3 Steps to Make a Bad Day Good

“To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” ~Chuang-Tzu

The beauty of life is that we constantly have the opportunity to change it.

We always have the power to recreate it. We can change our thoughts, remember how to live instead of planning each moment, forgive the past, be present for the now, slow down the speed, and push the reset button on a day that has escaped us.

I recently had one of those days.

This past Saturday was wonderful, or so I thought it would be when I woke up.

I’d been invited to a traditional Cambodian, Vietnamese Wedding, and was excited to attend. Although I didn’t know the bride or the groom, I would be the guest of a good friend.

I had a couple of mishaps that morning that caused me to be late. First, I spent thirty minutes with my younger sister, peeling a wad of gum off the heels she’d borrowed from me the night before—the ones I planned to wear to the wedding in the next hour.

I half-sprinted without make-up to my car, holding a coffee that later spilled all over the front seat.

I arrived to the ceremony fifteen minutes late. I quickly made my way toward the front door of the home. A room full of women in vibrant, traditional Asian clothing greeted me inside.

I introduced myself to a couple as a guest of Sophya, a good friend of mine. They just looked at me blankly, perhaps unsure who she was, and didn’t really respond.

I made my way to the nearby couch where a small group of kids were playing to wait for Sophya there. After getting lost in Legos for twenty minutes, I heard Sophya calling me from another room.

Insistently, she called, “Cat! Cat, you’re not supposed to be in here. Where’s your purse? Grab it.”

Apparently, I was inside the “bride’s home,” but I was a guest on the groom’s side. Traditionally, the groom and his guests are not allowed into the home until they are invited and accepted in.

We made our way outside and the ceremony began shortly after. It was beautiful—a procession toward the front door with the groom’s family and friends, carrying gift offerings wrapped in bright red wrapping, symbolizing prosperity.

I decided to take off the coat I’d been wearing all morning. That’s when Sophya told me that my dress was on backward. I looked down. It wasn’t on backward, but it was inside out—tags hanging out on one side and the back.

Quite embarrassed, I quickly made my way to the bathroom and re-dressed. I came out, stood for about another three minutes, attempting to re-present myself to the ceremony, when I heard a woman from behind me:

“Excuse me, excuse me. I don’t want you to get cold. Your dress—there are three buttons that aren’t buttoned.”

At that point, I would’ve simply loved to bury my head somewhere and remain there for the next week.  Sophya, the gentle, sweet person that she is, quietly laughed, smiled, and then buttoned me up.

While recapping the morning, in hindsight, the day was just a comedy of errors. But at the time it was one frustrating and embarrassing occurrence after another.

I imagine we all have our versions of days like this: the ones that seem to begin a bit “off” and then somehow spiral into a sequence of mishaps.

Here are the three things to remember when everything goes wrong:


After the eventful Saturday morning I had experienced, I told myself that I could either be completely mortified, allowing a few hours to influence the remainder of the day, or I could simply acknowledge the lesson and then reset.

I turned on my favorite CD, let the music absorb me, and made my way to see my baby sister. Something about a one-year old’s carefree world and kind smile can always reset me.

We are each so powerful in our ability to completely change how we feel this very moment.

We can escape the pursuits of tomorrow, the clinging of negative thoughts, the spiraling of worry that creates fear. We can escape negativity and embarrassment and get out of a funk when we give ourselves the choice to do so.

What resets do you have? Perhaps a long walk outside? Or a yoga class to help you center? Or a phone call to a friend for encouragement? Or a visit to your favorite blog? Or a quote that puts things back in perspective?  Or a picture that reminds you of all the abundance you have?

Can you remind yourself to use these resets when experiencing moments of spiraling?

Drop It

I’ve adopted the mantra of “drop it like it’s hot” whenever thoughts of fear or negativity try to seep in. Perhaps a bit silly, but it works.

Our fearful thoughts can take an event that seemed bad and draw it out way longer than necessary. It’s amazing how this type of thinking can actually create more events that seem bad.

It is natural and common for our thoughts to wander from one instance to the next. Our thoughts can either carry us to a place of hope, motivation, and excitement, or to a place of frustration, worry, and resentment.

We have the ability to choose to drop those thoughts that don’t serve us. We can liberate ourselves from fear by choosing to let go of stories about what happened in the past.

Next time your fear-based thoughts take over, ask yourself, “Which thoughts are interrupting the flow of my day?” Then drop it like it’s hot.


No matter what changes in our external setting, the gift we have inside is always unwavering.

When circumstances in our day seem to become scattered and our day has completely escaped us, perhaps it has. But that’s just what’s going on outside us.

We can center by bringing ourselves back to this very moment with our breath. Take a moment to just be here, to connect with the now.

Breathe out all of the imperfections of today and breathe in the ability to find clarity in resetting.

Use the breath as a reminder to revel in this moment. At any time, we can choose to make adjustments, adapt, and reset.  We always have the ability to choose to be at ease.

Next time you have one of those days when everything seems to wrong, remember: Reset. Drop. And breathe.

Photo by Shaylor.

About Cat Li Stevenson

Cat is an explorer of the human journey and a lover of well-being. She is living and practicing at an urban Zen Center in San Francisco, and working for Wisdom 2.0, an organization that strives to bring wisdom and awareness into the digital age. You can add her as a friend on FB or find her writing on Medium.

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  • Breathing helps. Even though it is a simple method but it works. A good deep breath can help us to reset our mind.


  • Deb

    Thank you! I needed that today! 🙂

  • Sarah

    This is excellent. Thanks for sharing your experience and what works for you! I use “Drop It” quite a bit, picturing a dog who is obsessing on a bone who hears his masters voice and just like that…he drops it.

  • Akpeacegirl

    Wonderful, beautiful words…..I’m storing this lesson to use frequently.

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Vincent~ Breathing is such a gift. Thanks for the comment. Cheers to you!

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Akpeacgirl~ I’m so glad you found this helpful! Simple reminders for those chaotic days we all experience 🙂

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Sarah~ Yes! Great analogy. It helps to be commanding to ourselves when we’re aware that the presence of fear-based thoughts need to be quickly dismissed. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Glad to helpful, Deb 🙂

  • Mountaingal_27

    This is exactly what I needed today! Thank u!

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Mountaingal_27~ Have a great rest of your day! Enjoy 🙂

  • Red_girl_42

    I love this image! I’m going to start using it for myself. Let’s see what a “good dog” I can be. 🙂

  • This article definitely is something I have to practice. I feel so awkward when one embarrassing thing leads to another.

    However, I learned that many people don’t mind and even if they do, it’s temporary.

    I could relate to the drop technique because we have 100% control to how we react to any particular situation. We have the ability to drop whatever is weighing us down.

    Many thanks for the article. It reminded me that I have ultimate control over my reactions!


  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Hi Matt~ You’re right that often the stories we create surrounding these awkward moments are usually amplified in our heads–and the perception from others is usually less intense than what we make of it.

    I’m so glad you can relate to the drop technique. It’s awesome to know that we have full control of quickly getting rid of any self-defeating thoughts.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


  • Dear Cat.

    I so like your term “reset” as naming it really gives us so much permission to actually do it! Thank you.

    Also I have a similar tactic to your “Drop It” from a Bob Newhart skit “Stop It.” It is hilarious and whenever I say “stop it” to myself I have a smile and know it’s just what I need. I’m including the link for your viewing pleasure.

    Thanks for the reminder to connect with the sacred space within.

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Hi Susie~ Thank you for sharing your gratitude and the Bob Newhart video with us. I’ll have to check it out 🙂

    I love reading about everyone’s different “versions” of their “drop it”–so cool that we each have own powerful and unique techniques!


  • Whimsy

    Resetting to me promotes self forgiveness. I am human, I make mistakes. I used to dwell on them. Now I accept myself as imperfect, yet exactly where I am supposed to be and who I am meant to be, with growth always part of the process. Thanks for the helpful article.

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Whimsy~ I love that: “Resetting to me promotes self forgiveness”.

    I fully agree that when events go unplanned, it is simply a lesson or opportunity to further evolve. And that imperfections are simply a part of the human experience; it’s what allows us to learn more about ourselves and grow in the process.

    Thank you for sharing your introspective thoughts 🙂

  • tammy

    ahh, if only i can get these steps ingrained in my parents’ heads

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  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Morning, Tammy~ This is a big lesson I’ve had to learn, in order to make peace with myself: We can only control our own thoughts and perceptions.

    In the past, I’ve always liked to be ‘in control’, as I thought I could protect myself from hurt this way. I’m surrounded by family that worries endlessly, but it’s been a positive shift to simply let go of the need to change anyone or anything.

    Good luck with the folks 🙂

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  • the lazy guru

    Know that good and bad thoughts are just thoughts. They are subject to change and all things come to and end. I repeat these three things in my head and I feel my a load of my shoulders. Suddenly things around me are full of color and detail I had never seen before.


  • Cat Li Stevenson

    the lazy guru~What a beautiful visual I just received!

    Your awareness holds so much truth: We create our reality. We tell the stories. Our perceptions, our thoughts “are subject to change and all things come to and end.”

    Namaste 🙂 Wishing you a wonderful Saturday.


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  • Great article, Cat. I’m following you on Twitter now! Although I don’t meditate, I do practice what you describe here. I live a simple, tranquil life. 🙂 Regards from Cancun,Mexico.

  • Thank you thank you thank you for this!

    I’m a stay-at-home mama, and I find myself spiralling ALL.THE.TIME. Especially when I don’t get enough sleep. And, of course, when I get upset it doesn’t just affect me, it affects my poor 2 year old, which makes everything worse (spiralling plus guilt equals MORE spiraIling). I caught myself doing it today, and I had to remember…BREATHE. LET IT GO. And it worked!

    I’m saving this post to come back to again…and again…and again…

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Meg~ Oh your comment makes me happy! The fact that you actually applied it and it worked.
    Our minds are so, so powerful–and it seems that these life situations can easily have a more positive outcome–when we learn how to simply adjust, as needed.

    I used to be a pro at spiraling…just ask my husband (*smile*)….and then I became self-aware like you mentioned above.

    I realized I had a choice in the matter. Instead of turning inward to look at my frustration directly, acknowledge it, and let go, I would start searching for other things to get upset about … external things, like the messy room or the unpaid bills, etc. So I can certainly relate!

    Thanks so much for sharing, Meg. Best to you and your family 🙂


  • Kam

    I too, wish to extend my gratitude for these thoughts. These are fantastic strategies that I can definitely implement into my day to help me stay the course of the self-awareness journey I’m on.

  • Try as I do sometimes I just can’t get out of my own way and let go of negative stuff. This is good info
    to move ahead with.

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Ellen~ We all get in our own way at times. At least you’re self-aware and are open to dropping the illegitimate negative stuff 🙂 Thank you for sharing and wishing you a wonderful Monday!

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Hi Kam~ Appreciate the comment.

    Cheers to your self-awareness journey…I’ve just began mine not too long ago, too 🙂

    The unfolding process has been an amazing journey: every day there is something to learn or a way to expand.

    Love to you,


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  • skitobe

    I appreciated the humor in your story along with good daily advice. Especially the “We can center by bringing ourselves back to this very moment with our breath. Take a moment to just be here, to connect with the now.” Remembering to practice breathing and being in the ‘Now” is something I continually work on. Thank you for the fun story excellent reminder.

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Skitobe~ That’s wonderful you’re so conscious about working on your breath to ground yourself in the present 🙂 Thank you for the comment. Enjoy every moment today. ~Cat

  • ts really interesting article.Expect some articles like this.
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  • Very nice post!


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  • Joy

    I’ve used similar methods or tips with my daughter (now aged 12) when she was still a toddler and would start to get cranky or upset. Only that instead of “reset, drop and breathe,” it was “stop, breathe in, think!” I got it from the kiddie show Blue’s Clues when Steve would ask the kids to solve the puzzle in the show. It always worked with my daughter since she loved Blue’s Clues! 🙂

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  • Lv2terp

    WONDERFUL article and tips!! 🙂

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  • Hadzory

    Or you can use Good & Bad Day app. It’s free in appstore

  • Katherine Montes

    Great article!.. Same topic i just read a while ago. Its Nik Halik’s Blog! How to turn your bad day around for the better. Here’s the link -Hope this will help too..

  • Indeed.. Thanks for the post.. I’m having a good day! Reset. Drop. And breathe. COPY and PASTE into my mind!!!!^__^
    -Think of one thing to be grateful also..Read here – great blog!

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