is picking out those few moments which were different from the rest— that time you dropped the vacuum on your toe, or the fifteen-minutes it took your laptop to start up— and ignoring the gorgeous cup of tea, the perfect toast with cinnamon and brown sugar, the morning sun blasting in your window, the head start you got on your work this afternoon, or the movie-date you have to look forward to later on. It takes those negative moments and puts them at the forefront, where we can then play them on repeat, and insist the whole day has been shit. We wish we could press CTRL-Z and redo the last not-so-stellar parts of our day.
The good news? This phenomenon is usually crap, and once you harness that knowledge you can turn your day around. It is never too late to rescue a bad day, no matter how much it feels like you have run out of time or wasted your day.
1. Don't beat yourself up.
We all have slip ups. We all fuck up from time to time, and we all do things we regret. Sometimes the things that put our day on whack are our fault, and sometimes they're not. Whether or not you can confidently place the blame on yourself doesn't matter— spending the rest of your day admonishing yourself because you were late for work, or because you broke something, or weren't very productive isn't helping. You still have the ability to change the way you are going, even if things are not going your way. We may not be able to control everything around us as much as we would like to, but we absolutely can control the way that we react to what happens to us.
Take a moment to breathe, centre, and make yourself a cup of tea.
2. Get gratitude.
Slowing down for a sec to think about what we are really grateful in our lives is a great way to get that runaway train of a day back on the tracks. Get out a colourful sharpie and some gorgeous paper and make a list of what you are so thankful to have in your life. Don't just list the typical things which come to mind at first like your spouse or your apartment. What about the little things which you love, but might have taken for granted recently? A new book you've bought but haven't read yet? The slightly freakish warm weather? How about the barista that you always have such a great conversation with?
It's difficult to feel upset by what is often a pile up of little things when we focus on all the greatness we really have going for us.
3. Get real.
Alright, so some unfortunate crap has happened to what was once a lovely day— but what are you really still upset about? Is it something that is in your control? Maybe you waited 30 minutes to catch a bus that drove past you, but is missing that bus and wasting some time what is still causing your salty mood? Maybe you're actually upset because this has happened so many times and you can't quite seem to get organized. Maybe you've left something to the last minute and the time lost has caused a major crunch.
So, take a moment to really think about it. What is the worst outcome here? What will happen to your day if you spend the remaining six hours totally miserable? Let's face it, some days are actually horrible— I just watched a video on Youtube about a woman who hurled on a bus, and was also peed on by a stranger on her way to a job interview. That is a shitty day. Have you been peed on by a stranger?
4. Turn it around.
You've been handed a shit-sandwich, but if you've got the guts, you can turn it into something great, a nice, digestible lesson.
That's not exactly what you wanted to hear, I know. Some situations are well and truly out of your control, but most of the time? Days that are a little wonky are often that way for a reason. What can you take out of these experiences? If you keep missing the same bus on the way to work, can you get up and ready ten minutes earlier so you can be seriously early for that bus? If you keep losing your keys and your wallet can you do a decluttering of your possessions and get more intentional with where you are leaving things?
There is always something that can be learned from a cranky situation, even if that learning is limited to how you can better react to situations, especially those you cannot change. And now, some wisdom from Epictetus:
"When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it."
5. Do good.
Often, even the sourest of moods can be lifted by doing something good for someone else. Sometimes, we just need to be lifted out of our own head for a bit, and helping to alleviate the suffering— no matter how minor— of someone else can do just that. Do you have a friend who has been feeling a little down lately? Reach out and have a chit chat— remember, it's about them, not your janky day. Have you recently received a lot of snow? Help out your neighbour with a little bit of shovelling. Make something for a friend. Cook dinner for your boyfriend or girlfriend. Donate to a good cause.
The good feelings of helping out someone else will naturally lift your mood and help you step back from your situation and see it with a fresh perspective.
Do you guys have days like this? What do you do to pull yourself out of a deep dark funk? Share your brilliant tips and tricks with me in the comments!
* This article was originally featured on my blog for creative entrepreneurs, The House of Muses.