Self-care isn’t a two-week vacation or an expensive trip to the spa — it comes down to small, positive things we do every single day to help us manage the tough stuff that gets thrown our way. And, as it turns out, you can control your bad day by tricking your brain. Neuroimaging studies show that it’s almost impossible to be in a depressed state and grateful at the same time. So, if you know the right ways to shift your mindset, you can short-circuit those bad vibes.
Ahead, we’re sharing more of these little ‘reset buttons’ you can use to recalibrate — they’re not expensive or complicated, just some easy hacks to turn a bad day around.
15 Micro Habits That Can Help Turn a Bad Day Around
#1 Eat a Piece of Dark Chocolate
Yes, chocolate! Magnesium, the wonder mineral, can do great things for your mind and mood while helping you relax from stress. And guess what: a one-ounce serving of 50-60% dark chocolate has 50mg of magnesium! Registered dietitian and founder of Bumpin’ Blends Lisa Mastela, MPH, RD, recommends dark chocolate on its own or in a smoothie to give a little mood boost.
Watch a quick comedy clip: pull up your favorite YouTube, standup comedy routine, etc. — because when we say laughter is the best medicine, it’s true. Laughing causes your body to release endorphins, which can give you a mood boost.
#3 Make a Gratitude List
Remember how powerful gratitude is when it comes to shifting our mindset and taking control of a bad day? Here’s where a simple practice of gratitude journaling comes in. Grab a piece of paper and write one of two things: a list of what you’re grateful for (anything and everything you can think of!) or things that bring you joy (think: what makes you smile, what you look forward to). A gratitude list or joy list can make you happier, improve your mental health, and help refocus your energy if you’ve been thrown off.
#4 Repeat an Affirmation or Listen to an Affirmation Meditation
Sometimes you need to tell your brain (over and over!) that things are okay. Changing your mindset takes repetition — so try that with an affirmation. Think: “I am enough.” Affirmation meditations are a simple way to guide you through a few minutes of repeated positivity. Consider it the reboot button for your mood.
#5 Try Some Random Acts of Kindness
Doing something small (but generous) for someone else can provide a profound mood boost. Buy a stranger in line a cup of coffee, do a favor for a friend, say hi to a person struggling with homelessness (maybe get them a hot coffee, too) — you’ll cheer someone else up, and it’ll help you out at the same time.
You knew we were going to say this, right? Come on. But we all know it works — exercise, in all its forms, benefits mental health. Elle Woods was right: Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make people happy, and … you know the rest. Find your endorphin booster in the FitOn app.
#7 Dance Party
Study after study shows that putting on some good tunes and shaking it out can give you a mood boost — and it’s so easy. You don’t need moves or rhythm to make this happen, either! And if you want to make it into a sweaty, happy workout, try a quick dance session by choosing a dance workout right in the FitOn app.
#8 Go Outside
Sunshine, fresh air, nature, and blood flow — the ingredients in our favorite feel-good recipe. In Japanese culture, this is called shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, and has been shown to improve mental health. Can you pop outside for a breather for a few minutes? Take a walk around the block, or get to a park? Some trees (if there are any around) could do your brain some good.
#9 Phone a Friend
Speed dial your Chief Hype Officer — you know who. That best friend who can give you the pep talk you need, make you laugh, remind you of how great you are, empathize with your frustrations, let you vent. It’s much, MUCH better than a text or a DM.
#10 Use Your Toolbox
What’s in your go-to self-care tool kit? Cooking? Organizing? Gardening? Coloring? Puzzles? A hot bath? This one is so personal. Dig into your own set of tried and true favorite activities that put a smile on your face. Drop everything, and just do that for a little bit.
#11 Use Uplifting Aromatherapy
Sometimes you just want to breathe deep and inhale a relaxing or soothing scent. While studies on essential oils aren’t always clinically concrete, it certainly can’t hurt to add some natural, beautiful aroma to your space (and take a few moments to breathe!).
#12 Drink a Ton of Water
Hydration plays a role in mood, irritability, stress levels, cognitive function, sleep — and, you know, organ function! We say this a lot, but chances are, you’re not getting enough water. Fill up a bottle right now and take some swigs — then repeat throughout the day.
#13 Take a Nap
You might just need to reset and take a nap. A study in 2015 showed that taking a quick afternoon snooze to recalibrate your brain can help you regulate your emotions and handle stress and frustration more effectively. It’s like sleeping on it… but the express version!
“Sleep is medicine,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, who recommends not just taking a power nap but going to bed early to make sure you’re always getting enough sleep to manage stresses that come your way.
#14 Stop Forcing It
Are things just not going your way? Maybe it’s time to lean into the energy and quit fighting against it. Sometimes accepting that your day isn’t going as planned helps you relax… think: sliding downhill vs. pushing a boulder uphill.
#15 Write Out a Plan
Maybe you can’t turn today around… but tomorrow’s a new day! Write your ideas or an itinerary for tomorrow — bonus if you put something on your calendar that makes you happy so you can look forward to tomorrow even more. Maybe that positive thinking will make your today a little better, too!
It’s OK to Have an Off Day
After the year we’ve all had as a collective, it’s beyond normal to have days where you just feel burnt out and irritable. Turning a bad mood around might feel easier some days than others (and it might take a combination of MANY of these little hacks), but remember that it’s ok to just feel icky sometimes. Let yourself feel the feelings! And when you’re ready, turn to these tips.