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A Simple Fix to a Bad Day

LeeAnna King

Young african american woman meditating in nature

Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? Or maybe you feel irritable for unknown reasons and you can’t shake the feeling.  Marsha Linehan, the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and her team created a skill called Opposite Action that can help turn a bad day around.

Opposite Action is exactly like it sounds: you’re doing the opposite of what your current emotion is telling you to do. With irritability for example, your tone of voice sounds different, your patience with every day inconveniences are shorter, and you feel on edge. Even the way we talk to ourselves sounds saltier than normal. Opposite action on those bad days can take many forms, but here’s a few things to try:

  1. Use a softer voice tone– imagine the way you talk to a close friend when they’re having a bad day and apply that to how you talk to yourself. When you’re kind and understanding to yourself, it’s easier to extend that same kindness to those around you.
  2. Pay attention to how your body feels– do you notice a tightness in your shoulders, neck, or face? Do a quick body scan throughout the day and relax those areas that are holding tension.
  3. Do a random act of kindness– on those bad days, it’s easy to feel angry at the world. Acknowledge that feeling for what it is and avoid trying to “should” it away (“I shouldn’t feel this way”). Once you’ve done that, use opposite action- send a thoughtful text to a friend, buy donuts for the office, or pay for someone’s order in the drive through. It feels good to do something nice for someone else.

Play around with opposite action to figure out what works best for you. Some days are harder than others, but optimism is a choice and a learned skill. We can’t control what life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to it. Opposite action is a learned skill that can help you bounce back quicker from those tough days.

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