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10 Strategies to Turn a Bad Day Around

My previous post told a story about waking up on the wrong side of bed, and what I specifically did to turn it around, as well as general do's and don'ts. This article continues with that theme, and shares some powerful strategies you can use to stop a bad day in its tracks.

Here we go...

1. Recognize

Recognize when your day is off to a bad start. The earlier the better. Acknowledge it, accept it, and if you want to change the trajectory, decide to do something about it.

2. Pause

Or breathe. Don't do whatever you were going to do right this second. Instead, don't do anything except breathe. Count down from 100. Do a quick SOS meditation.

3. Pattern Interrupt

Definition: a technique to change a particular thought, behavior or situation.

Find a way to break your normal thought or behavior pattern. Do something you don't usually do. The more it can shock or distract you, the better. i.e. cold showers, dance where nobody can see you, silent yell, punch a pillow. Even making this turnaround process a game is an effective pattern interrupt.

4. Distract Yourself (with Healthy Diversions)

While a shot of whiskey, a pint of Ben and Jerry's, and/or a backhand to you-know-who's cheek might sound tempting, keep your distractions as healthy as possible for your sake, and for the sake of the person you were about to backhand. You don't want to unintentionally start a Fight Club habit; that's not good for anybody. Instead, try to start a new good habit, like Tai Chi, or Goga (Yoga with goats, duh! Seriously, it exists. If you don't believe me click here).

5. Breathe Hard for >30 minutes

Find a way to get your heart rate above 120bpm for an extended period of time. I rode a bike today, but you could run, hike, go to a sweaty yoga class, circuit train with weights, hill sprint, swim the English Channel, or jazzercise. Whatever aerobic exercise you choose, it just has to be consistently long and difficult (for you) in order to effectively reset your emotional setpoint.

Tips: Avoid activities where there is lots of stopping and starting like team sports (tennis, raquetball, volleyball, soccer). Also since the point is to get out of your head, avoid comparing your performance to previous performances - if you can't do your reset activity without evaluating yourself, choose a new activity this day.

6. Journal for 30 Minutes

Dive into those emotions of self-pity, anger, or whatever else you're feeling. Explore those unspoken thoughts. Let it all out, in your safest of safe spaces. If you hit the 30 minute mark, I guarantee you'll be surprised how much better you feel.

7. Do Something You Love

What excites you? Do that this day. Listen to your new mid-tempo electronica artist. Go to that art museum you drive by every day. Cook eggplant parmesan. Pray... to whoever you choose as bigger and better than you. Read your favorite David Sedaris book again (and snot laugh again). Nerd out on the technical specifications of the latest cryptocurrency. Whatever floats your boat.

8. Do Something for Someone Else

Big or small, just something. Clean out your closet and donate some stuff. Buy a homeless person a meal, or ask them their story. Let someone turn left in traffic. Wave thank you to someone who let you into traffic. Hold the door. Smile and make eye contact to a complete stranger. Surprise someone. Tell someone you love them.

9. Avoid Negativity: Things, People, Situations, AND Social Media

First step, don't read, watch, or listen to the news. Avoid any media that rhymes with "Drump." In fact, don't look at any social media unless it inspires you or makes you laugh (i.e. like this Spaceforce Instagram feed). Stop reading Uncle Randy's political rants. Say buh-bye to Debbie Downer friends, at least for today (but maybe for a lifetime?). Just this one time, skip that networking event you dread. Pass on the breakup music and depressing documentary about apartheid.

10. Be Present

Be here and now.

Thoughts will undoubtedly pop up, digging up the past, or projecting into the future. As soon as you notice those past/future thoughts, cut them off and return to the present.

Emotions will undoubtedly pop up: pity, anger, fear, shame, worry. As soon as you notice these emotions, let them go, they are not you.

Focus on your incoming and outgoing breath, or pick a body part to feel to help you return to the present moment. Anything that is not here and now doesn't exsist. As Eckhart Tolle says:

"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life."

Moral of the Story

While at one point early in my bad day I had the thought, "well, nothing important is getting accomplished today." Then, post-turnaround, I sat down and wrote this blog post, knocking out one of my weekly goals.

*Depending on your situation, some of these strategies and tactics may be easier to implement than others. If you have people that depend on you, you might find it helpful to communicate what you're doing. Undoubtedly they will prefer a happy you to a grumpy you.

Additional reading:

While most of this came from my own experiences, I interwove techniques from Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

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