Some days life just feels hard. You missed your train, spilled coffee on your white shirt and forgot about a big meeting you needed to prepare for. When it's not even noon and it already feels like everything is going wrong, it's easy to give up on having a good day. But you don't have to! Here are 7 mind tricks that will help you turn it around.
First of all, congratulate yourself on deciding to turn things around. Instead of being glum and taking your crappy day out on your co workers or friends, you've already chosen to take a different path. That in itself is pretty amazing. Now what you need is a plan. We've got you.
TODAY spoke with a few experts to give you concrete strategies to implement whether your car broke down, your relationship is driving you crazy or you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
1. Mind your thoughts.
Once you realize your day is going off the tracks and decided that you want to feel better, move on to mindfulness. Mindfulness is an amorphous term that gets thrown around a lot, but in this context it means just “being” with your emotions instead of judging them.
“Part of mindfulness is ‘acceptance without judgment,'” said Katie Lyons, a mindfulness expert. “If we focus on the facts and avoid words and labels like ‘bad’ or ‘terrible,’ it will help reduce stress.”
Journaling is a great way to practice getting in touch with your feelings. Try setting a timer on your phone and allowing yourself 10 or 15 minutes to journal about the feelings you're having.Really let everything out. Then close the journal when the timer goes off and intentionally let it go.
If it helps, you can say out loud, "I am letting these feelings go now" as you close your journal. Lyons emphasized that this process is integral to mindfulness: first you focus on the stress mindfully and then deliberately and consciously let it go.
To be clear, your feelings may not disappear magically, but going through the process of intentionally noticing them and consciously choosing to let them go can help you get some distance. And, you never know, journaling may give your feelings enough of an outlet that they really do dissipate.
Try an easy, 5-minute meditationJuly 7, 201505:32
2. Celebrate putting those feelings behind you.
Celebrating our accomplishments is a great way to help you feel better about yourself. And, yes, even something as simple as journaling deserves to be recognized and celebrated.
Health coach Blanche Roberts affirms that getting in touch with what you're feeling is an accomplishment in and of itself, and something that you can feel good about. “The fact that YOU noticed you want to feel better is worthy of celebration because you are aware and can now choose to make a shift.” Give yourself a pat on the back, or even a hug or a bite of chocolate.
3. Find something easy to do that will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Now that you’re aware and practicing mindfulness, it’s time to focus on ways to actually get into a better mood. First, distraction is key. Licensed clinical counselor Tanya Komblevitz suggested cleaning or doing other chores because it gives you a sense of accomplishment and order after a stressful day.
“Engage in an activity that is both pleasurable AND challenging, such as cooking or art. Pick something that you know how to do, and know that you feel good after doing it,” she advised.
It doesn't need to be anything complicated or time consuming — in fact, it shouldn't be. Find something to do that has a set beginning and end — like sweeping a room or doing the dishes. Even if you're not someone who loves a to-do list, there's something grounding about seeing task through from start to finish that will help you reset your brain.
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4. Pamper your senses.
Komblevitz also suggested using your five senses to your advantage. You can self-sooth your way out of a bad day by inhaling your favorite perfume, for example. She recommended burning a scented candle, listening to your favorite song, eating your favorite meal, taking a warm bath or looking at a picture of someone you love. Or all of the above.
Not only will these activities appeal to your senses, but they’ll also get you out of your head and into a more positive activity to break negative thought patterns.
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5. Perform a random act of kindness.
It's easy to become self-absorbed when you're feeling blah. But focusing on yourself and your bad feelings can only take you so far before you lose perspective and start to feel worse. Volunteering to do something for someone else to take the attention off of you and your bad day and place it on someone else.
“This will help you realize that love is more important than life circumstances. It’ll also help shift your perspective and boost your mood," said Karen Kassidy, Ph.D, managing director of The Anxiety Treatment Center of Chicago. Plus, doing something nice for someone can bolster your relationships and having good relationships is a crucial component of happiness.
6. Look at things from someone else's perspective.
What happens when other people are the source of your bad day — specifically, a loved one?
If you’ve just had an argument with your partner, it may be difficult to stop spinning the details over and over in your head — thinking about how your partner is wrong. Instead, relationship therapist Anita Chlipala recommended looking at your own accountability in the argument. Ask yourself, “How did you speak to him or her? What could you have phrased better or done differently?” This gives you a sense of control and self-reflection, which can make you feel productive.
Then, play devil’s advocate. Chlipala suggests the next way to calm down and get in a better mood is to find the good intentions behind your partner’s actions or words. Looking at other possibilities and meanings beyond your original interpretation can be calming and hopeful.
"This can go beyond one argument; if someone doesn’t respond to a text or didn’t call, give your partner the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst,” Chlipala said. “ Most of the time, your partner isn’t being deliberately hurtful or malicious."
7. Remember happy times.
Finally, if you find that doing one of these things to boost your mood still doesn’t do the trick, there is a very simple solution: Think happy thoughts.
That may sound simplistic, but the truth is that our brains are wired to help us remember things that make us feel good. “Nostalgia is thought to be a fundamental human strength," said Allison Gilbert, author of "Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive."
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"The more we engage with positive memories (whether it’s last week when your job was going better or five years ago when you went on that luxury vacation), the more we’re able to glean happiness from them, the easier it is to manage the emotional low points," Gilbert said.
So if you’re not getting a quick fix from any of the techniques to change your mood, keep in mind that even if you don't feel better immediately, you are strengthening your happiness muscles and promoting more positivity in your life. That warrants celebration!