“Today was a ____ Day”

The danger of categorizing entire days as one thing or another.

Photo by  Billy Huynh

Photo by Billy Huynh

“Hey, how was your day?”

“Good.”

It’s a dangerous game to categorize our days as being one thing or another.

This practice has become rather normalized within the context of cultural small talk —“how are you?” is, after all one of the most frequently encountered questions.

Our responses to this are often automated, and we’re quick to describe our experience of an entire day with just one word — usually something along the lines of “good” or “bad”.

The premise of this observation is simple, but worth unpacking: we are essentially categorizing a compilation of moments as being strictly one thing or another.

This habit subtly effects how we relate to our days, and can hinder our capacity to live optimistically and mindfully.

Sometimes categorizing a day makes sense

I came across a podcast featuring Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychologist and brain disorder specialist who provided listeners with valuable insights around mental health and mindfulness — my key takeaways came from his experience with brain re-training.

One of Amen’s many daily practices for brain health is to ask himself: why is today going to be a good day?

Similarly, every evening before bed, he asks himself: why was today a good day?

Though simple, this habit helps to re-pattern our brain’s tendency to focus on negatives and instead actively search for reasons to be grateful (as well as other things that support a higher quality of life).

Having had a few weeks to practice this daily, I can say with the utmost confidence that it works — I’m more aware of my habits to focus on what’s wrong with a person or situation, and I’ve noticed a greater capacity to then re-focus my attention on things I can appreciate.

Taking this thought forward into how we perceive our days, categorizing them as great can do wonders.

By asking why today can be or has been great, we’re far more likely to view them as such — we’re literally conditioning our minds to look for the reasons that they are.

And this is training not just our conscious minds but also our subconscious, meaning that it can become a more lasting practice since we’re rewiring the deepest part of what governs thought.

Great days can be full of “bad”

When thinking that our days can be great, I’m not talking about avoidance — challenging emotions or circumstances are an inevitability of life.

But by training ourselves to think of our days as great, we enable ourselves to approach old problems in a new way and better our relationships to the things that we’ve historically seen as challenging or uncomfortable.

We become better able to observe these things with appreciation and acceptance, finding ways to grow from them instead of ignoring their existence.

And think of the inverse — saying “I had a bad day”, is to essentially set ourselves up to experience it as such, as well as diminish all the aspects of our day that weren’t bad.

So…why is/was today a great day?

Let me know, and thanks for reading!

~Varun