Current challenges mean it’s no wonder we can feel zapped of energy and find it hard to remain focused and positive. With so many outside influences affecting our mood, it’s no wonder it’s hard to remain positive all the time. Identifying skills and mechanisms to pull ourselves out of even a temporary downer is key to maintaining an optimistic and positive outlook.
Understanding our brain biology helps us combat the effects of bad days
Our brain is wired for the negative, and that’s called the Negativity Bias. From an evolutionary perspective, being wired to notice danger kept us safe from predators.
COVID-19 is creating a collective ‘high alert’ mindset with a basic diet of negative media and national lockdown. While you can’t exactly solve every problem or hit the restart button on an ‘off’ day, there are things you can do to interrupt and re-route a negative cycle.
To help get back on track after a bad day, try the following 5 skills:
1. Beat your negativity bias and grab the good. Here’s how to do it
- Start to take notice of the good stuff that happens in your life.
- Really savour it and be grateful for the good stuff.
- Focus on HOW you can get more of this good stuff in your life.
4 ways to use it:
- After a stressful meeting or event, switch off your stress response by focusing on finding 3 good things about that meeting, because they will be there!
- At the end of the working day, stop stress creeping into your personal life by thinking of 3 good things that have happened that day or 3 things that you are grateful for. No matter how trivial, they will be there!
- Beat the negativity bias in others. When you ask others how their day went, how often do they respond with negatives? Try asking them, “What went well for you today, what did you enjoy, how can you get more of that good thing?”
- Start remote team meetings off by ‘grabbing the good’. Try opening your next meeting by spending a few moments focusing on the good things that have happened that week.
2. Learn to let the small things go
Holding on to the things that cause you stress can turn an OK day into a bad one. Perhaps it is a loved one eating all your favourite biscuits, a messy kitchen, or a flippant response by a colleague.
- Will it matter in a week?
- A month?
- A year?
If the answer is no, drop it and put your energy into focusing on what is important.
3. Challenge your thinking
Pressure and stress can tip our minds into unhelpful patterns of thinking that fuel stress levels and poor relationships. Take time to tune in to what you are telling yourself in your head when you feel intense emotions:
– Watch for times when you find yourself ‘jumping to conclusions’. This could be in response to conversations at work, a COVID-19 related bulletin, or an argument with a family member.
Ask yourself: what evidence do I have to support my thinking?
4. Look to your strengths
Research shows that using your strengths in small ways is key to finding confidence and happiness, and using them not only offsets a bad day but builds better relationships too.
Think about the things that you are good at and the strengths you bring to relationships. Perhaps you are a good listener, a good organiser, or a useful person to be around in a crisis because you can offer a good perspective. A great way to reframe a ‘bad day’ is to look at how you have used your strengths and find more ways of using them in the days to come.
Focusing on your strengths can feel a little strange at first, as we tend to focus on our weaknesses. But it’s well worth it if you put the time and energy into it.
5. F.A.I.L. forward
Things happen, mistakes are made. The key is in how you respond next. In childhood, failure is just a First Attempt In Learning. Walking took many falls before you conquered it, let alone your ability to speak, learn and grow. In these extraordinary times, see failure as an invaluable lesson to generate new ways of moving forward.
- What would I do if I knew it was impossible to fail?
- Will it really matter in a week? A month? A year?
- What 2 or 3 things can I learn from this experience?
We all have bad days. What really matters is how we deal with it. Be proactive and use the skills to challenge your thinking and maintain your mood.
The strength to manage your responses during these difficult times will dramatically increase your capacity for resilience and good mental health, now and into the future. Remember:
- Bad days will happen. Allow yourself time to see the situation objectively. Then you can respond with healthy choices that lead to better days ahead.
- When things aren’t going to plan, it can easily put you in a bad mood. It’s important to remember that it’s only temporary and you can beat it.