Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are You Having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?

I was having one of “those” days. From the moment I stepped out of bed, it seemed like nothing went well. The drain was clogged, my office chair broken and the dog even puked on my bed! Despite that wiser voice in my head, I couldn't help but think “How much worse can it get?”

In reply to thoughts like this, the universe usually brings just that-- something even worse.

Perhaps you've also had days like this and, like me, you are reminded of the classic children's book by Judith Viorst in which the main character, Alexander, has a truly rotten day and it only seems to get worse. Without a doubt it seems like a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

And while we all know that a positive attitude can make even the worst circumstances more manageable, it can be quite a challenge to stop and turn yourself in a different and more positive direction.

But it is possible. And the improved feelings and effects can be astonishing!

Perhaps one reason why a lousy day can seem never-ending and bottomless is that we feel powerless in the face of our situation. For example, the tree roots growing into our home's drain seem huge and insurmountable. “How can I do anything to compete with a giant maple tree?!” runs through my mind and I feel helpless.

Some people freeze in the face of feeling powerless. Others numb out and turn to food, alcohol, drugs or other activities. Still others aggressively try to force the situation to change. While these responses may help the person cope with his or her out of control feelings, they almost always fail to allow the energy of the moment to shift. As a result, the situation often tends to worsen.

Stop and Look at Your Expectations
Before you travel any further in that downward spiral of “How could my day get any worse?” stop right there! See if you can step back from the intensity of your situation and pay attention to the expectations you have.

From where I sit in that bound up place, the clogged drain appears absolutely infested with tree roots and my mind conjures a huge plumbing bill and a dug up yard-- if I let it. While I might not literally divert the tree roots from my drain with my mind, I can change my thoughts and energy.

I can breathe deeply, bring my attention back to my own body-- feet on the floor, breath moving in and out. From that more centered place, I can decide to shift my expectations and my energy. Of course, I need to deal with the clogged drain, but I will perceive more options and the ultimate result will be more beneficial when I'm making choices from a more open state.

The essential tip here is that when you feel powerless and at the mercy of your drain, your kids, your job, your relationship, your body, your life, your economy, or your world, you can decide to stop and re-focus.

Widen your gaze.
As I get back in touch with my own sense of inner ease, I feel more empowered and the decisions I make for what to do next usually take me more quickly to a better-feeling place and outcome.

Sometimes my better-feeling place is only marginally improved. I may feel less powerless, but still annoyed to have to deal with this inconvenience. But from this even marginal improvement, I can keep building toward happiness.

I can begin to see that there's a lot more going on in my life right now than just this clogged drain. I literally and symbolically look up from the “trouble.” Yes, the drain still needs to be dealt with. But now I can also see that the sun is out. I can taste the pleasant salty-sweetness of a snack. I can really feel the hug from one of my sons.

In fact, when I look up from what was once a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” it all seems less lousy. I start to appreciate more of what is going on within me and around me. A more relaxed approach washes over me and I actually feel more empowered.

Reminding yourself of your own power can help transform one of “those” (lousy) days into one of “THOSE” (marvelous) days that simply keeps going. The big secret here is that nothing about your life has to change in order for you to shift from lousy to marvelous. It's all up to you.


  1. It's kinda like the story of the grumpy bug. :)

  2. Not familiar with that one-- I'll have to look it up.

  3. Perspective is the most interesting idea. Isn't it strange how we lose our cookies over the small stuff and the big stuff happens and we're cool as cucumbers?