10 Ways to Make a Bad Day Better

Simple Ways to Brighten Your Day

Watch this video and discover 10 things you can do to brighten up a bad day.

We all have bad days. Perhaps we get stuck in a traffic jam on our way to work, argue "energetically" with a grumpy colleague, or have a serious problem with a client delivery.

Whatever the reason, bad days are part of life. However, we can choose how we react to them.

One option is to dwell on the situation, and let our negative emotions persist throughout the day. But this is unpleasant, and there's a good chance that our mood will spread to others. Instead, we can take the initiative and find ways to make a bad day better. This choice is empowering and positive, and it puts us in control of our actions and emotions.

How to Brighten Your Day

Here are 10 things that you can do to make a bad day better.

1. Reach Out

Contact a trusted friend or colleague and ask if she has time for a cup of coffee.

Often, talking about what bothers you can release negative feelings. Your friend might also give you a different perspective – perhaps the problem isn't so bad from her viewpoint!

If you can't confide in a trusted friend or colleague, write in your journal or use a technique like Cognitive Restructuring to challenge the way you think about a negative situation.

When you "explain to yourself" why you're upset, you can change your perspective, release negative feelings, and move on from the situation.

2. Go for a Walk

Take a few minutes to go for a walk outside.

Sunshine, fresh air, and the sounds of birds chirping in the trees can give you a great lift. It can even boost your self-esteem.

3. Achieve a "Small Win"

How do you feel when you make good progress towards an important goal? You feel great, right?

Research shows that making even minor progress on meaningful work enhances your mood and your motivation. It can also distract you from your negative mood.

So, take a few minutes to look at your Action Program or To-Do List. Identify one or two small tasks that you can do today to move towards your most important objectives.

4. Be Grateful

Stop and consider all of the good people and things you have in your life. Think about your friends, your family, your home, or a trusted colleague at work. No matter how bad your day is, you'll likely be able to find someone or something you're grateful for.

You could also keep photos of loved ones on your desk, or items that remind you of holidays and other life experiences. These can serve as reminders of everything that you have going for you.

5. Schedule a Team Meal or Event

Doing something positive for others can make you feel better when you've had a bad day. One way to do this is to organize a group meal or event that your entire team can take part in.

Plan a team social or organize a group lunch, so that everyone can get together outside work and chat. Ask team members or colleagues for their input, and try to organize something that everyone can look forward to.

6. Praise Yourself

Chances are, you feel a rush of pleasure, confidence, and pride when someone gives you a sincere compliment. It feels great when others recognize your talent and skills, and this can positively affect your mood and performance for the rest of the day.

The problem is that compliments and recognition are sometimes few and far between, and they don't always come on days when you could use a boost.

This is why you need to learn how to praise yourself. Identify all of the good things you've done in your career so far, and list these in an "achievement log." Collect praise about your accomplishments over time, and revisit the log on bad days.

For example, maybe your boss emailed you recently to congratulate you on a big win – this should go in your log.

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7. Get Some Exercise

It's well-known that exercise can improve your mood. Go to the gym, do some stretches in your office, or take a brisk walk. Research shows that exercising for as little as 10 to 20 minutes has a positive effect on mood.

You could also try deep breathing or meditation. These techniques can make you feel more relaxed and peaceful, and they can help you distance yourself from what has upset you.

8. Help Someone Else

It feels great when others take time out to help us. But did you know that giving has its own positive benefits, too?

For instance, this study found that helping colleagues with their work can improve your mood, because it provides gratification, and it distracts you from your negative emotions.

So, pitch in and help a struggling team member, do something nice for a colleague who feels down, or carry out a "random act of kindness" like buying cakes for everyone in your team.

9. List the Pros and Cons

No matter how bad your day is, there is usually a "silver lining." This is why it can be useful to list the pros and cons of your situation.

Write down the negative aspects of your day, and then think about what went right. What lessons can you learn from this situation? Are there any advantages or opportunities that you have missed? And what can you do to improve things?

Writing things down like this has a therapeutic effect, and it can greatly lower your stress levels. You'll likely also find that there are more positives than negatives, once you think about what you can learn from the situation.

10. Put Things in Perspective

No matter how bad your day is, it's unlikely that these events will alter the course of your life in the long term. Consider this simple but important question: "Will this problem matter to you in one month? In one year? In five years?"

In most cases, the answer to this will be "No!", and this question can really help to put a bad day into perspective.

Key Points

Everyone has bad days. They're a normal part of life.

However, while bad days are inevitable, you have a choice about how you react to negative events. You can dwell on the situation and feel bad. Or, you can do something that turns your day around.

To make a bad day better, go for a walk outside, or do some stretches in your office to get some exercise. Work on your most important goals, do something nice for a friend or colleague, or look back at what you've achieved in your career so far.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (7)
  • Over a month ago BillT wrote
    Hi carriel,

    Thank you for sharing these insights. You're correct in your observation that we have the capacity to change our thoughts, as demonstrated in cognitive therapy, for example. However, I'm not sure how easily we can do that without being offered outside observation from a trusted source. I find that what we as individuals think, we believe to be true.
  • Over a month ago carriel wrote
    Emotions come directly from thoughts. Stop and assess your thoughts. Sometimes they are full of assumptions, false beliefs, judgments, etc. You have the ability to change these thoughts and your emotions once you are aware of them.
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi illahi,
    Thanks for that feedback. Hope you use some of the tips to brighten your next bad day!

    Midgie
    Mind Tools Team
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