On Monday evening I found myself telling my husband all about the bad day I’d had. The fights, the destruction of the house, the exasperation, the wasted food and the mess. After he listened patiently, he said “So I guess you’re not looking forward to the rest of half-term then?” After a pause, I said “No, that’s not true. It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow will be different.” And it was. A few years ago though, tomorrow probably wouldn’t have been different. I would have taken that bad day and turned it into the expectation for the week, which would have turned into the reality for the week.
So what has changed? Well, lots of things have changed, but my perspective through mindfulness has seen a definite shift. There is a quality we hold within mindfulness named ‘beginners mind’ and it allows us to approach each new day, situation or moment afresh. Typically, our expectations are automated and habitual. If there is a situation we don’t enjoy, we will expect not to enjoy it next time. Regardless of it being our commute, our job or our family situation, this automated expectation holds us hostage to an intention to dislike this situation. When we intend to find a situation stressful, our body will be primed for flight or fight and will plunge into that stress response even more quickly. If we expect to find our commute boring, then we won’t explore the potential for intrigue or interest along the way.
With beginners mind we let go of these expectations and approach each new situation with curiosity. We are open to letting the good in, like a beautiful sunset on our commute. When we have a bad day, it’s just that. One bad day. Accepting that and reminding ourselves to be open to different possibilities the following day is the best thing we can do. As it was, after a bad day on Monday, Tuesday was full of happiness and beauty. We went for nature walks and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. On Wednesday we met friends and spent time relaxing at home. Neither day was perfect but there was much more good than there was bad.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to let go of what we ‘know’ or expect, but extending some kindness and curiosity can go a long way to making a bad day a one off rather than the slippery slope down into a bad week or a bad month. If you’ve had a bad day, here are some things you can do to avoid carrying that forward into the next day.
Bad day self-care plan
- Rather than rehashing any difficult experiences in your head, release your thoughts and emotions about the day by talking, writing or drawing.
- Be kind to yourself. Take some deep breaths. Feel down into the body and ask yourself “how can I best be kind to myself right now?” Try to do one act of kindness for yourself, however small.
- Repeat an affirmation before bed. “Tomorrow is a new day. I embrace all that it brings.” Affirmations allow us to let go of habitual thinking and move towards a new truth.
- When you wake, make a mental list of 3 things you are grateful for before you leave your bed. Starting the day with an abundance mindset makes you more open to seeing what the day brings, rather than focusing on its shortcomings.
- If you notice yourself falling into habitual thinking during the day (e.g. I hate this weekly meeting), pause and explore the situation as if you were doing it for the first time. What can you see? What can you hear? How does it feel? What have you learned? Try to remain as open and curious as you can.
A bad day is just a bad day. Nothing more. Tomorrow might be bad or it might be good. Give yourself the best chance of having a good day by being curious, open and letting go of assumptions and habitual thinking. You will only live this day once. What makes it different from all the others?