How to Build Your 'Bad Day Life Raft'
June 11, 2019
"You’ve survived 100% of your bad days.”
It’s a quote I try to remember when I’m spinning through a day that feels like the worst day ever (step 1: sleep through my alarm, step 2: miss the subway, step 3: spill coffee…)—but it’s easier said than done.
Our brains are wired to focus on the negative, and it’s all too easy to let one bad moment spread like wildfire and make your whole day (or week, or month) “trend negative.” One comment or negative interaction or simply waking up feeling "off" can set off a chain of dominoes that can feel impossible to set right again.
That's where the “bad day life raft” comes in.
It’s a tool you can create to help you float, not sink, through a bad day—and it’s all about finding a small way to shift yourself to a more positive mindset.
Studies have shown that when you have a positive mindset, you're more productive, more likely to receive a promotion, less likely to have health-related effects from stress—and you're also more creative. Sounds like wins all around.
That's not to mention the benefits to everyone around you. Emotions are as contagious as a winter cold—think about how you feel when an angry driver honks at you for seemingly no reason or when a friend hijacks a conversation to complain for an hour straight. Your mood goes down and your armor goes up.
Here's how to build your own “bad day life raft” to help you float when it feels like the day is sinking.
Notice What’s Going Right
One idea to counter a bad day is to list 10 things that are going right.
"Right" is open to interpretation.
We're not talking about major, massive good news things. More like, "the train was pulling up into the station when I stepped on the platform." "My summer shoes aren't giving me blisters, even though this is the first time I've worn them in eight months!!" "I'm glad my friend texted me that funny interview with Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson." "I'm happy my BFF got a job offer after working so hard!"
Write down or think through a list of things that are going right—these small moments of brightness and lightness can help your mind focus and find all the other things that are going right. Because you've got your stuff together much more than this bad day will have you believe.
Say ‘Thank You’ to Someone
The person who held open the door for you or the security guard who scanned your purse. The coworker who brought in cookies to the office. It'll make you feel a little bit lighter.
“Your negative emotions spread like wildfire,” Annie McKee, founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute and coauthor of Primal Leadership, said in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “It’s worth changing your mood, not just to make your day more pleasant and productive but to spare those around you.”
Read Something Uplifting for 1 Minute
Maybe you don't have time or the resources to book a day at the spa or go for a leisurely two-hour walk, or even 20 minutes to meditate. But you do have at least one minute. Find something you like to read that lifts you up, and make it your go-to.
Maybe it’s your daily Shine message or a book that helps you recenter. I like to keep books at my desk for this very reason. When I'm feeling especially distracted or antsy, I'll pick up the book—usually something self help-y or optimistic—and read a single page. Sinking into a new narrative can keep you from sinking into deeper waters.
Do 1 Hard Thing
This sounds counterintuitive—why would you want to do something hard when the day already seems hard enough? But what you really need is one small win, and you'll get that by doing one hard thing.
Maybe it's tackling something you've been putting off, or initiating a hard conversation. If it goes better or is easier than you anticipated, you'll feel like you won a prize. And if it's just as hard as you thought—you'll walk away with the accomplishment in your back pocket.
Keep a Folder of Things That Make You Smile
When you're scrolling Instagram and find something that makes you smile, bookmark it for later. Or, keep a folder of images on your phone that you can turn to when you need a little pick-me-up.
Seeing vacation shots of happier times or screenshots of funny texts with friends will remind you of the rich life you're leading, and how one tough day doesn't have to define your week, your month, or your life.
Read next from our friends at Girlboss: How to Reset Your Career in 48 Hours
Today’s recommended meditation: