It’s the perfect morning: The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and only three weeks in, you’re absolutely certain that 2019 will be your year. But then something unfortunate happens — you spill coffee on your shirt; you get a parking ticket; your boss decides that what you really need is more work — and your mood begins to spiral downward. From that moment on, negative thoughts flood your mind and you start telling yourself that the entire day — or worse yet, the entire year — is completely and utterly ruined. Hell, you might as well just go back to bed until 2020 hits (that will be your year, for sure).
Needless to say, we all know what it feels like when one small thing ruins an entire day. But it’s possible to overcome that snowball of negative emotions. I asked three people who deal with really bad stuff on a daily basis how they manage to stay positive — here’s their advice…
The Person Who Deals With Bad Moments Professionally
Jeanette Raymond, anger management psychotherapist: When a bad thing happens, your brain goes on alert to look for more so that you’re prepared — it’s a compensatory mechanism. But you can divert that compensatory mechanism from seeking out more bad stuff, instead directing it to focus on the here and now, and what’s good about it: You’re alive and have access to shelter, warmth, food and friends (depending on what the bad thing was). Looking at natural surroundings is helpful in this respect.
Next, it’s useful to begin thinking of that bad thing as a silver lining — what transformation can you begin to get your head around that you previously didn’t feel motivated enough to get to? Bad things turn into good things, because they push you to make something creative and useful that you’ve always wanted. Now there’s no excuse. That excites the brain with lots of novelty and creative stuff, shifting your mood away from the bad thing.
Third, mourn the loss of the bad thing if it involves something that meant a lot to you, while holding in mind how it’s enlivening you to get out of your comfort zone and do what you had already envisioned but kept putting off. Crisis often forms the batter for baking the cake of progress and fulfillment.
The Person Whose Job Puts Every Bad Moment in Perspective
Amber Carvaly, funeral home director: I do my best not to let things ruin my day, because I know that I’m going to die, and ultimately, none of this matters. If I stress over, let’s say a parking ticket, nothing undoes the parking ticket. All it does is take away precious time that I don’t get back. When I’m done being angry, I still have a parking ticket and now I’ve also lost another 24 hours of my life. All you can do is let things go and keep moving forward, not as a victim to circumstance but as someone who reacts accordingly and with the proper temperance.
The Person Who Dealt With Your Bad Moments Every Damn Day
Cassidy Mull, former barista at a ubiquitous coffee chain: It takes a lot to really get to me, so unless it was someone whose opinion I truly care about, I just let the bad stuff roll off. I try to remember that it’s a bad minute, not a bad day or week, or I’ll switch the situation and find the light in it — what did I learn from dealing with that, or what could possibly have put that rude person in that bad of a mood? A lot of times it’s not really us that had them pissed; it’s their own issue, and we just happened to be there or add to it in their mind.
Some days, it doesn’t work, but when all else fails, I talk to the people who make me happiest. I remind myself how good I have it, or how much I have to be grateful for… or I punch a pillow later if I’m really pissed.