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Is this mental bias clouding your perceptions?

Has your day ever started off going great, but then, something went wrong that ruined your oh so "Happy Day?" If this has ever happened to you, you're obviously not alone. Research commissioned by fitness app Freeletics in 2018 says the average American has about 60 bad days a year, or roughly one-sixth of the entire year.

"According to the poll, sponsored by fitness and nutrition app Freeletics, working Americans spend about 60 days a year stressed out, upset or just cranky. About 80 percent of the 2,000 people polled said that their misery was at least partly caused by work-related stress, while 67 percent said that the biggest reason for their bad day was not sleeping enough the night before."

The opposite may also happen like it did with my 8 year-old daughter. She woke with a terrible stomach ache. So her day started off on the wrong foot. After resting and ridding her body of the culprits, she was back to her normal self. It was my husband's birthday and we had a few fun activities planned, so she had an incentive to get well quickly.

Later that afternoon, we adventured to an Egyptian escape room and to a Mexican cantina and ended the day perusing books at Barnes and Noble. When we arrived home, my daughter said she had a terrible day. When I asked her why, she remarked that she woke up sick.

I proceeded to reframe how lucky she was that she began feeling better earlier in the day which allowed her to enjoy her Dad's birthday festivities. After pointing out how she could have missed these events, she shifted her perspective and realized that she did end up having a great day despite starting the day with a stomach ache.

People have a tendency to remember emotionally distressing events more acutely than other types of events. This is known as pessimism bias, when things seem worse than they are. Therefore, having a more balanced view of what's happening may be more accurate than being either too optimistic or pessimistic.

One of my favorite quotes sums up the dangers of how pessimism bias can cloud our perceptions. When you find yourself ruminating over an unfavorable experience, ask yourself:

"Was it a bad day? Or was it a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?"- Unknown

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