Yesterday I had a bad day. You know the kind, where everything seems to take longer than it should and nothing turns out quite the way you planned. That’s the day I had yesterday. I like to think of myself as a positive and uplifting person, but I had nothing good to say. I was grumpy and irritable and simply wanted the day to be over when it was halfway through. And I had a headache that wouldn’t quit. I was convinced that nothing I could say or do would change the terrible day I was having, and everything around me seemed to support this.
At first, I decided to just push through, because often that works for me. I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and I just get going, and the momentum of my day just moves me forward. And it isn’t like I can just not do the things I have on my calendar in a day. Often as I’m pushing through, something really wonderful will happen, and I can change my mood and carry that good feeling forward into the rest of my day. This did not happen yesterday. In fact, it seemed to get worse.
So I decided to change tactics and reschedule what I could and intentionally try to do things I enjoy, or at least things I enjoy more than others, and to do less so I could feel slightly less burdened. This may have helped some, but it was so small a difference in my mood as to be negligible. About halfway through the day, I remembered my gratitude practice, but then there was a tornado warning, and I had to go to the basement posthaste. In my more positive attitude today, I realize that’s the perfect time to start on gratitude: grateful that there is a warning system and a basement to go to, etc., but instead, I just saw it as a way of keeping me from doing the minimal amount of work I was still expecting of myself. And, honestly, the disruption only fueled my irritation and sent me further down the spiral.
I started predicting the future on this negative theme. I knew that just like today sucked, so would tomorrow and the rest of the week, and there was nothing I could do about it. I looked bleakly into the next 5 years and saw more of the same, drudgery and terrible days piling up on each other. I even looked at the past through that lens, and saw that everything that came before had been crap, and I’ve been fooling myself about that, too. Needless to say, my attitude did not improve.
It wasn’t until I was driving home, and still feeling out of sorts, that I remembered the gratitude practice. I turned off the radio and started stating out loud the things I was grateful for (window rolled up, of course). At first, it was far from convincing. I didn’t feel grateful, and I sure didn’t sound grateful. But I kept at it, and 20 minutes later, the fog was starting to lift. When I got home, I was still irritable and grumpy, but I had perspective. Then good things started to happen. I didn’t have to make dinner, and I got some time to just decompress and take a walk.
By the time I went to bed I was at a manageable level of grumpy. And of course, everything looks different after a good night’s sleep. I woke up this morning with a bit of an irritability hangover, but a much more positive outlook on pretty much everything.
I feel somewhat embarrassed by my predictions of negativity so far into the future based on one bad day. I also discovered more compassion for myself and for everyone I know who struggles with bad days, maybe weeks or even months of them in a row due to life circumstances. And I want to offer the perspective that it isn’t always going to be that way. One day you will wake up and things won’t be so bad. Hang in there, and keep doing what you need to do to get through the day. It will change. And talk to someone who can help you keep that positive outlook.