You Had a Bad Day
Have you ever read the children’s classic, “Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?” The story follows young Alexander through a day that just seems to get progressively worse – he wakes up with gum in his hair, is demoted to third best friend, the dentist finds a cavity, and much much more. Have you ever had a day like this? Where the world seems like it’s out to get you? I know that I have!
Just like Alexander, we can all be consoled by knowing that everyone has bad days. However, that doesn’t give us permission to milk those bad days for all they are worth. When we let our bad moods take over, we can actually become the source of other people’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Bad moods are extremely contagious and it’s so easy to feed into them. What’s harder, is stopping the cycle of moodiness and broodiness so we can turn our days around.
Venting is definitely a part of the process, but it can’t be the whole process. The benefit of venting is that it gives us space to process our thoughts and feelings. The problem is that there is a fine line between venting and complaining. Venting involves active acknowledgment of our emotions, while complaining is a passive process that allows us to avoid engaging with the problem.
The website “Complaint-Free World” states that the average person complains 15-30 times per day. Complaining just for the sake of complaining consumes time, energy, and other people’s patience. Research shows that the more we complain, the more our brain becomes “wired” to complain in the future. Do you know what the word is for someone who complains a lot? A grouch. No one wants to be a grouch.
So, give yourself permission to vent, but put a time limit on it. This helps us not get too carried away with ranting so we can put more of that energy into moving forward with constructive solutions.
I really do hate the advice, “Just look at the bright side.” It’s just not what I want to hear when I’m feeling cranky. Instead of trying to shoot for optimism, I’m a much bigger supporter of realism. Being realistic is about gaining perspective. When we are in a bad mood, we develop a negative bias. This means that we begin to see the world around us through a lens of negativity. It is this bias that makes us feel like anything and everything is going wrong, when more often than not this is a dramatic exaggeration. Check-in with yourself on these things to get back on track:
- Identify the real problem. Label your emotions accurately, even if they are ugly
- Audit your self talk. Be kind to yourself
- Forget blame. Be kind to others
- Remind yourself that your situation is temporary
- Empower yourself to take action
The practitioners behind PositivePsychology.com have an interesting metaphor that helps put our moods into perspective. We can think of our minds like a bus. We are the drivers of this bus. The passengers are our thoughts and feelings. Some passengers are quiet, friendly, or helpful. Others are loud, distracting, or rude. The bus driver can choose how to react to those passengers, just like we can choose how to respond to our negative moods. This decision, where we choose how to respond, is the most important part of turning a bad day around.
This is the part where we have to actively intervene on our bad days. We have to do something to shake things up and “wire” our brains for more positivity. We have to find a “ritual” that works for us. These rituals work best when they are quick, involved, and easily implementable. My ritual usually involves “dancing it out”, I pick a great pump-up song and I get silly and I sing and it restarts my day. If dancing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other things you can try:
- Start a Gratitude Journal
- Download the Headspace or Calm app for guided meditations
- Laugh – watch or listen to something funny
- Go for a walk to clear your head
- Check-in with someone you care about
These activities should help put us in a better mindset to move forward with intention. It’s not enough to just go through these motions; we also need to come up with a plan on what to do next. At this point, we should be focusing on how we can take ownership of our days. Determine the actionable steps you can take that will help relieve further stress or tension while also setting you up for future success. For example, if you feel like a meeting didn’t go very well, find opportunities to ask for constructive feedback and then focus on one or two things you can improve on for your next meeting. These action steps don’t have to be time-consuming or complicated; they just have to give us some responsibility and control over our days.
Our moods are influenced by so many factors and are destined to change. We certainly don’t have to be happy and content all of the time. It’s important that we feel all the feelings. But, we also have to have awareness of those feelings and take responsibility for them and their effects. Let’s have less terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days and more wonderful, amazing, so good, very great days!
To help your group get through bad days:
- Try affirming activities like PDA’s or Pat on the Back
- Try silly activities like Riff Off or Pterodactyl
- Try reflective activities like Web of Life or I Love that I
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney has worked with Leadership Inspirations since 2015. She got her start in leadership as a high school DECA student and went on to graduate from Chapman University with degrees in Business Management and Integrated Educational Studies. As a regular contributor to From the Balcony, her favorite topics to explore are personality theory, group development, and conflict management. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and listening to podcasts.
Favorite Quote: “I am still learning” – Michelangelo
Fun Facts: 1) I once bought a goat on Craigslist 2) I am afraid of escalators 3) My life goal is to give a TedTalk