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Having a bad day? Practice these 3 exercises (and improve your life in the process)


having a bad day - woman frowning

“Mindfulness” is a bit of a buzzword these days, but what does it really mean? Being mindful is simply creating awareness around the events and situations in your life, and taking it a half step further – to have gratitude for these situations (even those that we would typically consider to be negative). Being mindful can work wonders in your life if you’re having a bad day or are just starting to feel the pressure of life.

We’ve all been there: worst day ever.

No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to turn your bad day around.

Then that day turns into the worst week ever. Worst week ever gets drawn out in to worst month ever, worst month ever turns into worst summer ever, and so on.

The blows just keep coming, the dog cut their foot, car broke down, wallet got stolen, constantly stuck in traffic, plumbing problems, parking tickets… you just can’t seem to catch a break. I’ve been there more times than I care to count.

These everyday mundane moments that we often mindlessly trudge through are the moments in which we are really able to fine-tune our mindset by bringing our awareness to the situation, and to our reactions.

These moments – like all unpleasant experiences in life – are opportunities for growth and to turn things around.

They can either destroy us, or allow us to shift our perspective in a way that will enable us to detach and learn; it’s literally as easy as taking a step back, and viewing something from a different angle. The way we react (or don’t react) has a powerful impact on all other areas of our lives. Once we are able to create a pause between trigger and reaction, we learn that life happens with us and for us, not to us or against us.

A bad day at work can spark a negative downward spiral reaction.

Practicing gratitude is an acquired skill. None of us are completely stoked on life at all times. We all have bad days, and we are allowed and supposed to feel down. It’s a proven fact that denying our negative emotions in favor of superficial “gratitude” robs us of the full human experience, and I’m certainly not suggesting that.

And sometimes, the “good vibes only” crowd can just shove right off, am I right?

However, the ability to foster non-attachment within ourselves and give ourselves permission to pause and separate from whatever it is that has triggered us, sets us free from a victim mindset and gently and lovingly pushes us towards a gratitude mindset. Which, in turn, opens us up to a growth mindset. And once we are growing, we are winning at life.

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When you find yourself struggling to see the silver lining, ask yourself how your highest self would respond to the situation, then, ask yourself how practicing gratitude in that moment would change the outcome. In the words of Bukowski, “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire,” so let’s bust out a Tony Robbins move and do some fire-walking, shall we?

These are THREE EASY WAYS TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE and cheer yourself up!

having a bad day - man smiling

1. Daily gratitude journaling.

This practice will change your life. Some people like to start their day off with a little PMA in order to set the tone for their day; others like to end their day in reflection of the events that took place. As an introvert, I like to write in the evenings. That is when my brain has decompressed from what I’ve experienced that day and allows me some time and space to process. The time of day is irrelevant. Pick a time and do your best to stick to it. Take a few minutes to jot down something that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be deep thoughts or super long paragraphs, even a short list will do. On Monday, my entry was 4 pages long. My entry from yesterday looked like this:

1. Vegan options.
2. Short hair.
3. Dogs.
4. Colorado.

After a couple of weeks, you will start to notice that life is filled with amazing things, things that we take for granted every single day. I’ve lived in Colorado my entire life but I never appreciated it until I spent a couple of years in other states and moved back. Now, not a day goes by that I am not in absolute awe and eternally grateful to be here. Go buy the coolest journal you can find and start writing. Your heart space will thank you.

2, PRACTICE THE 1-3-1 RULE.

I totally made this unofficial rule up but it works wonders for me so I’m sticking to it.

When 1 negative event happens or we find ourselves in a situation that we have been conditioned to loathe (the dentist, bad weather, etc.) do everything in your power (and this is where the real re-conditioning and work comes in) to catch yourself in that moment! Catch that thought and be aware or mindful that you are experiencing a negative thought. Don’t question it, just allow it. This takes practice. Bringing awareness to our emotions means a complete and total stripping down of the egoic mind and standing in full acceptance of ourselves and how we are feeling.

Once you are aware that you are feeling shitty, think of 3 positive ways to view the situation from a different perspective. This can take shape in a million different ways, but this is gratitude in action!

It is SO important to reframe the situation. More and more opportunities present themselves every single time you practice gratitude. Once you have shifted your mindset to be grateful, think of 1 way to act moving forward that will store this experience in your long-term memory as a positive experience.

You guys, the 1-3-1 rule is Life. Changing. When I get old and only have my memories to look back on, I want to be able to look back in full appreciation of the life that I lived and the experiences that filled it.

3. MIND SORCERY.

This one is my favorite. People who aren’t awake or who are un-enlightened have crazy heavy energy. You can almost visibly spot the people who are mindlessly coasting through life without a second thought to literally anything. BE GRATEFUL FOR THESE PEOPLE. These people are full of lessons that will aid you in your growth. When I am faced with these people, I energetically send them love and light and affirm to myself that I am grateful for them.

Seeing these people as teachers, rather than a bunch of assholes, allows me to open my heart to the lessons life has to teach me through them, and glean some sort of understanding and empathy toward them, without judging them or labeling them. This does not mean that I allow them to abuse me. There is a fine line between acceptance and allowance and it’s so important to know the difference. (Ex: I accept that this person is asleep. I will not allow them to abuse me.)

Mentally smiling at these people not only gives us the upper hand, but also releases us from their energetic grip. This can be tricky for empaths like me who absorb other people’s energy. If you struggle with taking on the emotions of others, physical distance and breath work are the keys to protecting yourself from negativity.

It takes a few weeks before something becomes a habit, but consistent, intentional practice of mindfulness and gratitude has magical, transformative powers. Once you get in the groove of viewing life as an experience that you get to co-create, as opposed to a ride that you just happen to be stuck on, it begins to look a whole lot different through rose-colored glasses. Stay grateful!

in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.

No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.

Written by Sarah Mickulesku

Sarah is the founder and curator of AmongtheRoots.com. She received her BA in Journalism from Metro State University and is the author of the children's book, "The Woodchuck That Could Chuck". Sarah is a minimalist, rule-breaker, adventure-seeker and non-conformist. She currently lives in Denver where she spends most of her time immersed in the woods with her two children and her dog.