top of page

10 Ways to Make a Lousy Day a Little (or a LOT) Better

Let’s face it, no matter what our plans may be for the day, life sometimes throws us a curve-ball or two. The day starts out perfectly fine and then - WHAM! - something happens, or several somethings happen, and suddenly it’s a “bad day.” When this happens, here is my go-to list of things to do to hit the reset button.

Note the operative word: DO. Happiness is a constant decision and requires taking specific actions. And when I actually DO these things that I KNOW to do, I always feel happier. Without exception.

Try any one of these, or stack up several to shift a really tough day.


1. Breathe.

You’ve heard this enough times that it sounds trite. But breathing is everything it’s cracked up to be! The key is to take slow breaths, let your belly expand. Inhale to the count of 5, hold for 3-5 (don’t turn blue). Then, exhale to the count of 5. Do this 5 times and concentrate on the numbers. Feel better? Thought so.

2. What are you grateful for?

This simple, elegant question is the Grand Poobah of questions to shift your focus from Grey to Grace. “What am I grateful for?” Come up with 3 things. And don’t just let these three things flit across your brain. Really slow down and savor them. There are the big things, but where we train our brains and build that happiness muscle memory is when we focus on the small things too. Today, I’m grateful for those little, white twinkly lights on my deck, opening up a fresh bag of coffee, getting pounced on by Bo, my neighbor’s new chocolate lab puppy. (Yes their feet really do smell like popcorn!) You get the picture. Gratitude is my top go-to for vaporizing the grumpiest, stressed-out mood.

3. Get up and MOVE.

Whether it’s jumping on your bike or leashing up the dog for a walk around the block, nothing clears your head like physically moving. Find your movement of choice (walking, hitting the gym, planting things, yoga) and take a few minutes to enjoy it. If you’re flat on your back and can’t physically exercise (I’ve had some days like that too) - then move what you can. Roll your shoulders, flex your legs, take some deep breaths.

Re-read #1.

4. Savor your favorite things.

What are those small moments in life that bring you joy? You know, the simple things that are accessible to you on any day. Stop and take the time to savor and appreciate them. My friend Page loves to linger under the covers in the morning and savor the sounds coming through the baby monitor of her 3 year old serving “tea” to Tigger and Minnie. My husband, Tim, loves his (really) long, steam-up-the-bathroom hot showers. My cousin Sandy loves to sit in her garden and listen to the birds’ morning chatter while she drinks her coffee. What are some of your favorite rituals? Maybe the things you love but don’t make time for? Make time for them. Especially on a difficult day.

5. Do something kindhearted.

Along with Gratitude, this is a sure-fire way to salvage a Terrible, Awful, No-Good, Very Bad Day. It’s impossible to feel down when you’re doing something to lift someone else up. Try it. Giving just makes us happier. Bonus - not only does giving make us happier, it makes the recipient happier, and there are often ripple effects from the kindness-doing that make other people happier! It’s a three-fer. If you need some ideas, take a look at this excerpt from the chapter “Be Kindhearted.” It’s the longest chapter in Decide Happy, and one of my very favorites.

6. Take just one step.

Often a “bad” day is really just several inconvenient things stacking up. That comment from your spouse over breakfast struck a nerve. It’s raining buckets.The traffic is snarled and you’re late for the meeting. And sometimes it’s one, big MTST (Most Terrible and Stressful Thing). But we don’t have to have everything figured out to make progress. We just need to take the first step. Ask yourself - what’s just one step I can take?

Then take it.

7. Get out of your head.

Instead of letting those pesky, frenetic little thoughts keep rolling around in your brain - put them somewhere “safe.” Preferably in a journal, not on your partner. There’s something very freeing about putting all those thoughts to paper. You don’t have to keep spinning them over and over. They are right there in that little book if you ever need them.

8. Reach out to Your People.

Who is someone that lifts you up? Connect with them - for empathy, a shoulder, a pity party (make it a short one), a hug. Let them know how much they mean to you.

NOTE: Sometimes Our People have fur and four paws….just sayin’.

9. Smile

Fun fact: The journal Psychological Bulletin published the results of a study of 11,000 people worldwide on the impact of smiling on our mood. They found that, “smiling makes us feel happier, scowling makes us feel angrier, and frowning makes us feel sadder.” Surprised? Didn’t think so. Smile with your whole face.You may feel dorky, but that will just make you smile harder. It may even make you laugh!

10. Decide Now

What time is it? You don’t need to wait for the clock to click over to midnight or the calendar to turn over to a new day to change how you feel about the day. If there is an hour or even minutes left in the day, there is still time to make it a good one. Choose any of the above and Do what you Know now to feel better about your day.

And remember, even our worst days have just 24 hours.

Decide Happy is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.

Do you know someone who could use a lift?

Feel free to share. To enjoy A Little Bit of Happy in your inbox once or twice a month, subscribe to the Decide Happy blog.

232 views0 comments


Ready to tap into more joy?
Read the first chapter of Decide Happy for free!

Click here to download

bottom of page