The Difference Between a Bad, Fine, and Great Day

The longer I’m around, the more I’m convinced that most days are just about the same, quality wise. I mean, typically the same thing happens most days. (This is, of course, discounting huge life events like births, deaths, marriages, graduations, etc.) What I mean is that I can have three Saturdays and compare them to each other. One could be bad, one could be just okay, and one could be great. But when I take a step back to see what really set apart each day from the others, I discover that for the most part, all three are identical.

In other words, it doesn’t take much to turn a bad day into a great day, and vice versa.

This is something I really began noticing as a parent. My kids will, from time to time, complain about how bad their day is going, or talk about how they’re having the best day ever. And I look at what’s going on with them, and I’ve seen a lot of what makes the difference is just a matter of perception.

On bad days, a few things go wrong, or one thing goes really wrong, and it becomes difficult to get your balance. From then on, everything you do is viewed through a negative lens, and it’s easy to start looking for the bad over the course of the day. On good days, it’s the opposite. Some things go right, and then you feel like everything is great.

The strange thing (to me) is that often bad days will have good things about them, and good days will have bad. It’s just my ability to accurately see those events for what they are that gets me messed up.

I can be a fairly moody person. I’m good at putting on a show when I’m out in public, but all you have to do is ask Denisa, and she’ll tell you how I can get in funky moods from time to time. Not constantly, but certainly enough to be annoying. I’ll feel like nothing’s going right at all, and I can be pretty negative about things for the space of a few hours or an entire day, until something happens to kick me out of it. I don’t think it’s full blown depression, but it’s probably depression lite. When I’m in one of those moods, nothing can really cheer me up. Good things can happen, but I’m so set on seeing the bad, it’s like I’ve become immune to the good.

It would be great if I could just take a step back and talk myself out of the bad days. Focus only on the good things that are happening to me. I can mentally think it. When I’m having one of those bad days, I know it’s just emotions, and I know things are okay, but it’s impossible to pep talk myself up and into the sunshine again.

This is actually one of the reasons I make lists. I’ve found that one of the big culprits for me to get depressed about a day is for me to feel like I got nothing accomplished. Like I just wasted my day away. This is true for a work day (when I should be getting work done) and a day off (when I want to be having a good time). So I will literally make lists of fun things I want to do on a day, to make sure I do those fun things. That sounds pretty lame as I write it, but it’s true, and it generally works.

I’ll do this in a less structured way with my kids sometimes. At the beginning of a vacation or snow day, I’ll sit people down over breakfast and say, “Okay. Tomorrow, when we’re looking back at how awesome today was, what are some things we’ll list off for why today was so much fun?” And then we do those things. But in the end, that generally doesn’t take a whole ton of time. It amounts to playing a board game together for an hour. Or drawing together. Or watching a movie with popcorn. But it’s consciously looking at the positive, and that helps.

An hour or two can make the difference for an entire 24 hours, one way or the other.

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