As I shared in a previous post, I’ve started using The Five Minute Journal morning and evening as a way to be more grateful, live with intention, remain positive and just generally have a good day, every day, no matter what. One of the prompts for early morning is to decide on three things that would make today great and list them. At first, when I started using the journal, the temptation was to just write my ‘must do’s’ from my ever lengthening to-do list as a way of being and feeling super productive. However, what I think is much more valuable (and a key idea with the book) is to think about ways in which you can upgrade your day by considering things such as be present (mindfulness), doing things that really matter to you (based on your core values + current goals and intentions) and finding time for or creating habits which give your body and mind what they really need to improve both your physical and mental health and therefore your general wellbeing. So, today, I’m going to share nine ways to improve your day by figuring out your current priorities, doing things that align with your core values, instilling positive habits, re-phrasing self talk and making meaningful progress towards your short term / medium term / life goals, desires and intentions.
Of course, I do realise that, every now and then, events happen in our day which contribute to uncomfortable emotions such as those associated with anger, fear, sadness and disgust and that sometimes, it becomes difficult to remain positive or optimistic. However, I hope that by sharing these suggestions, I will be helping you to learn simple ways to create high vibe states such as peace, joy, gratitude, enthusiasm, optimism, hope and happiness and recognise the effect that these can have on your day. As you create and maintain healthier habits, you should also notice that you spend less time dwelling on negative events and situations and more time celebrating the positives and recognising all that is good in your life.
Today, I’m sharing nine ways to improve your day-to-day but I’m sure, when you think about it, you’ll be able to come up with many more ideas for upgrading from an okay day, to one which leaves you feeling satisfied that you’re living your best life.
Being present is a state of mindfulness where we slow down and bring awareness to what is right in front of us and what is happening in the current moment. By focusing on the here and now, we’re not dwelling on the past (sometimes referred to as rumination) or worrying about the future. This can help us feel calmer and more relaxed. It can also have a positive impact on our relationships, make it easier for us to manage stress and relieve mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
Bringing you attention to and staying in the current moment is a skill that everyone can develop but it does take a lot of practice and can, at times, be really difficult. However, it’s definitely worth persevering if you want to experience the above benefits. To get started, give this blog post a read.
Consider what really matters and take action
Have you ever sat down and seriously reflected on what really matters to you right now? If you haven’t, I can highly recommend taking some time to do this as it can provide a useful starting point to help you decide where to make changes in your life for the better. I find that the best way to do this is to look at a comprehensive list of personal, professional or core values and make a note of those which particularly resonate most with you. Then, when you’ve selected those which matter the most, you can either continue to make time for these things, think about new habits to work on instilling or work on better aligning your behaviour to fit with your current priorities. So, for example, you might decide that having fun with your partner is really important to you and something you want to make more time for in your relationship. Then, you might list fun activities you’ve enjoyed in the past e.g. going to a comedy show, playing mini golf, spending the day at the seaside paddling in the sea, building sandcastles and eating ice cream, and some you’d like to try in the future e.g. canoeing, a Segway tour, exploring the night sky at an observatory, taking a road trip to somewhere new or go camping.
Get your body moving.
I’m sure you already know the benefits of exercise for your mind and body but adding movement to your day doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym for an hour. Here’s some quick and easy ways to raise your pulse rate:
- check out this webpage for some easy stretches you can do in the morning before you even leave your bed
- put on your favourite upbeat track and dance around your bedroom / kitchen / living room
- take a quick power walk around the block in your lunch break
- find a 10 minute ‘no equipment’ exercise routine on YouTube to have a go at. Add those you enjoy to your favourites.
- Do some gentle stretching exercises throughout your day to ease tension and improve your circulation, flexibility, blood flow and posture. Try focusing on areas of your body where you typically hold tension such as your neck, shoulders and upper back. The NHS website has plenty of ideas – try searching ‘NHS flexibility’.
Do a little cleaning, tidying or decluttering
Doing a little bit of cleaning, tidying or decluttering each day can provide a real mood boost and a sense of satisfaction when you admire what you’ve achieved. It doesn’t have to be a long or arduous task, but just taking five or ten minutes can make a difference. You might give your kitchen worktops a deep clean, choose just one drawer or shelf in your kitchen to re-organised or decide to check through your make up bag for products which are past their best or haven’t been used in a while. Over time, these short, focused ‘projects’ will help you to create and maintain a home that you’re super proud of and, if you want an easy way to measure your progress, I recommend taking a quick before and after snap on your phone so you can see what a difference you’ve made – you could even store the ‘after’ photos in a digital folder called ‘my lovely home’!
I’ve talked about the importance of being grateful for the things and people you have in your life in a number of previous blog post and the benefits of a daily gratitude practice are well documented. The morning part of The Five Minute Journal asks you to record three things that you are grateful for and, I’ve found that I know find it so easy to fill in. I also find myself expressing my gratitude in my thoughts throughout the day on a regular basis. So, for example today, I was a little annoyed that I had to get the washing off the line as it started raining as soon I’d finished hanging it out but I was glad I had to because it rained much heavier whilst I was at my Zumba class. I was also grateful that I’d made the decision to pop on my raincoat to wear to the gym as the rain became torrential before the end of my class.
If you want to start a gratitude practice but you’re not sure how, check out this blog post which gives my best tips as well as discussing the benefits of developing a consistent daily habit.
Learn something new
Making time in your routine to learn something new each day is not only a wonderful workout for your brain, it’s also an effective way of reducing stress and calming your body down. Acquiring new information on a topic of interest or developing your skills in a particular area promotes self- improvement and personal growth and can really boost your self esteem and confidence. What you set out to learn and how you do it is really up to you but it’s a good idea to spend some time quietly thinking about subjects of interest and jotting them down in a notebook e.g. money management, particular hobbies, creative writing and animal welfare, things you’d like to know more about e.g. eco friendly cleaning solutions, a particular country or place you’d love to visit, British history, and skills you’d like to work on e.g. cooking, drawing, leadership, time-management and so on. Once you’ve done this, you can then schedule time for learning and begin to collect a bank of useful resources e.g. books, online articles, videos, in person or online classes etc.
Replace ‘I have to…’ with ‘I get to…’ and consider other aspects of your self talk
On the subject of being grateful for what you have, another way you can work on altering your mindset in a positive way is to begin to notice when ‘I have to…’ pops into your head and change it to ‘I get to…’ So, rather than saying ‘I have to go to work’, you would rephrase it as ‘I get to go to work’ focusing on the fact that you have the opportunity rather than it being an obligation.
In a similar vein, statements such as ‘I need to…’, ‘I have to…’ or ‘I should…’ can create pressure and an expectation to perform, whereas better self talk could include ‘I would like to…’, ‘I might…’ or ‘it would be good if…’ e.g. rather than ‘I need to get that washing up done because it’s piling up’ you could say ‘It would be good if I did the washing up now so that the kitchen is clean and tidy for making dinner’. (Find out more by reading this blog post from a few years back.)
Find time for things you love
I believe that setting aside time to do something you love each day is super important if you want to feel a sense of satisfaction with your life. Again, writing down activities you enjoy or get value from and recording a short explanation of why can help. Here’s some examples from my personal list to give you some ideas:
- bird watching
- nature walks
- reading health and wellbeing magazines
- watching psychological thrillers on TV (or reading them on my Kindle)
- playing card and board games
- making sweet treats such as flapjack, cookies or cupcakes
- doing 1000 piece jigsaws
- playing Angry Birds 2, Candy Crush and Word Cookies on my tablet
- hand lettering with my brush pens
- painting my nails
- using my watercolours
Avoid distractions and information overload
My final tip for making the most of your time and having a great day, is to minimise sources of distraction and develop ways to prevent information overload. I would say that the most common source of distraction and productivity killer comes from modern technology and presents itself in the form of notifications such as text messages, emails or social media happenings (such as tweets, status updates on Facebook, Instagram stories and photo shares, YouTube video postings and so on) and often a combination of all three. I don’t consider myself an expert on avoiding such distractions but this is what I’m trying at the moment:
- two email addresses – one for work related emails for my Etsy shop, blog and university work with notifications for messages from actual people (rather than organisationd) going to my Fitbit watch during the day, the other for all other emails such as those from businesses with notifications turned off. If I’ve placed an online order and want to track progress, I just use the search facility to find the relevant information.
- keep my phone in another room whilst I’m working (whether that’s on my shop, my blog, gardening, housework etc)
- turning off social media notifications and then setting aside a small amount of time each day to ‘check in’
- avoiding looking at my phone during my 5 minute Pomodoro Technique breaks
In terms of information overload, there are some useful tips contained in this blog post including how to consider the type of content you wish to engage depending on your current priorities.
I’ve found The Five Minute Journal really useful in helping me to decide what my priorities are for that particular day and in thinking about what would turn my week days and weekend days from just okay or average to great or amazing. Whether you use this journal system or not, spending a few minutes each morning in mindful contemplation in relation to the above can make such a difference to your day.
I hope you have taken away something useful from your reading and I would love to hear any thoughts or additional ideas you may have in the comments.