How To Handle Down Days
Improving A Bad Attitude
Most everyone of us has down days. You know, those days when motivation, energy and attitude are at a low. Here are some skills to work on the next time you feel down. As these skills improve you will start feeling better, accomplishing more and having fewer down days.
Baby-Steps | Accentuate-The-Positive | Garbage-In-Garbage-Out
The first thing to do when depressed is stop (whatever you are thinking & doing) and smile. Doing something physical is the easiest way to break out of a negative mental state. See our #1 Tip Just Smile.
A good trick for keeping your morale up throughout the day is to quickly smile about anything you like, big or small. Use any & every excuse you can to smile; the practice will do you good.
Be Here Now top
Being mentally in the present is a great escape from thinking about past sadness or worrying about the future. It also leads to better outcomes such as increased output and fewer mistakes.
Being here now involves three related “attention” skills:
(1) Letting go of unrelated outside thoughts, in particular sad thoughts about past or worried thoughts about the future. When they pop up, which they will, practice letting such distractions just drift away without hooking your attention. Don’t try harder just practice letting go.
(2) Focusing completely on one chosen thought or thing. Practice being completely absorbed with whatever you select. Again, don’t force this but rather practice a relaxed deep involvement.
(3) Your mindful awareness of what is happening in the here and now will automatically increase as you practice meditation. You will noticing things in your conscious and subconscious minds that stunt the growth of your mind, body, and spirit. And, awareness is an important first step in making a positive change.
Each of these skills helps perfect the other as you practice going deeper and deeper into the here and now. Most gurus regularly meditate in order to develop them. You can also practice them for just a few seconds at a time during your everyday life. Either way helps you feel better by “disappearing” negative past sadness & future worries as you dive ever more deeply into the present. By the way, these skills also help make time fly because you are not keeping track of it.
Here’s a related trick to help you focus on the baby step at hand. Separate the thinking parts from the doing parts of your goals by making a quick initial flyover during which you create a simple to do list. This flyby makes it easier to focus on the moment by helping to make sure you have not missed something important. It’s part of doing “first things first, one thing at a time.”
From this to do list select a single small task which you can completely focus on right here right now. If distracting ideas of import pop up quickly note them on the to do list for review during the next flyover. Once the small task is done do a quick clean up (CAGO) as a break and then do a new flyby.
It is not necessary to wait until you feel good to get started doing anything. Like Nike says, just do it. The fact is that you can just decide to be positive. This may sound crazy but the truth is that ultimately we choose our own attitude.
Act As If top
Studies prove that feelings follow actions and actions follow feelings. There is a well proved feedback loop between acting happy and being happy. For example, it is literally true that if you smile you will feel better.
Bad actions tend to happen unconsciously when you have not thought through a situation beforehand. So, analyzing past situations and mentally acting “as if” for future ones is a good use of any spare thinking time. If you can, physically act them out as well.
Other suggestions for Acting As If include the Power Pose (see adjacent picture), standing tall with your chest out chin in, or moving fast. All these physical actions tend to make you feel more positive.
Build Momentum top
Building a little positive momentum is critical when you’re stuck.
What I do is a quick sequence of FlyBy, CAGO and Baby Steps … then rinse and repeat to get some movement going. These are all small easy things to do which do take very little will power or decision making ability. FlyBy involves quickly looking over what you need to do next to insure you are not missing something important when you make your very short next-to-do list. CAGO stands for Clean As You Go; it’s rare that you can’t find some simple but useful cleaning up to do. Baby Steps are very small easy to do steps you can do even when demoralized.
Another concept I like is MicroBursts, i.e., tapping into little bursts of energy analogous to kicking along a scooter or skateboard. Always be looking for itty bitty opportunities where you can easily pick up a little emotional energy. One might might be noticing a quick smile from a stranger, a fresh breeze, a friendly dog or something else you like and feel grateful for. Or one might be cleaning a counter, finishing a project or a small easy move forward. Start looking around for MicroBursts; start taking advantage of small opportunities to use microbursts to build emotional momentum as you go.
Baby Steps top
Confusion and lack of energy often accompany bad days. One good way to keep moving through these problems is baby steps, i.e., simple, easy, obvious steps you know will eventually need to done later anyway.
Do so little that you don’t have to force it. For example, you can do almost anything for 5 minutes or 15 minutes. Often getting started is the real problem One advantage of taking small bites is that you can sneak under the resistance of your unconscious mind. Another is that even a small successful bite helps your morale.
Rather than further demoralize yourself by trying to solve the most complex problem on your plate focus on obvious & easy baby steps. I.e., do small specific useful tasks that don’t take much will power but still move you in a good direction. Such baby steps might include updating your notes, filing, clearing your desk, making a needed trip or reconciling your check book.
Sometimes you may not be able to avoid a big task which needs to be done immediately. A good approach then is to break it into parts. Make a very simple brainstorming diagram on a completely clean sheet of paper. Add branches & sub-branches containing anything vaguely related to the task as they come to mind. If something easy & obvious to do doesn’t pop up then break the easiest branch down further and further until a useful baby step appears which will start you moving in the right general direction. Write it down then do it. Be careful though and make sure the baby step is relevant to the task at hand so that you don’t use it as an escape.
Related Ideas: Just A Little More. Small Is Beautiful. Slight Edges. SEO: Simple Easy Obvious. Back to Basics. CAGO. Take Small Bites To Eat An Elephant. Master Of Details. I More Than Fill My Space.
Accentuate the Positive top
Accentuate positives by noticing them a bit longer, celebrating each one, or mentally listing 1-3 things you’re are grateful for right now.
Micro moments of positivity accumulate; therefore, continuously be on the look out for the small positive moments in your day. They definitely exist even on down days! Once you start looking for positives you will find that more and more become visible. Physically smiling about every little positive thing you notice helps too.
Here are some examples of small positives to consider noticing: playing with your dog, enjoying the sun or air, celebrating even the smallest of successes, being grateful for the nice view out of your window.
Related Ideas: Glass Half Full. 3 gratitudes exercise (3G3). Count Your Blessings, name them one by one. Accentuate The Positive, release the negative. Eliminate Negatives. Increase The Upside, reduce the risk.
GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out top
A large number of scientific studies prove that we all are much more affected by our environment than we consciously realize. Start purposefully watching and analyzing your thoughts and your environment. Then start control controlling these inputs so they help you rather than hurt.
Fill you head with good stuff. For example, many gurus don’t read newspapers since they are full of bad news. Avoid bad associates because you really do become more like them without even knowing it.
Make good environments and good actions habitual. Remember that habits are grooves that get deeper with every action, good or bad. It pays to make the good grooves deeper.
Look ahead to what & where the garbage is in your life. Prepare your boundaries and escape routes ahead of time. Then, when garbage appears you can recognize it, know what to do and be prepared to quickly escape. When you make a mistake analyze what and why it happened and make better plans to evade and escape it the next time.
Related Ideas: Stop bad actions … then think later. Bad Companions Ruin Good Character.
Practice Makes Perfect top
Keep practicing these skills on up days as well as down days. Don’t worry about the details. Don’t worry about doing them right. Just do it. Just practice as best you can and things will naturally get clearer and better. Every person is different so experiment and see which skills quickly help you the most and develop them first to gain positive momentum.
This is the path towards becoming the conscious master of your thoughts, moods, aches & pains rather than their unconscious slave. This is a great way to start having more good days and fewer bad days.
Related ideas: The 5 Second Rule 54321Go. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. If you are not willing to do something poorly you will never learn to do it well.