How to Beat a Terrible, Horrible, No Good,
Very Bad Mood (in About an Hour)

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking bad moods.

Sometimes you just want to go ahead and let yourself feel foul. There’s no law that says we have to be Cheery Mary Sunshine every day, and who would want to be?

But when you’ve got stuff to do, a crummy mood doesn’t help. It burns up all your energy and it ties up your mental bandwidth. You spend all your focus on the injustices you’ve been subjected to, and none of it doing your Big Magnificent Project.

When I had a day job, I had the luxury of cultivating my crappy moods. I could nurse a funk for days or weeks, keeping little lists of how screwed up They were and how deliciously righteous and correct I was.

But when someone else isn’t paying for that, it just gets in my way. Mama’s got work to do, and that ain’t helping.

I found myself in just such a mood last weekend, when I needed to be planning my world domination work week. I didn’t have a lot of time to indulge the horribles, so here’s how I kicked them to the curb.

Write it out

Let’s face it, you’re in a crappy mood for a reason.

Probably not the reason you think, but a reason.

So before you try to fix anything, break out some paper and your favorite pen and start complaining.

Write about why you think you’re feeling so foul. Write about what pulled your bad mood trigger. Write about what made you angry. Write about what hurt your feelings. Write about what’s got you frustrated. Write about who you hate even though you’re supposed to love (or at least like) them.

The most important instruction is Don’t be reasonable. You do enough of that already. Hush the voice in your head that tells you to quit being a crybaby. Go ahead and whine the blues.

Take it a little over the top if you want to. Or a lot over the top. Compare your bad haircut to nuclear holocaust. No one can see you, so wallow as much as you want to.

(P.S., remember, none of this works if there’s any chance in the universe that someone will see your ranting and raving. So be sure you keep your journal 100% secure from other eyes. Burn the pages if you have to.)

You can read more about the fine art of journal writing/tantrums right here.

Get moving

I won’t call it exercise, in case that’s a bad word for you.

But get your body moving. Get your heart beating a little bit faster than it usually does.

You can do this with the door stop exercise machine in the basement. If the weather’s ok where you are, you could just take a nice walk around the block. Go for a bike ride. Dance to silly music. Do Taebo kicks. Practice your pole dancing. Whatever.

Don’t think about all the advice about how exercise is good for your heart and lungs and skin and prevents Alzheimer’s and high blood pressure and reduces the incidence of virtually every kind of disease by about half. Even though that is true, it’s just going to make you feel worse.

Get moving because it feels good. If it’s not feeling great, maybe you’re pushing it a little too hard. Slow down. Notice the way the blood feels when it’s racing around in your body. Notice that your legs and butt actually like moving around. Enjoy.

If you can manage it, try not to think about anything other than what it feels like to move.

You don’t have to do this forever. Maybe 15 or 20 minutes. If that’s scary, you could make it 10.

Listen to silly music that makes you happy

Whether it’s the Jonas Brothers or ABBA or The Chipmunks, I won’t tell.

Listen to something that made you really happy when you were 10. Or to something that makes you feel like you’re 10 now. Anything that puts a goofy smile on your face will work. It doesn’t have to be dumb, but you get a few bonus points if it is.

Conveniently, you can do this while you’re moving around. It makes the time go really fast.

You might even be inclined to move around for 5 more minutes. If you really want to, go ahead. If you’re just doing it to be virtuous or to shrink your gigantic thighs, though, don’t.

Making your inner toddler happy

All this is about taking care of the part of yourself that still has tantrums, even though you’ve learned to call them something else.

The journaling part is about putting your feelings into language. Some of us got good at that when we were children; most of us didn’t. When we can’t express our feelings, they back up on us and gunk everything up. So express.

(Maybe language isn’t your main way of expressing yourself. It might be paint or tattoo ink or interpretive dance. If you’re not a writer, use the medium that works for you.)

The movement part is about being a physical creature. You evolved to move while you were processing thoughts and feelings, and your brain works better when your body’s doing something. Plus shaking your booty produces endorphins and all that, which just feels good.

No one’s asking you to be Lance Armstrong here. Don’t kill yourself. In fact, a nice slow walk works fine.

The music part is about playing and being silly and making a joyful noise. Whether it’s Aretha or the Wiggles that make you happy, music can take you to another place.

(I’m partial to classic disco. It’s hard to feel bad when It’s Raining Men, at least for me.)

Bonus ideas if you want them

  • Figure out the next action you need to take to start making the bad situation better. If this sounds like Crazy Moon Language, try the Complete Flake’s Guide to Getting Things Done.
  • Give away some money to someone who’s having a shitty life and not just a shitty day. Even $20 will help you feel better. I like these guys, and they’re low on donations since the economy melted down, but pick a group that rings your bells.
  • Get on Twitter or Facebook or your blog or (last resort) something primitive like your kitchen table or the telephone, and tell someone they’re awesome. I know it’s Pollyannaish, but it works. And detached cynicism is so 2005.

If you like this post, please link to, Tweet or Stumble it!

The quote at the beginning of the post is from Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Image from I Can Has Cheezburger?


  1. Sonia, you made my day with this one! (And I’m particularly glad you put that little p.s. up there. Seems obvious, but hey, you never know…)

    Also might want to warn folks to, y’know, close the blinds during the “silly dancing” phase. Hey, you might just make the definition of “YouTube” a little more personal, if you get my meanin’. :-D

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..Turning Point

  2. Joanna Young says:

    Sonia, this is a wonderful post. I’m smiling to see Robert here, because I was just thinking what a masterful use of strike throughs you’d deployed (he’s the blog master at this art :-) )

    Joanna Youngs last blog post..A Blog Birthday, an Easter Egg Thank You, and a Request

  3. Dance breaks, or movement. More of those please. In fact in honor of this post, I cranked up the Pussy Cat Dolls ,When I Grow Up, and danced . I see you all laughing… But I feel good…..just like I knew that I could… It’s so good to “rinse the brain” regularly. Honestly, recess should be mandatory.
    And I am itching to get the fountain pen out and be as unreasonable as I can in my journal. Now, as for being silly…hm…looking for silly will be fun.
    For now it’s back to work, but I am smiling….

    Janice Cartiers last blog post..Letting Go

  4. Drew Kime says:

    What a coincedence. I just found this today. I dare you to listen to it and not giggle like the 10-year-old I was when I first heard it.

    Drew Kimes last blog post..The Best French Toast In The World

  5. Great one.

  6. Mark Smith says:

    Thank you! I appreciate the tips. I have been able over the last year (most of the time) to talk myself “down off the ledge” so to speak and am very pleased to have cultivated that ability. These tips should work for those “impossible” times.

    My primary strategy has been to simply remind myself that my attitude is the result of my thoughts, and then to start consciously cultivating better thoughts.

    Mark Smiths last blog post..What’s The Highest And Best Use Of Your Time?

  7. Ananga says:

    Excellent stuff thank you. I am living proof that this works as only this afternoon I wrote my way through a funk so I could get some work done. My other favourite method is to change your breathing, one easy way to do it is to breath only through your left nostril for 15-20 breaths. Sounds odd but it works and I might just write about why in the near future.

  8. Sonia Simone says:

    @Ananga, cool! Can you do that consciously or do you have to physically pinch one shut? Breathing is a great point, I use it more for anxiety than crabbiness, but there are tons of breathing exercises that help all kinds of states. I think because if you’re really focused on your breathing, you have to be present and you can’t keep such a tight grasp on that crabby storyline you’re telling in your head.

    @Robert, I suppose you are right, finding one’s silly dancing on YouTube could trigger a whole new bad day. :)

    @Joanna, Havi Brooks also does very entertaining things with strikethroughs. I love that idea of being able to communicate the first thought/second thought.

    @Janice, “recess should be mandatory,” amen!

  9. Sonia Simone says:

    @Drew, hilarious! Ah, good old MAD.

  10. Kaushik says:

    Great advice! Just do the simple things
    Sometimes these bad moods go on for a bit…for that a release technique the resonates is useful. EFT, Sedona Method, Releasing, yoga…whatever chimes.

    Kaushiks last blog post..Addiction

  11. Jean Gogolin says:

    Boy, did I need this today. I tend to be really good at grudges, but read the other day that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting somebody else to die. I laughed out loud at that one.

    A nice hot shower followed by some yoga works for me.

    Jean Gogolins last blog post..10 Steps To Doing a Kick-Ass Interview

  12. Writer Dad says:

    It’s a good movie for me. It effectively, and rather instantly, transports me from where I am to somewhere I’d like to be. Works almost every time.

    Writer Dads last blog post..The Best Posts I Ever Wrote!

  13. Dave Navarro says:

    Damn, I needed this today. 5am, staring at my computer screen, locked down and stuck.

    10 minutes of journaling = i haz awesome back nao.


    Thanks, Sonia!
    you’re doin’ it rite

  14. Michelle says:

    Wow, I needed this post! I love my bad moods. (Not so good when you’re living with two other people.)

    Writing is what works best for me. I vent it on the computer, or in a diary, and that really helps to get the emotions out and to put things into better perspective. Working out is also a great way to vent, because it gives me somewhere to put all my negative, angry energy.

    I have also learned that if you have to be around other people if you’re in a bad mood (e.g., roommates), it’s a good idea to tell them why you’re grumpy, especially if it’s not their fault. Otherwise, they get worried that they’ve done something to make you angry, and things degenerate from there.

  15. Ananga says:

    “@Ananga, cool! Can you do that consciously or do you have to physically pinch one shut? Breathing is a great point, I use it more for anxiety than crabbiness, but there are tons of breathing exercises that help all kinds of states.”

    Sonia, you have to do it physically, just block the right side with a finger or thumb. By clicking over to breathing through the left nostril only you trigger more right brain thinking and that’s often enough to flip you into a better state.

    Anangas last blog post..Living by Design Blog Carnival No.33

  16. Carol Carder says:

    Great presentation, good ideas, today at Women In Business Lunch.

    Recognized your quote right away. My younger son Greg loved Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. He also loved Alexander who used to be rich last Sunday.

    Judy Viorst also has a book that will cure a bad day. It’s a kick, “Killing Mr. Monti.”

  17. David Cain says:

    Haha, I like that: Don’t be reasonable. Good advice, I’ll try writing out my crybaby story next time.

    Sometimes though, I find you can’t always get rid of a bad mood by doing something. Just allowing it to sit and letting time get to work on it is sometimes the best thing. Often, if it’s some kind of extenuating circumstances that triggered it, the best you can do is ‘stop the bleeding’ and preventing the negativity from snowballing. Here is how I’ve been dealing with them recently, you might appreciate this: click.

    David Cains last blog post..How to Alleviate Self-Consciousness and Other People-Allergies

  18. Great ideas.

    When I’m feeling lousy or grumpy, I bust out my pack of Crayola crayons and color a page or two from a cheap coloring book. Definitely puts me in a better mood.

    LovelyAnomalys last blog post..I have been changed for good

  19. Hee hee! I adore you!
    And we must share part of the same brain or something…
    I am always saying “Didn’t you get that memo? Cynicism is soo last millenium, baby!”

    Goddess Leonie | GoddessGuidebook.comOs last blog post..Ways to celebrate Easter (no matter what spiritual tradition you are)

  20. Joely Black says:

    Dance! I had a really grouchy day a while back and decided I would dance it out. Or talking with very young children. That’s never less than entertaining.

    Joely Blacks last blog post..I have a new job

  21. Linda says:

    You are so spot on with this post. It’s been a hard old week, but tomorrow I’m going to work from home and put some of these suggestions into action.

  22. Sonia,

    Definitely keeping this one in mind for the next time. Great advice — music (The Beatles and Smokey Robinson remind me of Sunday mornings, bobbing my head while eating breakfast as my mom happily did the week’s cleaning), movement (throwing a ball against the wall), and writing it out (oh boy) have all worked wonders for me before, so I can wholeheartedly back up those recommendations.

    David Dittells last blog post..The Hip-Hop Word Of The Day: Imbroglio

  23. oramd says:

    oh such a Great advice sometimes when you do simple and silly things bad moods turns into Good Mood…i would say for that release technique the resonates is useful

  24. Nadidjka says:

    thanks so much! it really helped me !!!

  25. 805Therapy says:

    Good stuff! basically, choices is a good thing! We can choose to stay in a funk or choose to work ourselves out of it :)