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How to Stop Having a Bad Day

Handling negative emotions

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Wednesday’s post talked about what it means to have a bad day and how that kind of day can often be turned around, even in really difficult circumstances, by changing our thinking. Today’s post goes into some practical approaches for using our thoughts to improve our mood on all levels. Here are some specific strategies.

Idea repair: Our emotions are profoundly influenced by what we tell ourselves. If we’re coming up with thoughts that are misleading and destructive, we can break through that interference and feel relief quickly with idea repair.

Emotional antidotes: Emotions tend to keep themselves going, while going out of our way to think of things that make us happy or inspire compassion or love tends to counteract negative thoughts.

Mindfulness meditation: Meditation can relieve stress and give us more emotional resilience. If you haven’t tried mindfulness meditation and want to, you might take a class or look up materials by Jon Kabat Zinn.

Music: Music can be a direct path to emotional responses. Listening to exactly the right kind of music can turn your mood around quickly and powerfully.

Changing the environment: Opening the curtains, going to a place you enjoy, sitting in a garden … anything that tends to make you happier or to remind you of what’s good in the world can get you out of a negative mental rut.

Writing things down: Problems are easier to deal with if they’re clear instead of vague anxieties. Listing things that are bothering you or that you need to do can create clarity and a sense of purpose in place of general stress. More generally, writing freely about your thoughts can accomplish the same thing when you’ve got a bad mood going on and are not sure why.

Talking things out: Like writing, talking things out with a friend who’s a good listener can help clarify the situation and relieve stress.

Changing facial expressions: As silly as it sounds, research seems to show that changing our expressions–especially smiling–can help change our mood on a chemical level.

Working with a good therapist: If anxiety, stress, or bad moods come up for you a lot more than you’d like, a good therapist can make all the difference. Unfortunately, a lot of people associate therapy with mental illness, but it’s clear from recent research that psychology has a lot to say about how even an entirely healthy person can become happier and more effective in the world, and there are some therapists who are very good at helping make that happen.

Photo by Today is a good day (again)

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