"You had a bad day / You're taking one down / You sing a sad song just to turn it around," Daniel Powter sings in the 2005 single "Bad Day." But, as you may have guessed, he's not offering the best advice on dealing with bad days. A better strategy than singing "a sad song," experts say, is to focus on the parts of your day that weren't so bad. The "three good things" intervention — a method that involves writing down three positive things that happened each day — is a great place to start. The authors of a recent experiment testing the effectiveness of this approach write, "We suggest that instead of ruminating about negative things, you try to 'savor' — relive, enjoy, and share — the positive events of your day."
The study asked nurses, assistants, receptionists, and other employees at outpatient family-practice clinics (known to be stressful work environments) to log three good things that happened at work each day. Over the course of the study, participants' stress levels declined, and they were less likely to bring work-related worries home with them.
This study is easy to replicate in your own life. You can formally write down good things that happened during your day when you get done with work, or you can simply make a point to think about the positives or bring them up in conversation. Alternatively, try these other tips for turning a bad day around, since it's pretty clear that singing a sad song won't work.
1. Spend Time With An Animal
A proven way to lift your mood is to hang out with a cat, dog, or other friendly animal. Even if you don't have a pet of your own, you can visit a friend with a pet, a shelter, a pet store, or a dog park. Pets decrease stress, ease depression and loneliness, and even improve health.
2. Put On Your Favorite Music
One study found that listening to music improves your mood no matter what type of music you're listening to, so maybe a sad song would do after all. The students in the study reported feeling calmer and happier after listening to music.
3. Eat Foods That Improve Your Mood
There's a long list, but WebMD recommends foods rich in B-12, folic acid, selenium, and Vitamin D. Or, in English for laypeople, some foods that boost your mood include beans and legumes, whole grains, lean meat, chocolate, and — you guessed it — fruits and vegetables.
4. Phone A Friend
One study showed that people who socialize right after unpleasant events are happier than those who wait to get back out into the world after being knocked down, as well as those who use other, non-social mood-boosters. When you're down in the dumps, sometimes reaching out is the last thing you want to do, but just hitting that "call" button can go a long way.
5. Go For A Walk
Exercise reduces depression and anxiety in general by releasing endorphins and taking your mind off things, and walks — particularly in groups and in nature — have numerous physical and mental health benefits.
6. Or A Run
Like walking, running helps relieve stress and depression, particularly when you do it outside. One study found that running in a forest has 50 percent more mental health benefits than working out at a gym.
7. Take A Nap
Sometimes, your day is so bad that you just have to press the reset button, and after a nap, you have the chance to get up on the right side of the bed. Napping also improves your mood and ability to handle stress.
8. Watch A Funny Video
I've included one of my favorites above (I always lose it at "I'm her mom! No, she's not!"). One study showed that watching a funny video not only made people happier, but also made them better problem-solvers — while sad music, contrary to Powter's theory, did not.