Good Day, Bad Day

Instead of outsourcing your happiness, try making your bed

Cherie Gilmour
Aug 20, 2019 · 4 min read

It’s Monday morning, and I’m about to leave the house when I notice a thick glob of acrid-scented baby vomit in my hair. Oh, it’s going to be one of those days is it? I challenge the universe. What else have you got for me? A spider? A hole in my sock?

Baby vomit hardly constitutes a bad day, yet I’m constantly looking for signs of how my day will play out, almost superstitiously.

Baby vomit = bad start.

Christopher, the main character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon has his own unique system for quantifying the goodness of a day.

He looks out the window on his bus ride to school and counts the number of red cars he sees. Four red cars in a row means it will be a very good day. Yellow cars are very bad. Christopher has autism and it helps him to create a kind of logic for understanding a bewildering world.

Perhaps we all do this to varying degrees. A succession of green lights on the way to work? Bingo! Good day! Forgot your umbrella? Bad day. The Barista spell your name right? Very good. Then spilt coffee on yourself? Very bad. And so it continues. The score-keeping.

When someone asks ‘how was your day?’ you have quantifiable data to verify whether your day falls into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ on the spectrum.

Or is it just me?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard

I was telling Monty I had a bad day recently because there was nary a peep on one of my Medium posts. He was shocked. “Shouldn’t a bad day for you be like, Matilda didn’t sleep at all? Or was crying all day?”

I realised I had a problem.

Online platforms are designed with addiction in mind. Just ask Tristan Harris: “The average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Why do we do this? One major reason why is the number one psychological ingredient in slot machines: intermittent variable rewards . . . addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.”

Why did I outsource my happiness to the system? Or to baby vomit? Or all these other external factors?

Back to Monday morning, I decide to make the bed. I don’t know why but it feels like an antidote to the vomit-in-hair. I can still claim this day back.

Turns out making your bed is one of the best things you can do when it comes to good and bad day-ness. Love him or hate him, Jordan Peterson makes a point: “My sense is that if you want to change the world, you start from yourself and work outward, because you build your competence that way.”

I’m one of those people who banged on about ‘the latest research’ that bed bugs have less chance of survival in an unmade bed (I think the scientists were having a quiet week when they came across that one).

And yet, I always feel good when I make the bed. Doing something which would be so easy to put off bodes well into the rest of the day. Self-control begets self-control. Maybe I won’t have a second glass of wine that evening.

Rather than relying on things outside of my control to set the thermostat for my day, I can create it from within, through actions that affirm my values.

‘In the noisy contest to construct and promote a Utopian image for Brand Me, particularly via our status symbols and online bragging, it’s easy to forget that we may be sacrificing the very thing that will lead to the deepest sense of satisfaction: self-respect based on self-control. There is no shortcut to that, and no amount of self-promotion will get us there’, Hugh McKay ‘The Good Life’.

At the end of the day, once you leave the house, there are no guarantees. Reality is not a pokie machine spitting out coins, it’s all seasons in one day. Storm clouds in the morning receding into sunny skies after lunch with the occasional chance of baby puke.

I leave the house and notice a two dollar coin on the ground. Maybe it’ll be a good day after all. Not that I’m counting.


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