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Ever experience the feeling that “it’s just one thing after another?” Like you spill coffee on yourself in the car, then everything seems to go south from there. You arrive late at the office. You work through lunch and end up in the breakroom at 3 pm with a piece of your co-worker’s birthday cake, staring at a second slice. You skip the gym because you don’t feel like it after the day you’ve had. The evening’s not much better.


But then you have days when you’re on fire. You hit every green light on the way to work. Your boss compliments the project you turned in last week. You eat a salad at lunch and go for a run when you get home. Most everything goes your way. And the small things that don’t…well, it’s no big deal. You feel amazing.


What’s the difference between those two days? We might say it’s the spilled coffee or the magical green lights. If that’s true, then our mood is determined by factors largely out of our control. But how do we account for people who seem to have more of those productive, on-top-of-it kind of days? Do they have better luck than others? It might feel that way.


We regularly encounter experiences we think of as good or bad. And it’s what we tell ourselves about those experiences that shape our daily lives. Understanding we have a choice is the first step in creating the health and well-being we want. 


When “bad” things happen, use these five questions to keep you focused on healthy solutions, instead of the problem:

  1. What can I learn? When something goes awry, determine your role in it and what you’ll do differently next time. It could be you need a better travel mug. Or to keep healthy snacks on hand at work for unpredictable days. Maybe you discover evening workouts aren’t your jam. Learn the lesson, leave the failure.

  2. What’s interesting about this? You know those things you “laugh about later?” If this is one of those things, what’s the downside to laughing now? Can you turn a stained shirt into a conversation starter? Or, does time in traffic give you pause to notice something that previously you whizzed by? Be curious and look for a response that keeps you out of “woe is me.”

  3. What’s the next best step I can take? Ever make a decision you quickly regret, like eating a donut at break time instead of going for a 10-minute walk? This question keeps you out of “I’ve blown it,” the pattern of continuing the same negative behaviors because “what’s the use?” In this case, the next best step may be self-compassion, and then to look for the lesson.

  4. How can I spin this? If the news can do it, so can you! This keeps a minor incident from becoming a “bad day.” Consider how to take unwanted circumstances and create a story of slaying the dragons. Interrupt a negative pattern any way you want. If you can make yourself smile – even laugh – you’ll know you’ve done it.
  5. How do I talk to myself? Ever heard someone describe her hellish morning, only to conclude with “and it was all downhill from there”? Have you been there? What happens is once we’ve spilled the proverbial coffee, if we’re not careful, we’re looking for more things to go wrong. And we’ll find them because that’s how the brain works! Notice the conversation in your head. What do you want spilled coffee to mean? Decide and it will be. Why not choose something that will start your day off superbly?


The difference between good and bad days, weeks, months…comes down to what you decide they are. It’s not the people, places, and things that make it so, but how you think about them.  One person can skip a workout and tell herself “Hey, it’s okay. I’ll plan better tomorrow – it’s already on the calendar.” Another can make it mean, “See, I can never stick with an exercise program.”  


The intention is not for every minute of every day to be good, rather acknowledge that we can intentionally choose healthy, helpful thoughts in the face of bad stuff. Whether we’re the cause or it’s something outside of our control, how we respond is everything. Notice your patterns and ask the above questions. Choose a response that gets you closer to what you want. 


Heather Moreno is a weight loss coach who helps women stop agonizing over diets and break the patterns that hold them back from losing weight. Her greatest desire is for her clients to enjoy food, love life, and feel like themselves again. Download her free 10 Hacks to Start Losing Weight and Feeling Better.

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