So you’ve had a bad day…
Your mind is in turmoil. You haven’t meditated for a while. You are struggling with your mindfulness practice. You find it difficult not to judge things and events as “bad”. You are affected by your thoughts and emotions. And acceptance is just an abstract concept to you…
Based on my most recent experience of such a day, I would like to reassure you that this is all perfectly normal (whatever “normal” means to us anyway). The bottom line is that we are all human beings. We will not only have “bad” days, but we will also not always be able to refrain from judging these days as “bad”. Well done to you if you have already achieved such a high level of non-judgement or, much like the Buddha, have overcome suffering altogether! For everyone else, however, keep reading…
When we are having a “bad” day, we may often choose to escape reality by tuning out with a drink, treating ourselves to a snack or a spontaneous purchase, staying in bed to watch television or read a book, or simply distracting ourselves with some other fun activity. And that’s ok, too, but it is still beneficial to remain mindful, even in these activities that often carry with them an element of mindlessness. However, when mindfulness in its entirety feels out of reach, practicing just one component of it may help us bring ourselves back to the present moment. And the component I recommend for days like these is gratitude.
What can we be grateful for?
We should always try to be grateful for what we have, rather than wish for what we don’t have. Most of us already know that there are people in the world who are less fortunate than we are. Most of us also know that on the grand scale of life, many of our problems don’t quite measure up. But we are also human beings and individuals. Things that may not seem like problems to other people, seem like big problems to us. In these situations, trying to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t have will often cause a positive shift in our perspective. We can accomplish this by making a list (on paper or simply in our minds) of everything that we are grateful for. You can be grateful for anything, no matter how small: a funny article, a good movie, a delicious cup of coffee, a stranger’s smile, a friend’s good news. Then progress to the bigger things: your health, your family, your accomplishments, a roof over your head, or even being alive.
What am I grateful for?
In addition to the things listed above, I find that when I am having a bad day, the best thing to be grateful for is the bad day itself. A bad day makes us appreciate all the good days that we often take for granted. A bad day teaches us a lot about ourselves and how we cope with adversity. A bad day can enhance and add to our mindfulness and meditation practice. A bad day is a lesson in acceptance and the impermanence of everything. A bad day strengthens our mindfulness skills, such as non-attachment from internal and external experiences, non-judgement and non-reactivity towards negative events, and the ability to let go of negative thoughts and feelings. And finally, a bad day can encourage us to shower ourselves in love, kindness and compassion.
How can gratitude help?
When we shift our focus to everything that we are grateful for, bad days become easier to overcome. And sometimes, when we employ our personal strategies to cope with a bad day, simply being grateful for the possibility to stay in bed with a hot pizza and a funny movie, is a good step in the right direction!