Some days start off bad. Then everything that can go wrong does. People go out of their way to be difficult. Small bumps in the road become hills and potholes. Your irritability rises as your patience decreases. You feel you will burst!
What causes bad days like this?
It turns out here are two main causes of bad days. The first is the domino effect, where one bad event creates another. For example, you are late for a meeting, which makes you feel and act stressed, which in turn irritates your boss, who then feels justified in giving you lousy work to do.
The second main cause of a bad day is that once you get into a bad mood, or negative frame of mind, it influences how you see things. When I am really stressed, I tend to react more negatively than usual. This happens when faced with a persistently unreasonable client or when I am in a hurry and have to wait forever for an elevator. My irritation and frustration easily flows over to other people and issues.
Once we become negative, we become more alert for other negative events. And when we see these negative events occurring, we tend to dwell on them. They confirm how awful the general situation is. Even worse, while we ruminate about the negative, we even miss opportunities to experience positive events around us.
The domino effect and being more alert for the negative sets up a negative reinforcing cycle of feeling bad, seeing and experiencing more bad things, that make you feel even worse. You feel like you will never bounce back and be resilient.
No wonder it’s really difficult to shake off a bad mood or stop a bad day!
So what can you do when you have a really “bad hair” day? Can you change it or will the whole day be horrible?
Fortunately there are ways of breaking out of a bad mood before it ruins your day.
Here are some suggestions that have worked for me and for others:
Don’t react immediately. A quick reaction is often the wrong reaction. Walk away from the negative situation. Walking away can also be done mentally, such as by taking time out for coffee or read a magazine.
Calm yourself by focusing on your breathing and your heartbeat. Feel the air entering your nose and filling your lungs, and then being expelled outwards. Breathe deeply in and out, becoming aware of the physical sensations of breathing and the beat of your heart.
Meditation is really useful even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes.
3. Find a new way of looking at what is happening
Reframe the things that are happening to you. Look for what you can learn from the experience or what is positive in the situation.
Ask yourself: “If only what is happening now mattered, and not what caused it, what would I do?”
Another way of getting a different perspective is to ask yourself: “Will these upsetting things matter next month or next year?”
4. Separate what you can change from what you can’t
Analyse the things that are making you upset, and decide which of the things you can change and which are the things you can’t.
For the things you can’t change, let go of them. Decide to accept them and to not allow them to upset you.
For the things that you can change, decide which are important enough for you to do something about, and then develop a plan of action.
5. Take one small positive step
Do one small positive thing to improve your situation. Having done that, sit back and congratulate yourself that you have made progress and are not stuck.
Then move to the other small things in your life that you can change.
Small changes eventually lead to large change.
So go on and try these five steps. They will change your focus from tense energy and narrow focus to creative energy and an open focus. You will experience more optimism and hope, which will help you to recover and be resilient. Most importantly, you will be able to break your bad mood before it spoils your whole day