How to Make a Bad Day a Good Thing

Do you ever have one of those days? You know, the one where everything seems to go wrong? Sometimes it starts with you waking up late. And traffic always seems to be worse than usual when you’re in a hurry. Suddenly you realize you forgot about a meeting that’s happening today and you haven’t even started to prepare for it. A colleague sees your distress and somehow manages to say the wrong thing even though she had the best of intentions. And on and on it goes leaving you in a horrible mood.

Some days it only takes one unfortunate event to send you spiraling down and feeling like the universe has it in for you. Your logical brain tells you to get over it because you have work to do. Bad things happen all the time so why should today be any different? But logic so often does NOT prevail. Emotions and feelings always win the day so how do we cope with the bad ones

Whatever the cause of your negative thoughts and emotions, the most important thing you can do is not ignore them. In a Scientific American article titled “Negative Emotions are Key to Well-Being", the author, Tori Rodriguez, makes a case for why we need negative emotions. It turns out these emotions are there for our survival. They are there to protect us and to help us learn. If we went to the extreme and were happy all the time, we could become complacent.

I don’t know about you, but this is all good news to me! Nothing adds to my bad day more than when someone tells me things aren’t so bad, or I’m overreacting, or just let it go. What if I don’t feel like it? Am I supposed to pretend that everything’s right with the world when from my perspective it most certainly is not? Thankfully, the answer is no. The key is to learn to accept and work through your negative emotions so that they don’t consume you.

When you’re in a bad mood, you start to expect other bad things will happen. Things that would be normal to you on any other day can set you off and perpetuate your negative emotions. It can become a vicious cycle and be all consuming. But you can stop the cycle. And it’s essential that you do if you want those bad things to lead to something good.

Perspective is critical when it comes to your emotions. Know that what feels like a major catastrophe to you might be a minor blip to the next person. And, while you can’t control the emotions and feelings you have, you do get to choose your perspective.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your bad day turns back to good.

Step One: Acknowledge your feelings.

Your negative thoughts and emotions are necessary for survival and learning. So let them come and acknowledge their presence. You can process your feelings by talking it through with someone, journaling, or pausing to take a deep breath and tell yourself how you feel.

Step Two: Put your feelings into the proper context.

A great piece of advice in the article I referenced earlier is to remember that “…a thought is just a thought and a feeling is just a feeling, nothing more.” These emotions can be all-consuming, but they don't have to be. They don’t control you, and they don’t define you, they just are.

Step Three: Choose your move.

You can turn negatives into positives if you choose to. And I don’t mean this in the “hey, just think positive” kind of way. The best-case scenario is to learn from what’s happening and what you’re experiencing. Ask yourself, what’s really happening? Is this indeed an unusual situation or are you reacting differently? What else might be adding to this negativity? If you can give some context to why you’re in a bad mood, it can help you learn and move through it more quickly.

Step Four: Send perfection out the door.

Stop trying to be perfectly happy all the time. In the real world, which we all live in, there is good and bad, or yin and yang. You need sadness to know what happiness is. So every time you have a bad day, feeling, or thought, remember that it’s setting you up to know the good, happy, and joyful stuff when it comes your way. And, it will come your way, you just need the right perspective to see it.

Step Five: Ignore steps 2 through 4.

Some days you feel so beaten down that you can't muster the energy to follow these simple steps. So don't force it. When you’re too frustrated to do anything, remember that it’s enough to let the emotions pass and go to the next thing. Not every mood, feeling, and emotion needs to be a study in self-discovery. Sometimes we simply need to let them pass through us.

Whether you use your bad day to make something good or just let it pass through you, there is always something better waiting for you on the other side. Don’t stop your negative thoughts, and don’t let them consume you. Let them pass through so you can get back to good again.