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Instructions for a bad day

March 24 2016 – Ezekiel Binns

Instructions for a bad day
Instructions for a bad day


It's one of those days. Your dream valentine would rather not. On the way back from your daily commute, your rear tire blows, and you come home exhausted from disappointment to an apartment reeking of puppy piss. Your heart deflates as nothing seems to go the way you want it to.

If you feel like things can’t get any worse, you’re wrong. Things won't get worse because they just will, but because you’re subconsciously seeking it out and ridding of all the better. A study at Harvard has supported the notion that our brains long for information in the world that align with aspects of our inner-self. These include our mood, priorities and overall expectations. Meaning unless you attempt to recognize what your brain is doing and further attempt to hack that process, you’re more likely to fume at the newly laid bird crap on your saddle than smile in awe at your newly purchased rear rim.

Suggested by research are two types of selective attention, or the phenomenon of our brain harvesting information that seems relevant and disregarding all else.  Inattentional Blindness being the first type where we’re simply oblivious to things we aren’t searching for. Overlooking things we aren't looking for, it’s pretty straightforward. The other type of selective attention is almost the antithesis of the first. Rather than ignoring factors that seem disposable, Confirmation Bias describes a behavior where we intentionally look for information that confirms our inclinations whilst trashing everything else.

                                                                                                 photo source

So here's how to manipulate your brain into a feel good mood. Knowing that one sole thought chain before a task can ruin an entire day, the first step is killing the bad vibe before it starts. Set clear, positive and realistic aims before engaging in any activity you usually face with frustration and contempt. Although this takes some premeditation, it can be done at short notice, for instance, if you and your spouse are about to engage in an argument but you’ve decided to focus on the subtleties in voice change and body language rather than what is being said, you'll probably come out as the happier partner. Rather than seeing the argument for what it usually is, your brain is now utilizing a different filter, a filter that's picking up on some of the most underappreciated aspects of an argument. Not only are you seeing things in a different light, you are now viewing on a different screen.

If you’re still starving for more on this topic check out this article on hacking your brain into having better days.