Recently, I found myself engaging in thinking patterns that were somewhat negative. Perhaps it was due to overworking myself, not having enough down time, or not practicing proper sleep hygiene. But for whatever reason, I found that my thoughts seemed to be gravitating towards what was going wrong rather than what was going right.
I've heard a number of life coaches talk about having a good day is a decision, which, quite frankly, usually makes me roll my eyes a bit. It just sounds a bit too much like ‘rainbows-and-sunshine’ thinking to me. Simultaneously, the idea that things “just happen to us” doesn’t sit right with me either—and research shows that people who have this mentality actually have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
So, I settled on the following idea: while we might not be 100% in control of what happens to us in a day, there are certainly habits we can practice that can better allow the negative things that do happen to bounce off us rather than stick like velcro. And so, today’s blog is all about the habits I’ve discovered that help do just that.
1. Set an intention for the day.
If you’ve ever done yoga, you know that the instructors typically ask you to do this at the beginning of your practice. I’m always surprised at what a difference this makes, so I tried bringing it into my everyday life. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or after your first cup of coffee, take a moment to be alone with yourself and truly hone in on what your intention is. Perhaps it is to be more compassionate that day. Maybe it is to submit your usual desire to control situations just a little. Set some time to tell yourself this intention over and over again.
I usually set an intention for myself by saying something along the following lines: May I be compassionate today. May I realize that everyone is on their own journey. May I be compassionate today. (You’ll notice that I usually repeat my one mantra over and over again.)
2. Ask yourself what you’re looking forward to.
It’s not uncommon for many of us to start our day by thinking about all of the things we don’t want to do, which certainly doesn't start things on a positive note. As such, I’ve been asking myself every morning what I’m looking forward to or excited about that day. Know that this doesn’t have to be something huge; it can be a simple pleasure that you’re looking forward to, such as a nice long shower after your workout or a new episode of Love Island. Scan your brain for even the smallest thing that will likely bring you enjoyment, pleasure, or fulfillment in your day.
3. Reflect on what you’re grateful about.
Just as how we start our day is important, so is how we end it. Start your own very simple gratitude journal and write down one thing from the day you’re grateful for, even if it seems small. (There are also different apps like Grateful that you can download if you’d prefer that.) By focusing on what we’re looking forward to and what we’re grateful for, we are training our brain to switch its attention bias—that is, we are training it to focus on the good things rather than the bad, which, over time, helps improve our overall mental health.
4. Take time to do a completely mindless activity.
Our brains are often so over-worked throughout the day that we can forget to give it some time to just “shut off” for a moment and have a break. So, whether this is through playing a mindless game on your phone, doing silly Buzzfeed quizzes, playing with a pet, or doing a guided meditation, take some time to do something where your brain is truly allowed to just ~chill~.
5. Help yourself transition out of “work mode.”
It is all too easy to carry the stress of a work day home thanks to long work hours, jam-packed schedules, and being connected to our work emails 24/7. As a result, I have found that it can take a certain level of intentionality for our brain to get the memo of, “Okay, you can forget about work now; it’s time to focus on the other parts of life.” After all, there’s nothing worse than feeling stressed out at work, only to let that stress seep into other areas of your life.
Your commute home provides a great opportunity to help your “work brain” switch off so use this time to your advantage. I have gotten into the habit of listening to stand-up comedy routines on my way home or listening to a podcast that is completely unrelated to work. If you’re taking public transit, watch a YouTube video of something funny or calming, like a funny animal video or ASMR video—anything to help your brain get the memo that it doesn’t need to think about work any more. Audio books are also a great option!
The Bottom Line
While there are certainly going to be negative things that happen that we can’t fully control, we can also practice habits that make it harder to be as impacted as these things. I have found that it is really helpful to bring someone on board with you on your journey to being a bit more positive. A great way to do this is through texting, actually! My partner and I have gotten into the habit of texting each other every morning asking what we are looking forward to and ending each day by asking each other what we are grateful for. Is it a bit cheesy? Yes. Has it helped my mood a lot? Also yes. Whether it’s a partner or a friend, consider doing this type of thing with someone else so you can both reap the benefits and get into healthier habits together. You’ll thank each other later!
How do you help yourself have a good day? Let me know in the comments below!