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Thirteen tips for dealing with a really LOUSY day

How to boost your mood when everything is going wrong

by Gretchen Rubin  |  9159 views  |  5 comments  |        Rate this now! 

We all have really lousy days from time to time. A bad work or school evaluation, a potential crush who turns out not to be interested, a fight with your mother-in-law, a worrisome call from a doctor… lousy days take many forms. Here are some tips for getting through it:

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. 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. However, don’t put too much pressure on yourself now. Don’t start planning an elaborate surprise party; email some digital photos to the grandparents.

3.) Distract yourself. When my 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 afterwards, 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. It might even be a good idea to have an emergency stash ready by the TV, for bad times.

4.) Seek inner peace through outer order. Soothe yourself by tackling a messy closet, an untidy desk, or crowded countertops. The sense of tangible progress, control, and orderliness will lighten your mood. 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 played with your kids, or walked the dog, or read a magazine.

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.

About the Author

In her blog, The Happiness Project (www.happiness-project.com), Gretchen Rubin recounts her daily adventures as she test-drives the wisdom of the ages and current scientific research about how to be happier.

Read more by Gretchen Rubin

5 comments so far...

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    Flag as inappropriate Posted by jeje116 on 2nd May 2012

  • Your tips are so helpful, thank you!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by LauraK on 28th February 2011

  • Exercise is my number one thing I like to do, especially when I have a lousy day. I go outside for a walk reach into the sky, and take a long deep breath. It gets me out of the house, and a real chance to put things into perspective. There is nothing else to distract you, phone, kids, husband, work are all at home. It just becomes my time and I believe there is no better medicine!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Paige W on 23rd February 2011

  • I am having one of those days today and was so tempted to get a nice big unhealthy lunch as a treat -- I read your article first and my figure will thank you for it. Great tips!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 4th March 2008

  • Wonderful suggestions, Gretchen. I have found #5 particularly valuable, learning from the good example my husband sets. Even a really bad day can be improved if something else, however small, goes well. Thanks for these tips!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 4th March 2008

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