6 ways to turn around a bad day

Everyone has had a day that's started out on the wrong foot. How do you turn your negativity around from the get-go?

The easiest way is through positive thinking, according to the Harvard Business Review. "Studies show that when you're positive, you're 31 percent more productive, you're 40 percent more likely to receive a promotion, you have 23 percent fewer health-related effects from stress and your creativity rates triple," said Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.

Amy Gallo, author of the HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work, offers six tips for improving a bad day.

1. Identify the problem. Pinpoint the issue causing you stress as soon as possible, and be aware of your emotional state. Doing so will give you ample time to fix the problem. But be sure your reasoning is specific. "Having a concrete reason for your unhappiness gives you something to work on," wrote Ms. Gallo.

2. Pause — and be grateful. "There are neuroimaging studies that show it's almost impossible to be in a depressed state and grateful at the same time," Mr. Achor told Ms. Gallo. When you start feeling negative or stressed, think about three things you're grateful for, and write them down or say them aloud.

3. Take action. Taking simple steps to better your attitude can drastically improve the rest of your day. Mr. Achor recommends making a phone call you've been putting off or eating a piece of fruit rather than a candy bar. If the action you take benefits someone else, the positive effects you feel will be even stronger.

4. Switch up your routine. Changing your surroundings — whether by going for a walk or even by working in a different area in your office — can improve your mood. "A change of scenery often helps signal to your brain that the current mood doesn't need to be sustained," wrote Ms. Gallo. Listening to a podcast or reading the news can also give your brain a break. However, it is important to be cautious about what you choose. A recent study showed hearing negative news can make you feel even worse.

5. Set realistic expectations. "A lot of bad days start when you have unrealistic expectations about what you can accomplish," wrote Ms. Gallo. Start your day by creating realistic expectations for yourself. If things get off track, don't despair; instead, take note of the progress you've made. Write a list of things you've accomplished as well as a few attainable goals for the rest of your day.

6. Learn from your bad days. Rather than immediately putting a bad day behind you, reflect on what went wrong and what you can do to fix it next time. "Learn what your triggers are so you stay away from those particular stimuli or at least know how you're likely to react if you're triggered," Annie McKee, PhD, founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute, told Ms. Gallo. Take note of consecutive bad days as well — a bunch of bad days in a row could be the result of a bigger problem in your personal life.

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