Isn’t it such a terrible feeling when you return home in the evening after a hectic, emotionally challenging day at work, feeling utterly crap, utterly exhausted (physically and mentally), utterly deflated and utterly dissatisfied with your day/week/job/life?
And the worst thing about it is that tomorrow you have to do it all over again – repeat the same lousy, miserable day of going through the motions. But what if we could take control of what sort of a day we have? What if we could learn to love & squeeze each and every drop out of this new day we’ve been blessed to have been given?
By a “good” day, I mean positive, productive and healthy. I know that not all of these methods will be everyone’s cup of tea but for this post, I really wanted to compile some scientifically proven ways to have a positive day which I, personally, incorporate into my daily routine and have found to be effective… so here goes!
1. Practise Gratitude: I’m a big believer in starting as you mean to go on (cliché, I know!). Truly though, the thoughts you start the day with will likely determine your actions/behaviour/mindset throughout the day as well. Taking this into account, the way in which I, personally, like to start my day is by practising gratitude. For this, I simply grab my journal, grab a pen and reflect upon three-five things that I am truly grateful for. What I like to do is change it up every single day and to test myself to think of more and more to be thankful of – this can be anything from “access to water and food”, to “concert tickets” that you were given as a birthday present, to “a special friend” or simply just the fact that you are ALIVE! This simple practice enables us to shift our focus from whatever difficulty we may be dealing with at the time, reminding us that whatever we feel we may be lacking in our lives, there are still many things to be grateful for. It is an incredibly powerful yet simple addition to your morning routine!
2. Set Your Intentions For The Day: Instead of walking into the day with no expectations or particular goals to achieve in mind, consider just a few things in your head – perhaps do this whilst washing your face, brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil. acknowledging how you desire to feel, you can enter any situation with a whole new sense of being — even as you’re simply drinking your cup of joe, stuck in traffic, or throughout your working. When you get clear on how you want to feel, you can make clear decisions that create the life you truly desire to live. The moment you tap into the feeling, you get your power back.
3. Journaling – Do you have a lot of pent up emotion which you rarely any feel relief from? Do you sometimes feel there’s nowhere for you to go when hell breaks loose? Those days are over because it’s time to unearth that dusty old journal from the back of your wardrobe. Use this to address your feelings, to address what’s conflicting you. Don’t leave those negative emotions to fester in that head of yours – pick up a pen and scribble down every word you’ve held back until now. By routinely clarifying your thoughts and feelings you’ll get a clearer picture of what you want and how you feel. You’ll learn what makes you feel confident and happy. It’ll also become more evident to you what situations and people are toxic to your well-being.
4. Getting Adequate Sleep – If you’re anything like I used to be and you’re going to bed at all kinds of bizarre hours of the morning, adequate sleep is essential! It sounds so straightforward and to be honest, it is.
In getting sufficient sleep each night, we wake the next morning much more equipped to tackle the day, difficult emotions, difficult people, difficult situations. Don’t just rock up to bed at 1:30am when you know that you’ve got to be up at 6am, thinking “That’s fine, I can function perfectly fine with this much sleep”. You’re not superhuman, whatever it is you’re doing that’s keeping you up can truly wait! Chances are if you’re depriving yourself of the sleep your body and mind NEED to rejuvenate, tomorrow you will be noticeably underperforming at work, have a very intense, snappy temperament. 7-9 hours is an absolute must!
5. Yoga: A simple 5-6 minute yoga routine has only recently become a pivotal part to my day. Not only does it enable me to become more centred and much more ready to plunge into the day that awaits but through the help of yoga, we can throw those negative and unhealthy feelings to the wayside. Yoga predominantly is based on the concentration of the breath and body, which helps to: Lower our blood pressure, lower our heart rate (thus helping to soothe a person’s mind and relieve worries), regulate our stress response system. While this may not initially sound like your cup of tea, I highly recommend sparing just 5-10 minutes each morning before rushing to the bathroom to clean your face and teeth especially if you struggle to find the motivation to get out of the door each morning or to start the day on a positive note. Here is a link to a yoga practice that I refer to every morning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-Zgus9Cy8M
6. Meditation: Much like yoga, meditation focuses on the breath, the body and the sensations which come with it.
The reality is that the majority of our daily lives are spent within our minds, focusing upon our thoughts as opposed to focusing upon our feelings, leading to more emotional stress which we are probably not even aware of! Henceforth, the act of meditation is extremely advantageous in enabling you to become acutely aware of what’s going on within you, in helping you to tap into your subconscious, in staying in touch with your inner self, in helping you to cope with distractions, in staying within the present moment (avoiding overthinking which we all know is destructive), and in shifting your mindset to remind you of what is truly important at the end of the day – YOU, your happiness, your health!
The benefits to meditation are too many to count – I truly recommend setting aside at least 10-20 minutes every day for this simple addition to your day. There is a wonderful free app entitled “Stop, Breathe & Think” which enables you to “check in” and select your current emotions which, then, generates a list of meditations suitable for your current emotional state. This app is one that I use every single day without fail!
7. Sparing Time For Music, Television:
I don’t know about you but music, primarily, is pretty essential to a smooth-running day for me! It’s what I listen to on my way in to work, often when walking down the street and also on my way back home. As we listen, music works on the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling blood pressure and heartbeat, as well as the limbic system, which is responsible for feelings and emotions.
A TV show’s also a good call after a hardworking day. I usually opt for something lighthearted like a sitcom of some kind which helps me to unwind before bed.
8. Take The Time To Speak To a Loved One – even if it’s a simple twenty minute phone call. Often when we are going through a tough, or turbulent time, we tend to isolate and disassociate from others – even those who have not hurt us. Doing this will only magnify and exacerbate the issue in making us feel alone and as though there is no one that we can depend on. Don’t get to thinking that it’s just you against the world, that you’re on a “one man/woman mission”. Tell these people how much they mean to you. We all need a positive network of people in our lives. Additionally, take the time to listen, be compassionate towards them and their struggles. Remember – it may not just be you who is having a crappy week. Speaking to and listening to them can bring to both of you feelings of comfort.
9. Be Mindful Of What You Are Eating Throughout the Day – Some of you may be groaning at this point but let me explain for just a moment – in order to be healthy and happy, you must live for health and happiness (this includes eating). We must eat our way to happiness which is why I suggest reducing sugar and caffeine intake. Of course, it’s only normal that you should be tempted to go for that energy bar or mocha latte (that are both loaded with sugar) at times during your workday when your energy levels begin to plummet but what this does for us is spike our blood sugar, after we are given that temporary “hit”, we then crash right back down, leading us to feel even worse than before! As much as that tub of dairy ice cream at the back of the freezer might be calling your name after a hectic day and relieve you for a moment or two, try to go easy!
No – this doesn’t mean eradicating all of your favourite treats from your diet to lose weight (I am NOT an advocate of that! Every body type is just as valuable as another).
Foods to consider incorporating into your diet are: walnuts, blueberries, flaxseed (all three of these are also brain & energy boosting to help kickstart a day of productivity), salmon, goji berries, apples, quinoa, brown rice.
10. Keep Temptations/Addictions At Bay:
No, I’m not just talking about alcohol or drugs. Addiction and dependency can come in many different forms – money-spending, shopping, exercise, sex, sugar etc – (I know I’ve spoken about sugar already but there are reports to say that sugar is as addictive as cocaine. I’m not joking!). Do these things honestly make us happy? After that hyper, stimulating, drunken night.. do we feel good about ourselves? In order to have the best day that we can, to achieve the highest level of happiness and health, we must firstly achieve cognitive clarity (clarity of the mind). Each of the things I listed above provide a quick fix, it temporarily masks a certain emotion or insecurity – that’s not what we’re after. We are after a long-term, sustained happiness.
11. Anger & Negative People: Collectively, everyday we find numerous things to take our aggressions out on. Maybe you’ve been caught in a traffic jam, maybe your iPhone’s not working, maybe someone bumped into you whilst walking down the street and didn’t say sorry. If the actions/words/behaviour/beliefs of another person cause you aggravation, disappointment or anger, think to yourself: Clearly this person has different values/ways of behaving to me… These are not wrong – they are just different to mine.
Can I be okay with the fact they have different values/ways of behaving to me?
Will an angry outburst positively affect my day?
If you do end up losing your temper, try to monitor this and view this as a bystander. Through the lens of curiosity, imagine you were somebody watching another person acting in this way. Would you be drawn to this person based on this?
Anger is often a manifestation of sadness, tiredness, loneliness, stress – or perhaps a combination of all of these. Let’s try to become aware of these emotions which we may not be able to avoid and focus our energies upon how we can control our responses to them. As I mentioned before, will an angry outburst positively impact your day?
12. Speak/Make Contact With Strangers:
“Umm.. why would I do that?”, you may be thinking but even a simple smile or “good morning” will suffice. Some days it’s as if we pass through it without really connecting with anyone which not only adds to our feelings of loneliness. We forget that we likely have plenty in common with those we pass by in the street. Open your heart up to people, break a piece of yourself off to give to others.
As kids, we were repeatedly told “Don’t speak to strangers” – wise because you can never be totally sure of a person’s intentions but the price we pay for this caution is that sadly we grow up to believe we should be overly suspicious of others and their motives which is often, very much unwarranted, as believe it or not, the vast majority of individuals are, by no means, sociopaths!
Many people are really friendly. These momentary interactions with people can add something really special to your day. Remember – you’re not committed to speaking to this person ever again so if the person you speak to is really strange, it can make for a good story. We are social animals – we’re built for social interaction.
13. Work Hard: Give yourself something to be proud of today so that when you finally get into bed at the end of the day, you can look back on it with pride and satisfaction. Remember – today will never come back around today. You have just one shot to make today a great day.
Give yourself plenty of breaks and plenty of me-time, but just as importantly, work hard! Batter away at that keyboard in your office, give that customer you serve a smile and genuinely wish them a lovely day.
To stay motivated, I like to remind myself that’s it’s better to be absolutely exhausted at the end of the day from working hard than to be absolutely exhausted from a negative emotion that’s controlled my mind and my day.
14. What Do You Have To Look Forward To?:
Arguably one of the essential aspects to happiness is having something to look forward to. Without these
small pleasures, each week would be identical to the last. With this in mind, make some future plans (an hour, here and there, to meet a friend for coffee, a weekend break to a foreign city). In cultivating a sense of anticipation, we can enjoy the happy experience for longer and can transform an otherwise average day.
Grab yourself a calendar is a concrete reminder of what you have to look forward to over the course of the next week. If there’s a slot of time on a particular day, find something to fill it. Give yourself something good to look forward to.
15. Self-Kindness: If you continue thinking that today will be no different to the car-crash that yesterday was, it most likely won’t be. Similarly, if you wake up, look in the mirror and tell yourself “wow I’m so ugly”, how can you expect to have a beautiful day? You’re better than those negative kind of thoughts, and your day will be too once you remove those kinds of destructive thoughts.
YOU are more than capable. You are in control. You are much more powerful than you think you are in this moment. Stop telling yourself that you’re “hopeless”, “ugly”, “stupid”. Those are lies and nothing good comes from lies.
A terrible day is not inevitable. You’re a human being – it’s only natural that things will sometimes not go to plan (likely to no deliberate fault of your own). Give yourself the patience, kindness and consideration you need. We all fall down sometimes – it’s human nature but it’s also human nature to step back up which takes me to my final point…
16. Use Yesterday: Although the first thing most of us will want to do after a rubbish day is throw it away into a distant, dark corner of our minds, we should reflect upon what things didn’t go according to plan. Use what happened to motivate you, to grow you, to rejuvenate. The beauty of us, as human beings, is our resilience. Without even realising we’ve exhibited inner strength and resilience, if we think back to each bad day, each bad experience, we see how we’ve continued to keep on trying (even though we may never have envisaged ourselves doing so).
If you are having a bad day, you are not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination. You are stronger than your circumstances. Tomorrow is a new opportunity to try again – for improvement, growth, happiness and health.