Ever have one of those days when it seems like the world is against you? A day when traffic is so thick that you consider leaving your car behind and starting a new life in the woods? A day when work is so stressful that retail therapy seems like the only solution? I get it. Bad days happen. But they don’t have to last the whole day. Here are nine easy (and cheap) ways to turn things around.
1. Begin again
Hey, if a reboot is good enough for computers and smartphones, it’s good enough for people. If your day starts out terribly (and if you have the luxury), take an hourlong nap and start the day over. You just may wake up with a fresh attitude and less stress.
2. List what’s going right
You’ve got to ac-cen-tuate the positive. There’s some wisdom in that old Johnny Mercer tune. Terrible days are seldom completely terrible. Shift your attitude by listing what’s going right — no matter how minor. Didn’t get a ticket on the way to the office? Sounds like a win to me. Have a steaming cup of coffee in your hand? Kids are safely in school? Gold stars for everybody!
3. Trim your obligations
Often, terrible days have nothing to do with what’s happening in the moment and everything to do with anticipating later obligations. If you’re overwhelmed, trim your list of to-do’s and reclaim your day.
4. Go screen-free
What makes terrible day worse? An endless stream of news, emails, phone calls, and texts. If you can get away with it and not lose your job or freak out your family, power down for a few hours. Silence can be rejuvenating. (See also: 10 Important Reasons You Need to Cut Back on Screen Time)
5. Vary the venue
If your day is getting you down, change the scenery. Duck out of the office and work from a coffee shop, go for a drive, or simply step outside for some fresh air and sunshine. New views and fresh faces can make a world of difference.
Exercise helps the body release endorphins. These natural mood enhancers may not turn your day around all by themselves, but they can give you the mental clarity necessary to stay positive and manage anxiety. If your day is heading south, go speed-walking, take a spin class, or go for a swim. (See also: 10 Surprising, Non-Physical Benefits of Exercise)
7. Perform a random act of kindness
Get out of your own head by performing a random act of kindness. Even the smallest good deed (paying the toll for the car behind you, leaving an extra generous tip, or sending a “thinking of you” card to a friend or relative) can produce a little bit of mental magic and turn a bad day good. (See also: 7 Amazing Ways to Pay It Forward for Under $10)
8. Practice gratitude
Making a terrible day tolerable takes a shift in perspective. By practicing gratitude regularly, we get in the habit of seeing the positives all around us — even during moments of high-anxiety. Start by listing things you’re thankful for in a gratitude journal. Keep it handy for quick reference and inspiration during those down days. (See also: 7 Ways a Mindfulness Journal Can Fix Your Life)
9. Hug it out
That’s right — hugging can be healing. According to Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the Miami School of Medicine, friendly human touch stimulates the vagus nerve and helps release oxytocin, a powerful hormone that reduces pain and improves your mood. If you’re having a terrible day, literally embrace those nearest and dearest to your heart.