Sometimes life just feels hard. It can be easy to let yourself spiral down in negativity, but you also have the power to choose happiness. Next time your morning gets off to a rough start, try these 7 steps to fixing a bad day and turn things around ASAP!
Last Monday, I woke up feeling like it was just going to be one of those days. You know, the ones where everything feels like a struggle right from the start. The weekend seemed to have vanished in a hot second and there was Monday, staring me down with a sinister grin and an“I’m ba-aaaackkkk!”
I think I actually let out an audible groan when my alarm went off, then rolled out of bed and started going through my usual routine of getting ready for the gym. My stomach felt a little off and the sound of the rain outside reminded me that yet again, I’d forgotten to cover up my patio furniture. In short, I did not feel like I was living my best life in that moment.
Truthfully, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me very often. Most days, I’m a very glass-half-full kind of person, and on most mornings, it only takes about 15 mins of being awake for me to feel reasonably alert and ready to face the day. But we’re all human, life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and we’re all allowed to have our grumpy days. No matter how trivial and first-world our problems might be, let’s be honest – life can be hard sometimes.
It just so happens that recently a reader was asking me what I’d recommend she do on days when she wakes up and feels like she just can’t. I have a list of 7 steps to fixing a bad day, so I explained each to her. Assuming we’re all probably sick of winter by now, and given today is Monday and it’s very possible that life may be feeling hard in the moment you read this, I thought today would be a perfect time to share with you, too.
Step 1; Decide to be happy
Misery loves company, and as I said, we’re all allowed to have grumpy days. Suppressing emotions isn’t healthy, so I’m not trying to imply that you shouldn’t allow yourself to feel upset or sad or whatever it is you’re feeling. As we all know though, misery loves company, and so do negative thoughts. One negative thought can quickly spiral into many more, and the further down you get, the harder it becomes to pull your mind back into a positive place.
Personally, I like to let myself feel whatever uncomfortable emotions I’m feeling (irritability, sadness, frustration etc) for about 15 minutes. During this time, I might just let the thoughts say in my head. Other times, I journal everything out as fast as I can, or sweat out the frustration on a hard run. After that 15 minutes is up, I make a conscious decision to be happy. I strongly believe that we are the captains of our own ships, and at the end of the day, external things won’t make us happy. Happiness is a choice, and the first step is making it.
Step 2: Talk to yourself like you would a best friend who needs support
On a bad day, those negative thoughts we just talked about might be thoughts about ourselves. Perhaps you wake up feeling bloated, then put on your jeans and realize they’re way tighter than they should be. You could wake up to find that a new zit has set up camp on your cheek overnight, or maybe someone makes a comment that rattles your self-confidence. Whatever happens, try to talk to yourself like you would a friend who needs a little extra support, instead of the critical voice that we so often have speaking inside our heads. Give the critic a day off and practice compassionate self-talk instead.
Step 3: Take a shower
I know this sound bizarre, and you might be thinking it’s a very random tactic. I’m talking about a proper shower here – wash and condition your hair, wash your face, exfoliate, and maybe even shave if you have time and/or need to. The feeling of water on our bodies – especially over our heads – can be incredibly relaxing, therapeutic and refreshing. Even if you just washed your hair yesterday, trust me on this one. A full-on shower that involves getting your hair wet (and perhaps even a little scalp massage if you want to get fancy) will make you feel instantly better.
Step 4: Wear something colourful that makes you feel confident and comfortable
That’s a lot of c’s, but they’re all important! On cold or rainy days, a massive oversized sweater and leggings are always the fashion choices my mind wants to go to first. But if I really want to turn my day around, getting “properly” dressed in an outfit that makes me feel confident and put together works wonders for my mood. Some days that might be skinny jeans, pumps and a cute top, but the comfort piece is important too. If my legs are sore from a workout or if I’m feeling a little crampy in my stomach, you better believe those pumps and skinny jeans get swapped out!
To boost things further, I love adding some bright pops of colour – even if it’s just as subtle as a bracelet or your purse. Research on the legitimacy of colour psychology is mixed, but speaking from personal experience, seeing colour in my surroundings always lifts my mood far more than drab grays and black.
Just like the showering tip, it doesn’t matter if the only other living thing you expect to encounter throughout the day are the grocery store cashier, the UPS guy, your cat or your house plants. You’re not doing this to impress anyone – you’re doing it for YOU, and you’re worth the extra effort!
Step 5: Nourish yourself with whole foods (plus a few mood-boosting ones, for extra benefits)
This one’s a no-brainer. If you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. Put goodness in, and you’ll get goodness out in so many ways! Energy, a better mood, the ability to focus, glowing skin, stronger immunity, better overall health – the list goes on! A sure-fire way to ensure a crappy day stays crappy is to eat foods that don’t serve your body well. Why not maximize your chances of swinging things in the positive direction by eating foods that support how you want to feel? You could make the meals yourself, but again, if you’re in that “I can’t even” mood, there’s no harm in letting someone else do the work for you. This is one of those times where I think it’s more than ok to treat yourself to some Whole Foods takeaway!
There’s no specific “diet” to follow for this – simply swapping out foods that are processed or high in sugar for simple, unprocessed ones should make a huge difference! That means plenty of fruits and vegetables (there’s the bright pops of colour showing up again!), quality protein, fats and unprocessed carbs. A good balance of these things helps ensure your blood sugar stays in check, all while keeping you satiated. (In other words, not hangry or irritable.)
If you want to go a little further, you can up your intake of the following:
Foods high in healthy fats for mental focus, satiation and feeling calm: Our brains are made up of about 60% fat, and it’s essential for nervous system support. Look for salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds and high-quality cold pressed oils. Fatty fish also contains vitamin D which can boost the amount of feel-good neurotransmitters our bodies produce. (Alternatively, a little sun exposure will do the trick too!)
Foods high in B vitamins for coping with stress, nervous system support, and increasing happy hormones: Look for oats and other gluten-free whole grains, dark leafy greens, fish, eggs, high-quality poultry and meat, organic dairy, lentils and beans, mushrooms, avocados, nuts and seeds. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might want to consider a vitamin B complex supplement.
Fermented foods for gut health: Science is showing that the health of our gut is directly connected to our brain through the gut-brain axis, where signals are sent along the vagus nerve. The gut produces many of the same feel-good neurotransmitters as the brain (dopamine, serotonin, etc) and it’s estimated that 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut alone. With this known, it makes sense that foods high in probiotics (aka fermented ones) which help to improve gut health might then boost serotonin production in the gut, and therefore boost brain health and mood too. Look for sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented/pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso, kefir, and kombucha (but watch out for added sugar).
….and of course, dark chocolate! Its naturally-occurring compounds set off a whole bunch of neurotransmitters and endorphins in our bodies that make us feel blissfully happy. Go darker for more antioxidant benefits (aim for 80% cacao or higher), and remember to be mindful of added sugars. Consider it your daily happy pill!
Step 6: Listen to music that makes you smile
You know the tunes that make you feel excited. The ones you used to dance to with your girlfriends in university at the bar that make you smile as soon as you hear the first few seconds. For me, lately it’s been a bunch of throwbacks – I’m talking Candy remixes by Mandy Moore, The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson (basically the whole Center Stage Soundtrack), Heartbreaker by Mariah Carey, and a bunch of Pink. Congratulations – you’ve just had a glimpse into my Guilty Pleasures playlist.
Step 7: Have something to look forward to after work
You could go one of two ways with this one. It might be a chat with a friend who just gets you. Sometimes talking out your issues with another person can help you regain perspective, see the positive in situations, and realize you’re not alone.
Alternatively, if socializing is truly the last thing you feel like doing and you’d prefer not to impose your less-than-chipper self on another person (my choice, most of the time), it could be something solo. A face mask, booking yourself a massage, taking a bath, going to a restorative yoga class (or doing your own version at home), getting a massage, a delicious dinner (again, courtesy of Whole Foods is totally ok!) cuddling up with a pet, watching a hilarious movie… whatever you feel you need. That could also mean going to bed at grandma-o’clock – one of my favourite guilty pleasures, and one I indulge in often!
Now I’d love to hear from you! What are some of your best tricks for turning around a day that starts off all wrong? Do you consider yourself more of a glass-half-full or half-empty type of person?