How to turn around a bad day

Bad day at work
Bad days happen to the best of us. Days where you just wake up in a really bad mood. Where something (or nothing) has made you angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed, whatever. Days where you know up front that “MAN, this is going to suck”.

You still have to get up and go to work, but before you even get there, you’re already seething inside. You try to do your job but somehow all the angry, dissatisfied clients have conspired to call you and complain on the same day – though you have no idea how they coordinated that little feat.

Everything your co-workers say to you sounds incredibly stupid. Everyone seems out to annoy you. The next person to open his mouth is likely to get his head ripped clean off.

Not much fun, huh? Luckily, you can do something about it. Here are six ways to turn around a bad day.

1: Accept your bad mood

Being in a bad mood is not that hard. Being in a bad mood while trying to force yourself to cheer up really sucks.

Fighting a bad mood only prolongs it, so if you’re mad, be mad. If you’re sad, be sad. This does not give you license to be rude and unpleasant to innocent bystanders, it just means that you need to recognize and accept your bad mood to be able to do something about.

2: Tell others

In one chapter of the Happy At Work Book, I describe how the IT support department at medical company Leo Pharma give employees permission to say when they’re having a bad day. With the result that people have fewer bad days and recover faster from the ones they do have.

You can try to keep you bad mood a secret and put on your happy mask. Guess what, you’re fooling nobody. Your co-workers will notice and they will wonder what they’ve done to piss you off.

The best thing to do, is to tell the peope you work closely with. Simply tell them “listen guys, I’m in a really sour mood to today. I’m not sure why, but it’s nothing you have done. If I bite your head off, I apologize in advance”.

3: Look inside first

In the extremely influential book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman argues that EQ, your emotional quotient, is what makes you successful, not IQ. This means that the truly successful people are not the smart ones but the ones with the best emotional skills.

Goleman defines five emotional competencies that make up EQ, two of which are:

  1. The ability to identify and name one’s emotional states and to understand the link between emotions, thought and action.
  2. The capacity to manage one’s emotional states — to control emotions or to shift undesirable emotional states to more adequate ones.

In other words, EQ relies on your ability to recognize and deal with your own emotions.

When you’re in a bad mood, it’s extremly tempting to look around you for sources of that mood. “Man I’m annoyed today. Must be Paul talking loudly on the phone. Or Lisa being late with the specs once again. Or…”

We tend to think that a bad mood is always caused by something or someone else. And when we’re in a bad mood, everything suddenly becomes annoying, making it even easier to find justifications for the bad mood.

But not every bad mood has a reason. Maybe you just slept badly. Or you’re coming down with the flu. Or you’re just having a bad day. In these cases, trying to justify a bad mood is a sucker’s bet.

Instead, you must look inside yourself first, to see what might or might not be the cause of your negative emotional state. Here’s one way to do it.

4: Remember the good stuff

When you’re in a foul mood, everything is bad. But the good things you appreciated yesterday, where you weren’t as annoyed, are probably still there – you’re just not seeing them.

Spend a few moments to try think of at least one or two things that aren’t all bad. Something you look forward to. A person you like at work. Something nice that happened recently.

5: This too shall pass

You’ve been in a bad mood before. It passed. So will this one. It’s no big deal.

6: Take some quiet time

And if you’re having a really bad day, it may be a good idea to withdraw a little if you can. Take a walk in your lunch break. Sit and work somewhere quiet. Take a loooooong bathroom break. Consider going home early or taking the day off.

Or this may happen:


The tips in this post work for the occasional bad day. If you find yourself having one bad day after another, you need to do something more. Your job may be bringing you down, and you may be in danger of contracting stress. You may even be having a depression. If you think this may be happening, do something and talk to someone.

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34 thoughts on “How to turn around a bad day”

  1. Love your site Alex. We share similar thought trains. And that hug video is two thumbs up.

    However while I believe it is important to find more happiness at work, true happiness is found outside of work. If you seek your true happiness at work you are going to be sorely disappointed. Your true joy and passions are usually outside of work, be it painting, music

  2. Terry: Thank you VERY much. I think true happiness comes both from work and from outside of work.

    Considering how much time we spend at work, if that area of our lives is not fulfilling, it’s difficult to be happy.

    Also, work is where we get to use most of our skills, where we get many of our victories (and defeats) and where we get to contribute and create value. If that’s not work it’s difficult to be happy.

    We CAN have wonderful work lives, that are happy, fulfilling, fun, challenging, educational, help others and make the world a better place. And THAT, combined with a good life outside of work, is a great way to be happy.

    How does that sound?

  3. Pingback: Anonymous
  4. It’s always so neat to see what different bloggers bring to a topic. I have a similar list in my entry Five Ways To Beat A Bad Mood, and it’s illuminating to see another take on the subject. I tend to go more practical than philosophical, although I definitely see how philosophy can have its place. . .

  5. I had a horrible day today, but thanks to your tips, i believe the next time will be better. Thank you!

  6. hello my name is Christa Pellicci i’m from Stamford Connecticut, and i’m 29 years old, I just want to say that i’m allways in a bad mood. everyday i don’t
    know if that’s PMS stress or what but i’m like allways angry throwing tantrums

    saying that everybody, hates me well it’s true it feels like my parents don’t want anything to do with me anymore. whenever my sister comes home from
    College, they can’t wait to see her. like she’s this Favorite thing in the world.

    to them, anyways i don’t know what to do should i go see a psycogritist. because i’m like allways saying i’m haveing a bad hair day i’m so Ugly
    what do you think i should do.

    Christa Pellicci
    Stamford Ct,

  7. today is a really bad day for me. my dad is mad at me because i didn’t know the address of my friend’s house but i wanted to go there, so he got all mad and started yelling and everything. my tooth hurts and my dad said that i should go to sleep and i shouldn’t wake up until the bad day is over. i am so bored with nothing to do. i don’t feel like talking to anyone or getting out of my room.

  8. Today is a terrible day. I won’t go into detail but this really helped me. Especially the video! HA! Thanks.

  9. I had a very bad day, starting with the cold that I can’t get rid of, to another mundane day of high school. Then my freakin’ $200 bong breaks! Aand to top it off I just got off another six hours of shi tt ay dishwashing work. I felt the need to share.

  10. I really appreciate your advises ,but i believe what I’ve been through today was in fact a conspiracy….!

  11. Got cussed out super bad at work because I made a comment I shouldnt have. Probably gonna get fired. Can’t stop crying. Really sucks. In a super bad position

  12. Nice post and very good points.
    I specially agree to the points that you should accept your bad mood and stop finding out or blaming out the causes of your bad mood. Moreover don’t connect the different things as cause and effect of your bad mood. Just accept, may be take a break and this will pass away.

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