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You wake up in a funk, hear some bad news, or are having a rough day for any number of reasons. You try and try to overcome the negative thoughts before finally asking yourself, “Is it okay to just have a bad day?”
I’m so glad you asked because I’m here to offer you all the reasons why having a bad day is totally okay, normal, and can even be a good thing!
So, you’re having a bad day. Whether something happened or you just woke up in a funk for no clear reason, you’re in a bad mood that you just can’t shake.
Living in a world that glamorizes everything on social media can make us feel like having a bad day is something unacceptable.
“Just be positive.”
“Look on the bright side.”
“It’s never too late to turn your day around.”
These are all phrases that are all-too-often given in response to someone having a bad day. What if I told you that that’s B.S.? That “being positive” isn’t always the answer. That it’s totally 100% okay to have a bad day.
Is It Okay to Have a Bad Day?
Long answer short: yes.
It’s completely okay to have some bad days. We all do! Life is filled with highs and lows. Bad days come around and, although they can really suck, they are there for a reason.
Unfortunately, we live in a world obsessed with positivity and happiness. I know what you’re thinking… how is that a bad thing? Isn’t happiness and positivity good?
Yes and no. This happy-go-lucky outlook on life can cross the line into being unhelpful and damaging. When this happens, it’s often called “toxic positivity”.
How Toxic Positivity Affects Bad Days
Most likely, one of the reasons you’re even asking yourself “is it okay to have a bad day?” is because of the effects of toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity in psychology is defined as the belief that one should “have a positive mindset and exude only positive emotions and thoughts at all times, particularly when things are difficult” (Millacci, 2021).
This outlook can be incredibly damaging and harmful to all of us. As humans, it is entirely normal to experience negative emotions, have bad days, and feel less-than-amazing at times. Toxic positivity gets in our heads and makes us feel shame for not feeling happy 24/7.
Toxic Positivity May Sound Like:
- “Just be positive!”
- “Look on the bright side.”
- “Some people have it worse! Be grateful.”
- “Focus on the good.”
- “Good vibes only!”
- “Turn that frown upside down!”
All of these phrases are examples of potential signs of toxic positivity. When we hear things like this, we begin to feel guilt or shame for feeling negative – which we shouldn’t!
Negative emotions are valid, human, and normal. When they are dismissed with a response of toxic positivity, it can feel incredibly hurtful and damaging.
(Note: toxic positivity is also incredibly prominent on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. Happy-go-lucky videos/posts that glamorize and glorify life, touting positivity and happiness 24/7 are just not realistic.)
Below is an excellent podcast episode (from my favorite podcast) about the realities of happiness. Dr. Laurie Santos, a happiness expert and professor at Yale, offers real insight into happiness, toxic positivity, and more. Highly recommend giving it a listen if you are struggling with having bad days.
Let’s Talk About Having a Bad Day
So you’re having a bad day.
What does that mean? Does everyone have bad days? How many bad days are “normal”? Is it okay to have bad days? What should you do on a bad day?
All things we will talk about here. Stay with me.
What Is a “Bad Day”?
You think you’re having a bad day… but what even does that mean?
To be honest, I don’t think that anyone has a definitive answer here. Bad days, like most elements of your life, are highly personal to you. For some, a bad day may be the result of a negative event that, in turn, brings up negative emotions.
For others, a bad day may not be a result of any event. A bad day may just happen without any warning or explanation.
Some may argue that writing off a day as a “bad day” is precisely what makes it a bad day (a type of self-fulfilling prophecy).
Ultimately, your definition of a bad day is unique to you. Tune into your inner knowing and emotional cues for this answer.
All in all, I think a bad day can be understood most broadly as a day that is clouded by negative emotions and/or experiences.
Does Everyone Have Bad Days?
Yes! But, this is where the harm of toxic positivity starts to show. When we are constantly told, “just be positive!”, “good vibes only”, “no bad days!”, we start to feel like bad days are sinful.
Additionally, phrases encouraging toxic positivity can leave us feeling incredibly lonely on our bad days. We may feel like we are the only one that experiences these bad days when, in fact, we all have bad days – we just don’t often show them.
How Many Bad Days are “Normal”?
“Normal” is tough. What even is normal?
Your normal and my normal will look very different.
However, while it is normal to have some bad days, you may want to get a bit more curious about them if they are often recurring or persistent.
Lasting bad days can take a huge toll on your mental health and may be a sign of a larger underlying problem. Consider seeking therapy (I love TalkSpace for online therapy) or other forms of support.
Bad days are normal, yes. But recurring bad days may indicate a need for some support. No shame in that. You deserve to start seeing brighter days.
10 Reasons It’s Totally Okay to Have a Bad Day
Now that we know a bit more about bad days, let’s dive into the reasons why it’s completely normal and totally okay to have a bad day every once in a while!
1. Bad Days Lead to Growth
Bad days, while they may feel like they suck at the moment, can lead us to some of our greatest moments of growth.
Although bad days are not a “failure”, think of it like this: When you win a game or succeed at something, you feel wonderful – no doubt. It’s a very happy experience. But, when you lose a game or fail at something, you learn even more. That experience builds character.
Having a bad day is similar in that way.
We grow from moments of pain or perceived weakness. Bad days help us grow as individuals.
2. Bad Days Teach Us Resilience
To build on the previous point, bad days help us practice our “bounce back”.
No one gets through life unscathed. Whatever it may be (getting fired from a job, a bad divorce, a rejection letter from a college, financial struggle, a major life change, etc.), we can all expect to be knocked down at some point.
Bad days train us for these moments. Think of resilience like a muscle. The bad days that we have overcome have been working this muscle, preparing us to bounce back from moments of rejection, failure, or pain.
In this way, bad days are not only normal but incredibly helpful.
Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.-steve maraboli
3. Bad Days Strengthen Connections
Have you ever had a really bad day and you ended up relying on a loved one for some extra support?
How did your relationship change after that? Did you feel more connected? A stronger bond? Greater appreciation? An increase in trust?
My guess is yes!
Hard times help strengthen bonds and connections. When we practice vulnerability and authenticity, our relationships go beyond surface-level into deeper, more connective areas.
Bad days can be a push to take that step into vulnerability with a loved one. As a result, your relationship might reach levels it never has before.
4. Bad Days are Biologically Natural
On a deep, scientific level, we naturally have “good” and “bad” days. Our brain contains hormones that help determine our happiness levels. These are often called our “happy hormones“.
Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are our many happy hormones. These hormones promote positive emotions and feelings.
With that, it’s important to note that these hormones fluctuate for a huge variety of reasons. Weather, sleep, nutrition, digestion, connection, exercise, etc. are all external factors that affect these happy hormones (there are many more too!).
Mood-related hormones are deeply complex.
The key takeaway here is this: your happy hormones (as well as your stress hormones) will fluctuate day-to-day due to a variety of factors. Some of these factors are somewhat in your control (exercise, food, sleep, etc.) and others are entirely out of your hands.
Because of this, your mood will naturally ebb and flow. Some days will be happier than others. On those particularly unhappy days, you may chalk it up as being a “bad day” – which is natural to experience!
So, to answer your question, yes. It’s okay to have bad days. In fact, it’s completely normal and expected.
5. Bad Days Can Give Us Information
Many times, bad days give us some valuable insight into a larger issue. Of course, there are days that feel hard for no particular reason (maybe our happy hormones are low and we don’t even know it!), but oftentimes a bad day is a sign of something bigger.
For example, if you have been overworking yourself, you may find that you are experiencing an increase in “bad days”. This is your mind and body sending you information that you need to slow down and are approaching burnout. You may be in need of some rest, self-care, or time off.
Bad days can be a sign of many different things: a lack of sleep, an unhappy relationship, a toxic work environment, a lack of nutrients, a hormone imbalance, a mood disorder, etc.
It’s important that you view your bad days not from a critical lens, but from a place of compassion. See them as information from your mind and body. Where are you lacking and how can you balance your life out so you feel happier and more fulfilled?
6. Bad Days Remind You to Be Kind
When you are having a bad day, you may be reminded of the importance to be kind to others.
I know that when I am having a bad day, the smallest act of kindness from a stranger means the world to me. Just a simple smile or a genuine compliment can make a huge difference in bettering my bad day.
Bad days can be so tough.
We all experience them at different moments. Let your experience with bad days serve as a reminder to be kind to those around you always. You never know what someone else may be feeling, experiencing, or going through. A small act of kindness may be exactly what someone needs from you.
7. Bad Days Remind You to Cry
Does anyone else get so wrapped up in life that they forget to actually feel their feelings?
Having an occasional bad day is a great reminder of the importance of fully feeling our emotions. Being too busy can cause us to brush over our feelings without ever giving them the attention they deserve.
Specifically, crying on a bad day can be incredibly healing and therapeutic. Crying has many benefits for our health and overall wellbeing. Crying literally releases toxins from our body, lowers stress, aids in sleep, enhances mood, and relieves pain (Medical News Today).
If a bad day comes up, maybe it’s a sign that you need a good cry. Feel your feelings and express your emotions. There is zero shame in that.
8. Bad Days Teach Us About Emotions
In addition to reminding us to cry, bad days are a way to immerse ourselves in all kinds of human emotions: anger, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, defeat, shame, rage… the list goes on and on.
Having a bad day may serve as a sort of practice for experiencing a wide variety of emotions. These emotions are intended to be felt and are part of what makes us human.
Challenge: On your next bad day, take a moment to really uncover the deep emotions behind your bad day. Don’t stop at “sad” or “angry”. Go deep. Identify exactly what it is you are feeling. This can help you get used to recognizing and experiencing a larger variety of emotions.
9. Bad Days Happen to Everyone
Even that happy-go-lucky Instagram influencer and the TV star you idolize. We all have bad days and hard seasons of life.
If you are ever feeling alone in these moments, wondering if it’s okay to have a bad day, consider looking into the stories of others. Many celebrities have opened up about mental health struggles and/or hard phases of life.
Sometimes hearing about shared experiences from people you idolize can help make you feel less alone on your bad days.
10. Bad Days Make You Appreciate Good Days
Without experiencing bad days, good days would lose their spark, right? Without bad days, “good days” would just be “days”. Right?
I always think of this like Christmas (or any other holiday you may celebrate and love!). If Christmas happened every single day, that one day each year wouldn’t feel as special. Similarly, if every day was excellent, it wouldn’t feel like they were excellent. It would just feel “normal”.
You gotta have the bad days so you can love the good days even more.– unknown
It’s true. Bad days help to give us the perspective that makes the good days feel even better. This is one of the reasons that I don’t like when people push toxic positivity and suggest that every bad day neds to be turned into a good day.
Bad days on their own are valuable. Without them, the good days would not feel as special.
5 Small Things to Do If You’re Having a Bad Day
Now that we know that bad days are okay, normal, and actually valuable, we can start to discuss small ways we may be able to cope with bad days. Bad days don’t necessarily need to be “fixed” or avoided. However, there are some small things you can do on a bad day to make the day feel a little easier.
1. Acknowledge the Bad Day
First things first, stop trying to fight the bad day away. This may be tempting (thanks, toxic positivity messages), but resisting a bad day can sometimes just make things worse.
If you tried to turn your day around and are having no luck, try to just lean into the bad day. Maybe even have a laugh about it. Take the pressure off of yourself to make your bad day “better” and just accept it for what it is.
Bad days happen. Do what you can to get through it. Tomorrow is a new day.
As mentioned above, a bad day is often a sign of a bigger issue. For me, 9 times out of 10, my bad day is a result of fatigue, burnout, or overwhelm. On bad days, I know that my mind, body, and soul need one main thing: rest.
If you are having a bad day, offer yourself some grace and give yourself the option to rest. Maybe even treat yourself to something specific that feels restful to you.
Take a nap, have a self-care shower, read a good book, meditate, take yourself on a date… do something that relaxes your mind and body. You deserve rest and self-care always.
3. Go Back to the Basics
Did you get enough sleep?
Have you eaten today?
How much water have you had?
Have you been outside today? Gotten some fresh air?
On a bad day, sometimes the most helpful thing is the most basic thing. Go back to your basic human needs and tend to those first.
It may sound silly but it’s so easy to forget to deeply care for all our basic needs. Take it back to the basics today. Care for yourself and see if you can ease some of the discomforts of your bad day.
4. Do Things That Feel Good
There are SO many mood-boosting activities that you can try out on your bad day. (Again, you’re not necessarily trying to get rid of the bad day… just trying to ease the discomfort. Self-care!). Check out this post on 100 things to do on a bad day for some ideas.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Above all, be kind to yourself on your bad days. Grant yourself unconditional permission to feel your feelings. Having a bad day is not shameful. You do not need to “be positive” all the time.
Bad days happen. You are human. Allow yourself the grace to have days that feel a bit harder.
Don’t beat yourself up over having a bad day. That will only make it worse. Show yourself love, kindness, and compassion – today and always.
It’s Okay to Have a Bad Day.
You are not broken. You are not alone.
Bad days hit us all. Some days are harder than others. This is all a part of being beautifully, authentically human.
On the good days, celebrate. On the bad days, lean on your support system, show yourself love, and care for yourself deeply.
You will get through this. Here for you!
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