5 Practical Ways to Quickly Move on From a Bad Time in Your Life

Max Phillips


Picture this: you forgot to iron your shirt, you’ve run out of cereal, and you’ve stubbed your toe getting out of bed. Every traffic light is red, and your boss shouts at you for being late. You realise you haven’t done the work you were supposed to do.

In a moment of cinematic rage, you look up into the murky clouds, clench your fists and yell “WHY ME?!” It feels as if you need a life-changing epiphany to turn things around.

Unfortunately, a screenwriter hasn’t filled your existence with dramatic, life-changing plot devices. To move on from the bad times, you need to take incremental, practical steps. Here are five of them.

Change the lock screen on your phone.

Whether it is a picture of your ex-boyfriend or a scenic looking waterfall, changing your background can represent a micro-closing of a chapter.

The average iPhone user unlocks their phone 80 amount of times a day, according to Business Insider. That’s seven or eight an hour. Seeing the same picture eighty times a day during a challenging period subconsciously associates it with that time of your life. It needs to go.

For example, I kept my lock screen the same for nearly a year —a beautiful shot from my favourite festival. Despite knowing I would be going back the following year, for months afterwards, I felt an intense longing to go back. It distracted me from the day-to-day, and while they’re happy memories, I needed to move on.

Changing the lock screen is a little but powerful tool, allowing you to get started with the latest chapter in your life. Funny thing — I forgot about the festival, and was dealt a pleasant surprise when it rolled around again the following year.

Action tip: In my experience, lock screens don’t need to be overly personal. For quicker emotional progress, change it to one of the phone’s pre-set backgrounds.

Find some new music.

Music is one of the best ways to trigger memories, which also makes it the worst. You likely have a few songs you turned to when going through heartbreak, for example, and you can be reminded years down the line.

Even if it doesn’t hurt, no one likes triggering previous pain. For now, at least, find some new songs to play on repeat. Speaking from personal experience, unearthing new music from the realms of Spotify’s radio algorithm is an immensely satisfying feeling.

It also works the other way. For instance, “Losing It” by Fisher was the song of Creamfields 2018 — the music festival I mentioned earlier. It’s not one of my favourite songs ever, but every time I hear it, the memories come flooding back.

So, to escape the torment of present-day troubles, jog your mind back into happy, unrelated memories. I say unrelated because to move on from a break-up, you don’t want to be listening to a song that reminds you of the same relationship. That would be slightly counter-productive.

Action tip: Surprisingly, listening to sad songs helps you through a turbulent period, as research has shown they promote feelings of nostalgia and peacefulness. So, I’d advise having a selection. I have a playlist filled with instrumental songs from films, TV shows and video games which help relax my brain.

Change the design of your bedroom.

For an extended period in my life, I underestimated the importance of my bedroom. I didn’t care how it looked, as long as it was tidy and had a comfy bed.

Since I’ve started working from home, I have begun to understand just how much the aesthetic can impact you. From a productivity standpoint, I like to have everything I need within reaching distance. My phone is shut away in the drawer next to me, and I sit in front of a window; my rather pathetic plant looking back at me.

When going through something such as heartbreak, you’ll eventually find yourself scrubbing your room of memories. But it doesn’t have to be as drastic as that. Not all pain is romantic heartbreak, after all.

Even if it’s just a new plant or painting, the burgeoning sense of a new beginning can help create a freshness in your mind. When amid turbulent times, that feeling is a rare commodity.

Action tip: Think practically. Put away the painting you would continuously stare at while overthinking and replace it with something new.

Read a few books at the same time.

I recently read some excellent advice from writer Eva Keiffenheim, MSc:

“You don’t want to eat the same dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why would you read the same book at different times of the day?”

I’d never thought of it that way, but it makes complete sense.

Regularly switching it up causes you to flick between mindsets, as your brain adapts to the new narrative each time.

Books are an excellent way of losing yourself in another world. Unlike films or TV, your brain creates the images for itself, replacing the negative thoughts you’ve been obsessing over — even if it’s for a short while.

While you’d typically associate this feeling with fiction, don’t write off non-fiction. I’d always turned my nose up at it, but since becoming a writer, I’m always looking for ways to improve.

The more I read, the more I think about the action I am going to take to improve my current situation. When in pain, non-fiction can spark a hunger to turn your fortunes around and lift yourself out of a lull. Regularly switching it up causes you to flick between mindsets, as your brain adapts to the new narrative each time.

Action tip: Combine fiction and non-fiction reading. By doing this, you’re working on yourself and igniting any latent creativity within your brain.

Do some hard exercise.

By now, you probably know the drill. Exercise can relieve stress and leave you feeling happier than you did at the start of the session. But it’s so much more than that.

Dwayne, “the Rock” Johnson, repeatedly encourages fans to find their “anchor.” Before every big press junket or day on a film set, Johnson gets up early and lifts weights.

As any of his Instagram followers will know, he sweats. A lot. From the looks of things, he works out like a madman — for a reason. It anchors him, allowing him to be fresh and focused for the day ahead. I couldn’t agree with this ethos enough.

For me, there is nothing quite like the rush of endorphins flowing through your body. It enables me to forget about any worries and lose myself in the workout. For a brief while, you’ve escaped from the bubble of pain you felt trapped in.

Action tip: Avoid checking your phone when exercising, as it can often draw your focus away from the task at hand. At most, put it on aeroplane mode and keep going.


See? No life-changing moments here. Just small, practical ways that, if implemented, will lift you into a new chapter of your life.

To effectively get through the pain, you need to train your subconscious to accept your new circumstances. By making these changes, you’re slowly moving away from your old self. Life, after all, isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.

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