by Ashley Bovin
I’ve noticed a phrase floating around on the internet lately, on mugs and t-shirts for sale and colorful social media feeds, meant to promote a positive attitude: “No Bad Days.”
The first few times I saw this phrase, I thought it was rather dismissive. I feel confident saying that I’ve had plenty of bad days in my life. And this trendy new feel-good phrase wants to erase that? It’s not that easy! “No Bad Days” presented itself to me as just another form of toxic positivity, meant to keep us from acknowledging the difficult times in our lives (and in others’). I took it to mean “bad days are not allowed,” but I knew from experience, therapy, and a handful of years of mindfulness and self-compassion practice that this isn’t true OR helpful.
I also recently came across a quotation that seems relevant to the “No Bad Days” quandary: “We do not remember days; we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese
“We do not remember days; we remember moments.”
– Cesare Pavese
If we take Cesare’s words to heart, maybe there is something to that “No Bad Days” mindset after all. How many of the “bad days” I remember were 100% “bad”? As in, nothing good happened, nobody was kind to me at any point in the day, and I felt crummy from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep? If I think about it on this micro-level, I’m no longer confident saying I’ve had even one bad day in my life!
Days are made up of hours, minutes, and moments. We can have “bad” experiences that we blame for ruining our day, but they’re just moments. And if we’re paying attention, there are many other moments to point to that could have just as easily brightened our day. Because we have a natural bias toward negativity, we don’t always remember those moments or allow them to define our day.
Reframing Good vs. Bad to “It just is.”
When practicing mindfulness, we learn that our experiences themselves are not “good” (pleasant) or “bad” (unpleasant); they just are. It is our thoughts or emotions in response to our experiences that give us the impression of “good” or “bad.” If our days are made up of thousands of moments, and not all of those moments result in a negative experience, then surely we don’t have any truly “bad” days.
As we break down our experiences into moments in which we’re fully present and paying attention, we can notice ourselves not only moving in and out of pleasant and unpleasant sensations, but also occasionally discovering a neutral place where we can “be.”
To be fully present in this human life, we have to acknowledge that it includes stress and suffering. Suffering often comes from the desire for things to be other than they are. This is what I had thought “No Bad Days” was about; ignoring the icky parts and only acknowledging what makes us feel good. But, just as life is multi-faceted, it appears this phrase I once found deceiving is, too.
Mixed in with the stress and suffering, there are those beautiful moments that feel like (or are!) a warm mug of coffee in our hands; a big, heavy snowflake on our tongue; the first time we’ve been touched. May we savor those moments and memories for the enlivening gift they are, and remember that no matter how difficult our circumstances, as long as we have those little and not-so-little pleasant experiences, we truly have “no bad days.”
Please enjoy this wonderful video of moments from Radiolab.
How would you define a moment? And what feelings can come up in just a moment? You can explore these and other subtleties of day-to-day life in one of our mindfulness classes. Browse our class offerings on this site or reach out to us at email@example.com.