When we have a bad day, it’s usually our own fault.
Because while there are days when things happen that are out of our control, the quality of most days is determined by how we choose to approach them.
A bad day is often the result of bad choices we make about what we invite into our day. The better we choose our “inputs,” the better our days become.
Our inputs — the things we consume, interact with, or experience in a given day — are largely in our control.
While we can never guarantee ourselves a great day, we can stack the deck in our favor by pursuing positive inputs and limiting negative ones.
Here are a few simple places to start.
1. Choose what you watch, read, and listen to carefully.
According to a 2015 study, if you expose yourself to three minutes of negative news first thing in the morning, you’re 27% more likely to declare you’re having a bad day six-to-eight hours later.
The content we consume — news, music, podcasts, TV, etc.— has a HUGE impact on how our day goes.
One of the simplest things we can do to have a good day is consume media that inspires, motivates, and energizes us and limit media that makes us angry, anxious, or depressed.
It’s important to be informed, but if we know the latest political madness is going to raise our blood pressure, there’s no reason we need to consume it first thing in the morning.
2. Choose to use your calendar as an asset, not a liability.
Some people love a full daily calendar and think time flies when they’re busy.
Other people consider that their worst nightmare and prefer the bliss of starting their day with an empty calendar.
It doesn’t matter what you prefer, what matters is that you actively optimize your day for that which makes you feel good.
Doing so drastically increases the odds you’ll have a good day.
And while we all have some commitments we can’t re-arrange, most of us have more control of our calendar than we exercise.
3. Choose what you eat with purpose.
This is where you might expect me to tell you how important it is to eat healthy, how doing so will give you more energy, and how you’re more likely to have a better day if you eat kale than if you eat a cheeseburger.
I’m not going to tell you that because anybody who’s had a cheeseburger knows it will likely make you WAY happier than kale ever could.
Instead, I suggest you make your food choices based on what you enjoy— there’s value to eating a slice of pizza if you love it and there’s value to eating healthy because it makes you feel good.
Look for ways to incorporate foods that make you feel good — not guilty, gross, or unsatisfied — into your day.
Don’t eat crap because you’re too lazy to eat healthy when you know eating healthy makes you feel better.
And don’t go on a juice fast because you think it’s good for you even though it makes you miserable.
4. Choose to do the thing you love most.
Whatever it is you love to do, do it. Every day.
If it’s something you can’t do every day — like skiing when you don’t live near the slopes — find a way to incorporate it into your every day routine. Watch ski videos, chat on a ski-fan message board, plan your next ski trip, whatever.
Life’s too short to not do things we love on a daily basis.
(That’s why I work on my For The Interested newsletter every day.)
5. Choose to interact with people who have a positive outlook.
There are people in your world who radiate positivity and there are others who, well…not so much.
Focus on interacting with the people who make you feel better about the world as opposed to those who do the opposite.
Just because a co-worker likes to spend 20 minutes a day complaining about how stupid the company is, that doesn’t mean we have to give them 20 minutes of our time.
We can choose to spend our 20 minutes talking to another co-worker who’s excited about the project they’re working on, eager to learn from us, or happy to mentor us.
Pay attention to the conversations you find yourself in and the people you have them with — if they’re overly negative, find some new ones.
6. Choose to be selective with your social media use.
Besides changing our bad phone habits, we can also improve our day by being intentional with how we use social media.
When you check your Facebook feed, does it make you feel good or bad? Does it help you have a good day or prevent you from having one?
It’s not just about the time we spend on social media, but also about how we use it.
Does posting content to your account make you feel better than commenting or liking other people’s posts? Or does it make you feel more anxious?
Does Instagram make you feel happy and creative, but Twitter makes you feel like we’re in the apocalypse?
Social media isn’t inherently bad — a lot of good can come from it — but we have to be selective with when and how we use it. The more we do that online, the more likely we are to have a good day offline.
7. Choose to plan your day in a way that fits your personality type.
If you only do one thing after reading (and hopefully sharing!) this post, let it be this.
Consider whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert and plan your day accordingly.
If you’re an introvert, it’s going to be more difficult to have a good day if you’ve packed it with crowds of people and social situations.
And if you’re an extrovert, your recipe for a good day probably needs to include more than just time spent at a secluded beach by yourself.
The key to having a great day is to take into account what makes us happy and curate our inputs to emphasize those elements and limit our exposure to the things that drag us down.
Doing that won’t 100% guarantee us a great day, but it sure gives us a good shot at it.
One more thing…
If you found this post helpful, you’ll also enjoy my FOR THE INTERESTED newsletter.
It’s a weekly collection of 5 ideas to help you learn, do, and become better at your work, art, and life.