Nothing has gone horribly wrong today. No huge stresses or dramas, no fights or deadlines. I just woke up feeling tired and world-weary, there’s a niggly ache in my hip, anxious thoughts whizzing around my head and low mood lurking somewhere nearby.
My most reliable mood-lifter is to get out into nature so I set off after breakfast with Tisha, my trusty four-legged walking buddy. We head out along our usual route, into the wilderness down beyond the playing fields. We stop by the river. Today the water’s muddy and there are no kingfishers to be seen. I feel heavy and keep slipping on the muddy path in my wellies. I’m too hot and my hip is hurting more as I walk. Turning a corner we come across two muntjac deer, just a few feet away. They stop stock still and Tisha doesn’t even notice them. It usually seems like a kind of blessing, these chance encounters, but even this doesn’t lift my spirits today. I trudge home, aching and grumpy. A woman on the street stops to tell me how beautiful she thinks Tisha is. That’s a nice moment, seeing her delight. But soon enough it passes.
Then I meditate. Often that helps shift me out of my funk, to feel less entangled in anxious or dark thoughts, more spacious and accepting. Today, however, apparently not. Nothing seems to have shifted by the end of my meditation and I decide to go back to bed for a nap, skipping my weekly Pilates class (which I know would have helped with the pain, but the pull of sleep is too strong).
Later I go for a coffee with a family friend. We chat and smile and I feel more like myself for a while.
Back at home I play the piano but I’m painfully aware of how out of practice I am and get frustrated, my fingers stiff and my head too fuzzy to focus on the music properly.
My partner gets home from work. We talk and hug and eat dinner together and I ask him “What’s wrong with me?”
“You’re just having a bad day my love, we all do sometimes” he answers, gently.
His kindness softens something in me.
This is just how it is right now.
I’m having a bad day.
And that’s OK.
And it will pass.
Sometimes that’s all there is to it. There is no magic wand. We do what we can to stay well; we go for walks and talk to friends, we practice mindfulness and some of us take our meds too. But sometimes we all have bad days and just accepting that this is how it is right now is one of the most powerful, liberating and compassionate responses there is. It releases us from the trap of resisting or fighting against our own experience, labelling it as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. We are not designed to be happy all the time, after all. The odd bit of low mood, worry, or physical discomfort are all normal parts of life.
With practice we begin to understand that our thoughts, emotions and sensations are not fixed or static, that they are part of a wider flow of experience that can be both pleasant and unpleasant, joyful and overwhelming. This is the shared human condition.
I sometimes joke that if I ever got a tattoo I would choose the words ‘This too shall pass’. The irony of having a quote about impermanence indelibly marked on my skin appeals to my sense of humour (although I suppose my body is impermanent too so maybe it’s quite fitting after all). But I also find those words deeply comforting in difficult moments.
This is just how it is right now, and it will pass.
In this article I’m talking about my own experience of low mood, the kind of day to day blip we all experience sometimes. If you’ve been feeling consistently down or anxious for more than a couple of weeks or are at all concerned about your mental health, it’s always best to seek out professional advice. Your GP is a good place to start. The charity Mind have a wealth of information on their website too.