Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Having a Really Lousy Day? Some Ways to Feel Better

by Gretchen Rubin, Bestselling author; blogger www.happiness-project.com: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130729120810-6526187-having-a-really-lousy-day-some-ways-to-feel-better
We’ve all had terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days (Photo: marvin730, Flickr)

A bad work evaluation, a disappointing grade, a potential crush who turns out to be interested in someone else, a fight with your colleague, a worrisome report from a doctor, a broken resolution … lousy days take many forms.

Here are some strategies I use for coping with a lousy day:

1. Resist the urge to “treat” yourself

Often, the things we choose as “treats” aren’t good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day. So when you find yourself thinking, “I’ll feel better after I have a few beers … a pint of ice cream … a cigarette … a new pair of jeans,” ask yourself - will it REALLY make you feel better? It might make you feel worse.

2. Do something nice for someone else

Do good, feel good” - this really works. Be selfless, if only for selfish reasons. A friend going through a horrible period told me that she was practically addicted to doing good deeds; that was the only thing that made her feel better.

3. Distract yourself

When my older daughter was born, she had to be in Neonatal Intensive Care for a week. I spent every hour at the hospital, until my husband dragged me away to go to an afternoon movie. I didn’t want to go, but afterward, I realized that I was much better able to cope with the situation after having had a bit of relief. Watching a funny movie or TV show is a great way to take a break, or I often re-read beloved classics of children’s literature.

4. Seek inner peace through outer order

Soothe yourself by tackling a messy closet, an untidy desk, or crowded counter-tops. The sense of tangible progress, control, and orderliness can be a comfort. This always works for me - and fortunately, my family is messy enough that I always have plenty of therapeutic clutter at hand.

5. Tell yourself, “Well, at least I …

Get some things accomplished. Yes, you had a horrible day, but at least you went to the gym, or walked the dog, or filed an expense report, or read your children a story, or recycled.

6. Exercise is an extremely effective mood booster

But be careful of exercise that allows you to ruminate. For example, if I go for a walk when I’m upset about something, I often end up feeling worse, because the walk provides me with uninterrupted time in which to dwell obsessively on my troubles.

7. Stay in contact

When you’re having a lousy day, it’s tempting to retreat into isolation. Studies show, though, that contact with other people boosts mood. So try to see or talk to people, especially people you’re close to.

8. It’s a cliché, but things really will look brighter in the morning

Go to bed early and start the next day anew. Also, sleep deprivation puts a drag on mood in the best of circumstances, so a little extra sleep will do you good.

9. Remind yourself of your other identities

If you feel like a loser at work, send out a blast email to engage with college friends.

10. Keep perspective

Ask yourself: “Will this matter in a month? In a year?” I recently came across a note I’d written to myself years ago, that said “Taxes!” I dimly remember the panic I felt about dealing with taxes that year; but it’s all lost and forgotten now.

11. Write it down

When something horrible is consuming my mind, I find that if I write up a paragraph or two about the situation, I get immense relief.

12. Be grateful

Remind yourself that a lousy day isn’t a catastrophic day. Be grateful that you’re still on the “lousy” spectrum. Probably, things could be worse.

13. Use the emergency mood tool-kit

For an emergency happiness intervention, try these tips for getting a boost in the next hour.

What other strategies have you used to deal with a lousy day? It’s helpful to have a lot of options from which to choose.

For fun, I made a comic called "Gretchen Rubin and the Quest for a Passion." If you'd like to see it, just email me at gretchenrubin1@gretchenrubin.com.

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