If I were inclined to gamble, I would bet every dollar in my pocket against every dollar in yours that you’ve had a bad day. Oh, maybe not today, but at some point in your past. And I know this because everyone has bad days. Nobody is exempt. Except maybe the Dalai Lama. He’s got his Zen going strong enough that bad days simply roll like water off a duck’s back, and he doesn’t experience them.
And it’s the Dalai Lama we’re going to aspire to be like today. Because it is only a thought, and a thought can be changed. (If you want to get some Zen on the Positivity Powerhouse way, go check out Even Bad Meditation is Good For You.)
What happens when you have a bad day?
You experience stress, right? Physiologically, stress and excitement are the exact same thing. You have the same rapid heartbeat when you’re stressed as you do when you’re excited. The same rapid breathing. The same feelings of anticipation. Exactly the same.
So what does this mean?
Feelings are not facts. Emotions are not facts. Thoughts are not facts. You want to know what are facts? Facts.
So when you say you’re having a bad day, you’re acting as though the feeling of a bad day is a fact. What’s really happening is that you are feeling stressed, you are feeling overwhelmed, you are feeling like everything in the world is working against you, so you feel like you’re having a bad day.
What you’re actually having is a series of emotions that you have learned over time add up to something you can concretely call a bad day.
But what if you didn’t know that? What if you didn’t know that that series of emotions added up together equaled “bad day”? What if all you knew was that you were having a series of emotions?
What happens when you have a bad day?
Let me give you an example
Let’s say you wake up late one morning. To make matters even worse, your daughter refuses to put on her shoes, making you even later for work. You still stop off at your local coffee place, because you need their venti grande piccolo profondo coffee to get through the morning, even though that adds to your lateness
You approach the on-ramp for your freeway that takes you directly to work, and the traffic is backed up for as far as you can see. So you skip the freeway and take surface streets instead. even though this adds 20 minutes to your trip, you’re glad not to be sitting in traffic for god-knows-how-long.
By the time you get to work, you’re frustrated, you’re overwhelmed, you’re mad at the world, and you can’t even believe this has happened to you. When your supervisor sees you, she runs up to you and gives you the biggest hug you think she is capable of giving anyone.
She says to you, “We all thought you were in that accident!” Two tractor-trailers had collided on the freeway, and if you had been running on time, you would have been one of the 17 other cars involved in the pile-up, where nobody survived.
Suddenly, your perspective shifts, and you are having the best day of your life. You’re so thankful for your alarm not going off, for your daughter not putting on her shoes, for your caffeine addiction, that being late for work doesn’t even matter.
You were so frustrated because your alarm didn’t go off. You were so exasperated because your daughter didn’t put on her shoes. You were still even later for work because you needed your coffee. None of those feelings changed.
What changed was your perspective
Once you found out about the accident, that made feeling frustrated, and exasperated, and caffeine addicted, not matter in the slightest. You were just so grateful to be alive.
Here’s another example
My psychiatrist and I agreed recently that I need to stop taking one of my medications. It requires a tapering process, so as to not completely screw things up in my brain any more than they already are. The first week was moderately not okay, but the second week was the most god-awful week I think I’ve ever experienced.
I was having muscle tremors to the point where I couldn’t do much of anything beyond lay in bed and watch Netflix. Getting up to go to the bathroom was highly entertaining; I fell down a lot. And I couldn’t hold a fork if my life depended on it.
It eventually came down to either letting my caregiver feed me, or starving. And since neither of us liked the idea of me starving, we both agreed that she would feed me. Talk about a lesson in humility!
I was frustrated, I was overwhelmed, I was pissed off, and I wanted to say fuck it and just go back on the medication. But that wouldn’t have done me any good at all, because I really do need to stop taking this drug.
We finally got ahold of my doctor, and went back to the first week’s level of tapering off the medication. Within a couple of days, the tremors had stopped, and I was able to use a fork again, just in time for lasagna night!
Now, I’m not going to tell you those days didn’t suck royally, because they really fucking sucked. What I will tell you though, is that they taught me some valuable life lessons. Things like humility, and gratitude, and knowing for certain sure that it’s okay to ask for help, and even more to accept help, when I need it.
So take a look at your last few bad days, and try to look at them from the perspective of, what did I learn from this? How did I grow from this? How did this protect me from something even worse happening?
Let me know in the comments!