What To Do
When You Have A Bad Attitude
Most of us experience a few dog days (or minutes) when we have a bad attitude and just don’t feel like doing anything. Here are practical tips we’ve tried for dealing with that lousy situation. Try a few yourself to see what works best for you.
Here are some things you can do in the next minute to start shifting your feelings.
- Stop – Smile – Be Here Now: It turns out that our body affects our mind so this exercise is a quick a quick way to shift your feelings.
- Look – Listen – Like: Noticing something we like also helps. It can immediately follow the Stop – Smile exercise. If you can, try listing three things you like about what you have just experienced; it’s actually not that hard.
- 1-Minute/3-Breath Meditation: Practicing this increases your ability to let your mind release everything within one minute. For three breaths first count to 4 while inhaling and then do a long exhale (7 count) while saying “peace.” Meanwhile let distracting thoughts just float by like when doing regular meditation.
- Combat Breathing: Similar to 3-breath meditation. The military uses this to reduce the effects of stress, such as shaking or a high pulse rate, when in combat. Breathe in through nose while slowly counting 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold your breath for a slow 4 count. Breath out through the mouth for a slow 4 count. Hold breath for a slow 4 count. Repeat for 3 to 5 breaths. Visualizing each number while you count helps some people.
- Be Here Now: Learn to break off from the past and future and focus only on the present. Look To This Day is my favorite poem on the subject. Top athletes are able to do this after, say, striking out in baseball (Babe Ruth had many more strike outs than home runs) or missing the first free throw in basketball. By focusing on the now you can make your past & future problems irrelevant. Meditating is one of the best ways to practice this important skill.
The next level is to do something worthwhile, no matter how small. Actually the smaller the better because the object is to build positive momentum.
What you don’t want to do is to allow yourself to get distracted by unproductive pursuits such as TV, eating, or looking at the Internet. You are in a vulnerable position but such pursuits will end up making you feel even worse. Giving in even the slightest will likely suck you in so don’t even think about it.
Here are some small, worthwhile things you can do even when your mind is blown:
- Order: Clean up or organize something which you will need to do sometime anyway. Only do the easy parts. This is good to do when you can’t think straight. At least you are doing something useful in preparation for when you feel better.
- Physical Exercise: If you can’t produce then use the time to get some exercise. Swim, walk your dog, ride your bike. Break into a small sweat.
- Baby Step: If you must actually “work” then figure out what the smallest possible step you can take. One good way is to get a sheet of paper (the first very small step) then write on it a couple of small things you can do. If these still boggle you then write under them even smaller steps (e.g., pick up a pencil). Eventually you will get to something small enough so that you are able to do it. You’ll also likely to have a couple of other small items you can do as well. Once done repeat.
- Bigger Step: When exercising or otherwise relaxing put into your mind the next step or goal you are going to accomplish immediately when going back to work. Make it clear and concrete. Then write it down on a clean sheet of paper, add any obvious steps, and to it immediately.
Do Longer Term
- Meditate: Learn to meditate. This will increase your ability to clear your mind and to increase your capacity to resist distracting urges.
- SEO: Do the simple, easy and obvious: To quote Thomas Carlyle, “The main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance but to do what lies clearly at hand.” Don’t let yourself get confused by vague future things which you don’t clearly comprehend. Instead work on the few simple, easy and obvious things which are right in front of you if you just look.
- GIGO: Garbage in, garbage out. Fill your head with good stuff. Be careful about the negative thoughts you allow in your mind; they literally poison your attitude. Here are some good quotes on the subject.
- Health: Build your energy by improving your exercise/eat/sleep habits. Taking proper care of yourself is one of the best ways to get productive long term results. Another way to build energy it to start observing then breaking the habits you use to to distract yourself from your feelings and work. Coming home and flopping down in front of the TV with a beer is a good example of such a habit.
- Environment: It turns out that environment affects all of us far more than we think it does. This is true especially for the people we hang around. Therefore, do everything you can to put productive models in front of yourself. Set up situations where you are more likely to be productive.