14 different ways to overcome your unproductive bad days

By Vivek | Productivity

Aug 25

We have our good days and our bad days. And inevitably, we are less productive on days we are feeling down. Nothing new there. On such depressing days, where you just want to be a couch potato and brood, it’s natural to want to get into a better mood.

I’ve been through my fair share of good and bad days and I’ve also observed the different ways many people handle it. Today I thought of sharing some of the interesting ways we can overcome our own negativities in order to get back on track at being at our best.

The simple idea behind being at our best is that our mind opens up. According to positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, having positive emotions broadens our minds. It works on the momentary “thought-action” repertoire – which translates into – discarding automatic responses while looking at creative, flexible and unpredictable ways of thinking.

Instead of going into the same patterns of thoughts and feelings, we discover new ways of interpreting the same situation. This serves to broaden our perspectives which then helps us to build important and lasting physical, social, intellectual and psychological resources.

Now imagine you learn to implement this theory when you’re having a bad day at work. By understanding the power of positive emotions you are more likely to co-operate with your team members at work and complete tasks at hand.

Given that we all have different preferences, I’ve categorised 14 different ways that you can get yourself back on your feet in five key categories – Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Kinaesthetic and Olfactory.

1.YouTube Videos

If you watch YouTube regularly, you’re bound to have some people you follow religiously. When you’re feeling down, you always have the option of viewing videos of your favourite stand up comedian or motivational speaker.

Just do a search and see who are the different people that speak to you. Which of these people really pushes your buttons? Who can make you laugh and who really inspires you from their talks? Make a list of these people as and when you come across them and binge watch their videos when you’re feeling down.

2. Movies

Movies have been a really helpful way for me to combat bad days as well. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a whole list of movies that I found were really inspirational.

Movies like Real Steel and Rush are some of those that inspired me when I watched them in theatres. Revisiting them every once in a while definitely helps in getting me back in the grind.

Other genres in the movie that help me get back on my feet are movies that I can binge watch like a TV series. Think Harry Potter series or Lord of the Ring series. It helps you to forget what you’re really stressed about and you get to watch about 7-8 movies back to back. That prevents the sinking feeling you typically get after watching just one movie.

3. Music

If you’re more of an auditory person than a visual one, then it would be better for you to create a motivational songs playlist. It could have songs that talk on a variety of topics under this genre – such as songs for resilience – Titanium by Sia or songs for celebration – Can’t hold us by Mackelmore. Find out what songs really give you the morale boost whenever you need it.

4. Podcasts

Many can relate to songs to lift their mood but very few I know listen to podcasts. Maybe it may not relate emotionally to many so songs may but it still proves to be one of the ways we can pick ourselves up. Some of these podcasts even contain guided meditations that help you address the challenges you have. One of my favourite apps that I go to when I get really stressed is Mindfulness.


If you’re not too visual or auditory in nature, then maybe having something more philosophical can help to ease your pains. Create a habit of collecting quotes that you relate really well to and keep them handy whenever you’re feeling down. It can be as simple as having a Motivational Quotes folder in your computer or phone. Personally I love quotes by Rumi the poet. They are spiritual in nature and tend to be poetic. Quotes serve as good reminders to us especially when we are feeling down. It’s a good way to get back up on our feet.

6. Blogs

If you’re an avid reader, then I probably don’t have to suggest this and the following tip to you. Having a list of bookmarks of your favourite bloggers is another way to get around brooding. Authors have the ability to paint the picture in a different light and even reframe situations for us. A different way at look at things can certainly be refreshing when you’ve not been privy to it. My favourite blogs that I read every once in a while are of Tim Ferriss, Derek Sivers and Mark Manson. They definitely have a style of writing worth emulating but more importantly, they always have a different way of looking at things.

7. Books

If you read blogs, then it goes without saying that you will be able to find solace in reading books as well. Sometimes, they work better than movies because a good story can really pull you in. It’s kind of like a semi-hypnosis, where you forget your problems for a while and dive deep into their world. I have a habit of scribbling in all the books I own – to note different thoughts or metaphors or anything I like basically – so I am able to refer to all the stars and underlined sentences to remind myself of empowering thoughts and mindsets I should keep up.

8. Journalling

Tactile: If you’ve found comfort through writing, then keeping a journal would be a good idea. It is, actually, if one has the discipline to do it. I’ve had sporadic times of writing throughout my life. Somehow I become more reflective towards my birthday and then become lazy as times go by. That’s not a good way to manage emotions. It’s more useful to write consistently so that it can have that cathartic effect on you.

9. Gratitude Jars

This is also somewhat tactile – because a gratitude jar is where you keep all your positive comments, feedback, notes, etc somewhat like a piggy bank. All the good stuff that happened to you goes in there. It could be a letter, a post card, a post-it note. Just keep collecting them. It’s good to practice this habit of collecting the good stuff you’re appreciated for so that you can look through them when you’re down. Trust me, it’s a morale boost for sure.

10. Comfort Food

After Visual, Auditory and Tactile means of overcoming stress, we can also look into Olfactory methods – using smell and taste as well. Chocolates can be wonderful anti-depressants and so can other yummy, delicious food. If you haven’t already, make a list of your favourite food and favourite food joints that you would love to visit to indulge yourself. From Ice Cream to Chocolate Cakes, tell yourself you deserve to treat yourself better on days you’re feeling down. Even if the world may be against you, you should always be there for you, right? Go ahead, buy that cheesecake and enjoy it – guilt free!

11. Essential Oils

Now if by any chance you are diabetic or you can’t resort to comfort foods to overcome your melancholy, why not invest in some essential oils or scented candles. There are many out there which can lift your spirits. I’ve come across many life coaches that swear by essential oils/scented candles because it helps them be more creative, energised or awake etc. Go out there and experiment with the different smells. Have one for celebrating success and one for consoling ‘failure’. One of the strongest senses amongst the five is the sense of smell. Use it wisely.

12. Exercise Workouts

Another way to overcome negativity is to get moving. If you’re the kinaesthetic type that loves to move and have your adrenaline pumping to remove the bad vibes, why not join some exercise workouts. Today there are so many classes available to the public like Zumba, Yoga, HIIT etc. Or you can also get grooving by dancing. It has been proven that the way you carry your body influences the way you feel. While it may be awkward to consciously change your body language for long periods of time, exercise routines or dance routines can help you overcome negativity in a jiffy.

13. Online Communities

Thanks to the Internet, we have a lot more communities out there that help people find the groups where they can really belong. These are online communities that have been created to provide an environment of positivity. Join groups that are dedicated to inspiration and motivation. Join groups that talk about the thing you’re really passionate about. These groups are self thriving because people are constantly engaged in it. You can find these groups in Facebook, LinkedIn etc. You can even subscribe to email lists for your regular dose of inspiration and motivation. It never hurts to get more good stuff given the crazy amount of negativity that’s out there.

14. Friends/Network/Mentors

Last but not least, you can always look out for the important people in your life. Those people who can inevitably make you feel better just by talking to them. Because they care. They can be the funniest people in the Universe or the best listeners in the whole wide world. Whatever the case, if none of the above works, then you can always go to them. While you might not have access to them on-demand, having strong and warm relationships definitely help in boosting one’s morale. I know I’ve felt grateful many times in realising that there are a number of people I can call at 4am to meet me if I’m ever going through a meltdown.

So that’s it. Fourteen ways to overcome unproductive bad days.

Pro Tip: To organise all these ideas, download the EverNote app and create an EverNote Folder to collect all the different ideas that will pop up every now and then. And you’re good to go! A complete toolset to refer to when you’re not having your best days.

What have I missed? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add to this. Let’s make this number as big as we can, shall we?