How To Stay Positive When You’re Having a Bad Day

How to Stay Positive

Dear Selfless Esteem,
Got any tips on how to stay positive when you’re having a bad day?
Sometimes Happy

Dear Sometimes Happy,

I think everyone can relate to this struggle. Here are some ideas for how to stay positive when you’re having a bad day, but this isn’t an all-inclusive list. I invite my readers to leave comments about what’s worked for them. ✎

Please note these suggestions are for an average bad day. If you’re trying to cope with more severe, ongoing problems, see the following posts: “Want To Stop Feeling Depressed? Here’s How,” “4 Crucial Sources of Comfort in the Grieving Process,” and “Finding Hope in Difficult Times.” And for general tips on decreasing stress, please see the post “6 Effective Ways to Manage Stress.”

Take a Break


When people are having a bad day, they commonly feel overwhelmed. It’s important to recognize this emotion and take a break.

Ideally, you’d be able to take a short walk or sit outdoors enjoying nature, but the circumstances may not allow for that. Taking a nap would also be ideal, but if that’s not an option, an alternative would be to close your eyes, massage acupressure points and/or lay your head down for 5 or 10 minutes. I advise you to set a timer so you don’t fall asleep. 😉 But what if you’re driving and can’t do any of those? Pull over if possible. Or, just taking a few slow, deep breaths can release some tension.

Another way to take a mental break is by practicing mindfulness. In Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness, Susan L. Smalley, Ph.D, and Diana Winston explain how mindfulness affects the brain and body, and they provide ways to use it in order to reduce stress.

Another option is the RAIN mindfulness exercise, which originated from mindfulness teacher, Michele McDonald, and was adapted by Tara Brach, Ph.D., who included it in her book, Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN.

Practicing Mindfulness

One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is to be fully present mentally while taking a bite of something delicious instead of gulping it in a rush. At the same time, savoring your favorite food or drink serves the purpose of briefly nurturing yourself on a rough day.

Change Your Thoughts

When we’re having a bad day, usually negative thoughts flood our minds about our situation, ourselves, and other people. (For this reason, you may be interested in the posts, “Top 5 Tips for Anger Management” and “Defeat Self-Criticism.”) Take a few minutes to put these thoughts and feelings on paper. Then change your thoughts, and your mood will follow. For example, is there any bit of humor you can find in your predicament? Or, is there anything you’re grateful for in spite of your bad day? (See “How To Be Genuinely Grateful and Reap the Benefits.”)

Enjoy a Positive Activity

Another way to lift your mood is by doing an uplifting activity. The following are some ideas.

  • Spending time with loved ones (and asking them for help when you feel overwhelmed)
  • Helping others and doing random acts of kindness
  • Playing or cuddling with a pet
  • Watching funny video clips
  • Looking at photos of good memories
  • Listening to an upbeat song, such as the one below, “Greater” by Mercy Me
“Greater” by Mercy Me

Remember the Words “But God”

There are numerous verses in the Bible that have the words “but God” to show us that in the midst of it all, God is with us and He is our helper (Psalm 16:8; Hebrews 13:6). 1 Samuel 23:14 says, “And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand.” Saul was trying to kill David, but God protected him. (See the post, “31 But God Bible Verses” by Lisa Appelo for more encouraging verses.)

Therefore, talk to God about your bad day and ask Him for help with a grateful heart (Philippians 4:6). For more details, see the post, “How To Pray in 5 Simple Steps.”

Lastly, the most comforting reassurance on a bad day is the fact that God loves you unconditionally. For more details about God’s love, see the posts, “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem” and “The Real Truth About God.” Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39), not even our worst day. ❤️

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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  1. TC

    Really helpful article, Gina. 😊 I especially love that you mentioned looking for the humor in our circumstances. I have always found being able to laugh at a really messed up situation seems to take away some of the mental real-estate that it possesses and I don’t ruminate on it as much.
    Another thing that works for me during a day when nothing is working out the way I want is meditating on Romans 8:28 and reminding myself that if God is allowing these things it is because He is working them for my good.

    1. Gina Leggio

      Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing that great idea! Yes, sometimes we can see how God worked something together for good in hindsight.

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