A woman sits at a table with her head leaning against her arm and looks down

6 Simple Ways to Rebound from a Down Day

By Kaitlin Vogel
February 16, 2023

Everyone has an off day every once in a while. Maybe a dream you had put you in a bad mood from the moment you woke up, or everything from your wardrobe options to your breakfast cereal seem uninspiring and just downright blah. You feel down in the dumps and wish you could hit a reset button—but you’re not entirely sure why.

If you’re in the midst of a down day right now, you’ve come to the right place. Here are six science-backed strategies that may help you lift your spirits and remind you that there is a brighter tomorrow.

1. Think About Wants Versus Needs

When a bad day strikes, you may start questioning why you feel this way or immediately start looking for solutions to your negative emotions. Instead, listen and be attuned to your needs in the moment—not necessarily to “fix” how you're feeling or distract yourself from it, but to find a greater sense of calm and comfort.

Michele Goldman, Psy.D., a psychologist and adviser to the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, suggests pausing and sitting with the question: “What is it that my body needs or wants right now?” And from there, Goldman says, think deeply about what will actually be helpful.

Practicing mindfulness by tuning in to your bodily senses and thoughts can help improve your mood. Even if it feels uncomfortable initially, observing any emotions and sensations you’re feeling without judgment may help you shift your day in a more positive direction. And you may discover that while your first thought was to spend the day zoning out on the couch, taking a walk instead will actually make you feel better.

2. Build a Meaningful Go-To Box

Sometimes, having tangible reminders of better days makes it easier to adopt a sunnier mindset. Research suggests that reflecting on happy and meaningful memories can evoke happy feelings.

Curating a collection of items that bring you joy—or at least make you smile—allows you to keep those good feelings at your fingertips. Your feel-better box can include pictures, cards, notes, trinkets, or even printed-out emails from a supervisor complimenting you on your hard work, or a meaningful message from a friend. It can be small items that have significance that only you will understand.

“Having a box like this can help lift your mood, remind you that people appreciate you and care about you, and connect you to others when you might not be near them,” Goldman says. “If you don’t have something like this, it can help to build it when you’re down. Start by looking through old photos and find the ones that make you smile.”

If you find you don’t have the energy to put together a whole collection of items, find just one and reflect on what it means to you.

3. Change Your Physical Environment

Sometimes, you need to physically alter your space in order to feel a bit better. Look around you and try to identify one quick change you can take to reset your environment for greater calm and comfort.

Can you spend five minutes tidying up to reduce clutter and, as a result, cut back some of your stress? Can you leave your phone in the next room? Goldman suggests other small changes like opening the blinds to let more natural light in or turning off your phone ringer if you still need to have your device nearby.

4. Smile—Even If You Have to Fake It

Cracking a smile may be the last thing on your mind when you’re just trying to get through a down day. Yet research suggests that the simple act of grinning may push your mind into a more positive state.

No, you don’t need to fake happiness, but by challenging yourself to smile—by watching a show or a TikTok account that makes you chuckle, looking at a picture that never fails to bring you joy, or texting a laugh-a-minute friend—you may just find yourself in a more emotionally positive state of mind.

5. Buy a New Houseplant

Having a houseplant near your desk, in your living room, or on your nightstand can do more for your well‑being than you may think. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology suggests that interacting with indoor plants may reduce physiological and psychological stress and contribute to feeling more comfortable and soothed.

Head to your local nursery or reposition a plant you already own so it’s in your line of sight. Spend some time trimming, watering, and admiring its beauty.

6. Take a Bath

Yes, baths are a clichéd self-care strategy touted by every influencer and wellness magazine, but research suggests that taking a bath can actually be a quick way to boost your mood. Taking a little tub time may help change up your routine when you’re not feeling your best, lower stress and tension, and lead to a sense of physical refreshment.

Take this as a sign to light a candle, turn on some relaxing music, and grab your favorite bath salts, if you so please. Relax, unwind, and remind yourself that even the most down day will pass.

You May Also Like: