How do you guarantee that every single day of your life goes amazingly well? Nobody can guarantee that for certain but there are a few tools we could use at our disposal to make sure our days go the way we like them.
The key point here is to ensure that we are taking full control of the day which requires conscious effort and a targeted approach. I am a big fan of the notion that life does not happen, but we happen to life.
There is a famous quote I read many years ago that said Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% is how you react to it. I am here to tell you that there will always be 10% of life which won’t be in our control (traffic jams, someone in a bad mood, a rainy day) but the remaining 90% is in your control to do whatever you want.
Attitude of Gratitude
We often wake up and immediately our minds rush to the kids screaming or our partner moaning about something and we start dreading about the kind of day that awaits us as soon as we get out of bed.
If you have a few minutes in bed before you need to get up, this would be the perfect opportunity to start your day with a gratitude exercise.
Nowadays the notion of gratitude is everywhere and you would have come across many articles discussing the benefits of gratitude practise each day already.
I don’t want to bore you with the details of multiple studies but I will mention that countless research previously has found that consistently grateful people have more energy, are more forgiving, intelligent, and are less likely to be anxious, depressed, or lonely.
Like with everything, this needs to become a consistent habit and a part of our life. The reason is that as with a lot of good habits (healthy eating, exercise, being grateful), there are short-term effects that feel good at the moment, but it is the long-term effects that yield the best fruit.
So each morning whilst still in bed or in your car just as you have pulled up into the car park of your workplace, I want you to do the gratitude exercise mentioned here.
Count Your Happy Moments
I’ve mentioned this practice already in a previous article, but I cannot stress how life-changing this tool can be.
This works even better when it is done with a partner, but even if you don’t have a partner or don’t wish to do it with someone, it is still a fun game to play by yourself.
What you want to do is start listing all of the good things that happen throughout your day. These do not need to be anything big but can be small things that may have bought a smile to your face.
It could be something as a kind gesture from someone, or a smile from a friend, or even the fact that you got into work at a good time. Whatever it is that made you happy you need to list it on your phone’s note app.
The reason why this works is that usually our brain is focused all day on everything that has gone wrong but we never take out the time to focus on all of the good things that have happened. Here we take back control of our mind and start to direct it towards useful things.
The first day you might notice that you only had around five things listed on your list but as you get more practise of this you will find that these numbers are increasing as the days are going on. We will always start with low numbers because it is an exercise that our brain is not used to.
The last time I tried this exercise I realised that I wasn’t happy with my numbers (I was in a very stressful job that sucked the joy out of everything). I had a target that day that I needed to reach the number 10 and I was short by three. I decided to buy a colleague a coffee at our 3 pm slump and the reaction I got for this unexpected act of kindness was worth every penny I had spent on this grande mocha choca cha cha latte of some sort.
Just as I was recording this reaction as a number 8 on my list, my friend turned to me and said we need to talk. It had been some time since we had a heart to heart and I learned that day why my friend and colleague had been so stressed and not herself lately. She bought me dinner later that evening as a way of saying thank you for listening and told me that I am one of her most considerate friends which respectfully took slots number 9 and 10 on my list.
It was when I learned the power of taking control of your day and started to do more to increase the numbers on my list. I went from 5-10 to an average of 20+ positive experiences each day! It wasn’t even just the fact that good things were happening to me but it was that I started to get new and fun ideas of mixing it up in the office and even outside of work. All of a sudden my brain was looking for more fun and creative ways of doing things, not to mention I became a beacon of joy for all of those behind me.
However, one thing to note is that we don’t want to get into the habit of chasing validation. I made sure that I didn’t fall into this trap and that I wasn’t doing expecting anything in return from anybody, which is what made the process much more fun, which brings us to the next point
Spread Your Kindness on Everyone
Kindness can be summed up as offering your best self to someone whether it is for a second, minute, or longer.
There have been countless research in the past that have said that showing kindness to others (Hamilton, D. R. (2010). Why Kindness is Good for You) releases several neurochemicals that result in a sense of well being as well as feel-good hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
By making at least one act of kindness a habit for each day, we are not only releasing all these good feeling hormones within us but we’re doing our part of making the world around us just as good as the world within us.
So if you’re stuck in the office all day, what could you do? Here are some of the things I did that were low effort but made a huge difference to my general mood and the people around me.
#1 Bought a coffee for a friend without expecting anything in return
#2 Asked the barista how their day is going every day and got into a conversation about life goals and dreams
#3 Got to know the people I saw regularly but only did small talk with
#4 Acknowledged and thanked the cleaners at my workplace
#5 Smiled at strangers (not in a creepy way)
#6 Gave compliments to people I’m not friends with but often walked by
#7 Made observations about the people around me and told them what I saw (this is really fun if you can pinpoint what someone is feeling)
#8 Offered to help a co-worker with a boring task
#9 Discussed something in person rather than over an email
#10 Shared an article from a blog that I knew would be helpful to someone (you can practically do this right now using this article)
I cannot stress enough, but you must spend some time every single day pleasing yourself. So, if you don’t have one already go out and get yourself a good HOBBY.
A study from 2009 found that elderly people with hobbies showed a better subjective quality of life than those without any hobbies.
Not only that, but the Japanese study found that those with hobbies also had better overall health, intellectual activity, less depression as well as looking younger than their counterparts who were the same age.
A hobby could be anything from watching your favourite TV series, playing a particular sport or musical instrument, or being part of a club. Although if you are watching TV or playing video games I would try and limit these if they start to take over your other priorities.
Most of the hobbies that have been known to be beneficial have been the social ones, usually team sports. Whatever you decide to do, doing it regularly (if not every day) will bring an overall sense of happiness and fulfilment to your life.
I have a friend who goes out into the parks every evening just to take photos of the arrangement of beautiful flowers. I never thought something like this could be a hobby but I know for sure it brings a great sense of joy to him. Whatever brings you joy and happiness, try spending some time doing it each day, even if it is a few moments.
All it takes are a small number of changes we could daily and we can start to experience more amazing days. Just a handful of changes can not only make your day better but also help create a positive environment around you, further impacting on the 10% we talked about at the start that we usually don’t have much control over. Which of these has had the most impact on you? Do make sure to let me know in the comments.