One of the most common questions I get is whether I am always happy. You know, I am the CEO of a company called Happier, with a mission to help people be happier and healthier in their daily lives. I guess the natural conclusion would be that I am generally happy all the time.
Well, that’s not the case. Not at all actually. I get anxious, I get stressed, I get down, I have bad days. I don’t think of happiness as some permanent state; in fact, searching for this nirvana state made me insanely miserable and led me to create Happier, but that’s a whole other story. So I don’t think having bad days makes me happy or unhappy generally — it’s just the reality of life and true for every single person I know.
I do, however, try not to let bad days fully own me. When a day is going off the rails early on or I get up feeling UGH, I try to do a few things to avoid it spiraling into a really bad day. This doesn’t always work and you know what, from time to time I think we are all entitled to have a really no good, very bad day. But here are some of my go-to strategies for turning a bad day slightly happier:
- Eat something awesome first thing in the morning. Food is a huge part of who we are and it’s a huge part of how we feel. Research also shows that how we feel in the morning affects our mood throughout the day. When I am having a really rough day I try to eat what I enjoy, but make it something strong and energizing (vs. you know, downing scoops of ice cream, which I enjoy, but which would do little to give me the energy I need.) The other day I was having a rough morning so I took a detour on my work commute to grab my favorite egg sandwich and a strong coffee. It wasn’t a day savior, but my strong and filling breakfast helped me get the morning started.
- Listen to your best “pump me up” music. When you listen to music you like, your body releases dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and motivation. We all have those songs that get us going and when I am having a rough day, I have a few favorites. You can check out some of them here, on my Pump It Up Spotify Playlist.
- Make a plan to do something you absolutely love. Research shows that having something to look forward to makes you happier. So on a rough day I try to make a plan to do something I like. I can’t always do it the same day, but having it in my calendar gives me something to look forward to: a yoga class, lunch with a friend, anything at all, as long as it’s something I really enjoy doing.
- Do something to make progress, however small. One of the things I hate about really tough days is they feel REALLY long and I feel like I am stuck in them. But just saying OK, let’s get a lot done today and work through the bad day isn’t enough — at least not for me. So I try to tackle some really small tasks that make me feel like I am making progress: organize my desk, clean up our office fridge (the Happier team I am certain thinks odd things about me when I do this), write an email I’ve been putting off, anything that gets a specific small task completed. Research shows that feeling productive makes us happier and I can vouch for this.
- Over-share gratitude. I share a few happy moments in Happier every day (well, obviously!) The other day a friend texted me to say: “Whoa, you are having an awesome day — just saw like 7 happy moments from you! Keep smiling.” Here’s the thing: I was actually having a really rough day. But the rule I have for myself is that on those day I look for small happy moments even harder than usual and I try to find them everywhere — at work, in my routine, on my commute, in something I see around me. According to numerous studies, gratitude leads to feeling happier and not the other way around, so this is my most trusted and most helpful “bad day gone happier” strategy.
I’d love to hear what you do when you’re having a bad day!