First you wake up from a nightmare with a sore neck, then you leave your cell phone at home, scratch your car, and show up late to a meeting… Whether you wake up on the wrong side of the bed like the grumpy protagonist from the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day or encounter a string major inconveniences throughout the morning, it's never fun to feel like you're having a bad day. But like Alexander, you probably can't just pick up and move to Australia, as enticing as it may sound.
While you can't exactly solve all of those problems or hit the restart button on an "off" day, there are some smaller things you can do to interrupt and reroute the cycle. In fact, the key is to put yourself in a better headspace so you can more easily cope with all of the unlucky things piling up. So to help you boost your mood and get back on track, we compiled a list of 31 things to do when you're having a bad day. At the very least, they'll set you up for a better day tomorrow. Scroll through to decide which you want to try yourself.
- Get outside. If you can devote a lot of time to this and head out on a hike or picnic, great. But if you have a hectic day at the office, even a short burst of outside time will boost your mood.
Take a five-minute walk around the block to lift your energy and take your mind off of everything.
- Call up your family members or long-distance friends to catch up during your commute. Talking to your loved ones can help bring you out of a small rut.
- Practice deep breathing to calm yourself down and shift your mindset.
- Go see a movie in theaters instead of curling up with Netflix (though this can help sometimes, too). It'll allow to you disconnect and immerse in the fictional story rather than dwelling on your bad day.
- Treat yourself to something relaxing, like a massage, pedicure, facial, or blowout.
- If you don't want to spend the money, turn your own bathroom into a spa-like oasis with your favorite candles, a luxe soak, and relaxing playlist.
- Write down the events or moments that brought you down. This can help you get some perspective about how little or large these issues really are in the scheme of things.
- Who is your biggest champion? If it's someone who lives nearby, make a plan with them. And you can always call the person who always reminds you why you're awesome if they live far away.
- Read some motivational quotes to lift your spirits.
- Go for a long drive. It's a great way to relieve both restlessness and pensive moods.
- Update your résumé and look at job postings online if you're feeling stuck and overwhelmed at work. This will make you feel like you're doing something to make a change, even if it's going to be a longer process.
- Try not to be so hard on yourself or blame yourself for the bad day you're having. If that sounds impossible right now, try writing down what you admire about yourself and hiding away these little self-love notes around your home so you find them next time you're having a bad day.
- Grab an adult coloring book and get to work with some pretty colored pencils.
- Go on a Pinterest bender and let the gorgeous images or crafting instructions take you away.
- Create a gratitude list. Instead of focusing on the things that aren't going well in your life, remind yourself of everything you're thankful for.
- Visit a museum exhibit or art gallery in your area. A little beauty can go a long way.
- Simply vent! You can write it down in a notebook if you don't have anyone who will listen, or text a friend, roommate, family member, or significant other. Sometimes you just need someone else to confirm that it isn't in your head and that your day really is bad.
- Retail therapy, anyone? There's nothing like a new reward in the form of shoes. If you don't have time to go anywhere, shop online.
- If baking is one of your favorite activities, find a new dessert recipe to try tonight. If you don't have a sweet tooth and dislike cooking, eat at your favorite restaurant tonight.
- Since laughter is the best medicine, listen to a comedy podcast or scroll through your favorite meme accounts on Instagram.
- Play with some animals at a local shelter, offer to walk a friend's dog, or just google cute puppies and kittens online.
- Sometimes you don't need to do anything elaborate to turn your day around. Just step inside the shower for a fresh start.
- Sign up for a yoga or meditation class to attend tonight or tomorrow morning. This will give you something to look forward to, and it'll really help clear your mind.
- Look through old photos and family albums to reminisce about all the great times. Seeing these funny or sweet pictures will remind you of fond memories.
- Stroll through a public park or enjoy a good book on a bench. If you've been cooped up indoors, a nature walk with a good book is a serious treat.
- Learn how to make your favorite cocktail at home.
- This may sound obvious, but make sure you're drinking enough water. Sometimes when our minds are elsewhere, we forget the basics, which is key to functioning well mentally, physically, and emotionally.
- Play a round of solitaire or chess. These intellectual activities are great ways to stimulate our minds without doing something stressful.
- Go get your hands in the dirt with some gardening. Consider signing up for a plot in the community garden, or use your own backyard.
- Try taking the holistic wellness route. Is there a healing shop in your area? Ask the shopkeeper to teach you about aura sprays, healing crystals, and ritual candles.
- Get the bad-day vibes out of your system, not by distracting yourself, but by letting yourself work through the frustrating emotions. Scream into a pillow. Not working? Punch it! Cry into it, rip it, hug it, yank it… and then clean up your mess as you regroup and calm down.