In my therapy groups, I sometimes do an exercise where people write about bad days, good days, and the differences. I don’t have the actual worksheet with me as I’m writing this post, so here’s an approximation of it:
Bad Day/Good Day Worksheet
- Write about a bad day (including details about thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, etc.) You can describe a specific bad day or bad days, in general.
- Write about a good day (including details about thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, etc.) You can describe a specific good day or good days, in general.
- What do you notice about the differences between a good day and a bad day, for you?
Right now, I can’t figure out how to insert spaces between the questions, above, and still keep the numbered formatting the way I want it.
Hmmmm. I wonder if that would be an indication of a bad day or a good day for me?
Maybe it would be helpful to jot down some answers to that Bad Day/Good Day worksheet, right now.
Answer #1. A bad day.
When I’m having a bad day, I tend to feel isolated, alone, helpless, powerless, and with much less hope about the future. I am usually focusing less on the moment and more on worries about the future and/or regrets about the past. I am judging myself and others, with disappointment. No matter what is happening around me, things look dark and flat. Joy is absent. I tend to isolate. I assume that people are seeing me in a negative way, or sometimes I feel invisible. Nothing seems to matter.
Some lyrics that capture my experience of a bad day:
People are strange, when you’re a stranger,
Faces look ugly, when you’re alone…
Streets are uneven, when you’re down…
No one remembers your name
When you’re strange.*
(I’m guessing that Jim Morrison had some bad days, people.)
Answer #2. A good day.
When I’m having a good day, I’m much more in the moment, accepting of where I am, where other people are, and of everything that happens. I’m a lot less self-critical and I have faith that whatever comes along, I will figure things out, well enough. I am not mind-reading what people are thinking about me or if I am, I recognize that I’m doing that, and I let those thoughts go. When worries or regrets come into my mind, I recognize those for what they are, and let them go, as soon as I can.
I feel freer about expressing all the different parts of myself, including goofiness (e.g., singing out loud when I’m walking down the street), sadness (e.g., if somebody is leaving), whatever. I am more aware of the choices I have, in every moment, and I recognize that it’s okay to make mistakes in my choices, because I can continue to choose and improve a situation.
I’m more aware of my accomplishments, and less focused on mistakes and What I’m NOT Doing.
While cognitive distortions — like all-or-nothing thinking or shoulds — may still creep in to my thoughts (because I’m human), I’m much better at spotting them, naming them, and ….
Answer #3. The differences between a bad day and a good day.
For me, often the differences have to do with my internal interpretation of what’s going on out there.
Obviously, some days are going to be worse, because of events we can’t control. (What’s coming to mind, right now, is the day this year when my son had a collapsed lung.) (And, of course, April 15th, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.)
And some days are going to be naturally better, like two weeks ago today, when I gave a really good presentation about group therapy at work.
However, in most cases, how I interpret, internally, what’s going on out there, is key. Often, it’s everything.
I’m thinking about a day I had last week. It was “one of those days” where everything was going wrong in the morning. It was important for me to get to work on time, and no matter what choices I made, there were obstacles, some of them unexpected and improbable.
However, because I was in an accepting and hopeful place that day — aware of my options and feeling competent enough — none of these obstacles were bothering me.
Over the two years I’ve been working at this job, I’ve had the time and experience to develop a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C for getting to work on time. This day, I had gone to Plan C, which involved driving directly to a parking lot near work, where I would need to pay some serious parking $$, but I had decided it was worth it.
And as I was approaching the finish line of my drive to work, it looked like I was going to make it on time, with even some time to spare. I was feeling pretty smug, I have to say.
Then, just as I was about to enter the parking garage ….
… the gate broke.
The automatic gate (similar to that one, above) which allows cars to enter the lot, suddenly stopped working.
Another car had just entered. But when I pressed the button to get a ticket and lift the gate, nothing happened.
Now, this would be the perfect set up, for me, to freak out. It had all the necessary Freak Out Elements:
- Possible lateness.
- Disappointing somebody.
- A machine breaking, for cripe’s sake.
- Why (only) ME???
However, I didn’t freak out, at all. Instead …
I thought it was absurd. And funny.
REALLY???** The friggin’ gate broke? Just when I thought I had made it??
And I stayed in the moment. And I realized that somebody must be nearby, who could help me.
I looked around and spotted somebody, in the distance, who looked like he worked at the parking lot. I yelled something, to get his attention, and then realized he already had noticed the situation.
Then, things got “worse” (if I had been interpreting things that way). That is, that person didn’t have what he needed to fix the gate. He contacted somebody else, who didn’t have the correct key, who contacted somebody else, who did.
But i still thought this was funny.
How is that possible?
Well, I was on guard for my typical types of unhelpful thoughts (e.g., imagining the dire consequences if I were late, including the possible ire of the person I was meeting). And I was batting those thoughts away, immediately.
I was also staying in touch with the options I had (e.g., calling the person) and letting go of perfectionism (“You don’t have to be exactly on time, Ann!”)
And eventually, the gate lifted.
And as the Man With The Right Key was writing out my entry time on a parking ticket, I asked, smiling (because I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask), “Do you think I could get a break on the fee, because of the inconvenience?”
And he smiled back and said, “We’ll see what we can do.”
I got to my meeting on time.
My parking fee was reduced.
And it was a great day, people.
Thanks to Jim Morrison, Betty Boop, Lorena Marie, and to you, for reading today (no matter what kind of day it is).
* “People are Strange,” by the Doors.
** “REALLY???” is also a “shout-out” to The Culture Monk, a blogger I’ve been reading lately.