If you’re having a tough day — or even if you’re not — here are 11 very simple things you can do to make your day (even) better. Try one or more and see how things change for you.
Breathe – And by breathe I don’t mean life-sustaining, autonomic, shallow breathing, I mean belly-filling, brain-cleansing breathing. With each breath take in enough air to expand your belly and with each exhale, expel as much breath as you can, pulling in your belly to extract every bit. Breathe in to a count of five, hold it for a count of five and breathe out to a count of five. Do it five times. You’ll feel the difference. (This is called the 5-5-5-5.)
Stretch – So much of the workday can be spent immobilized staring at a computer screen. In addition, if you have a stressful job (who doesn’t — a show of hands, please), tension can creep in on little cat paws. You don’t see it coming but at some point you realize you’re holding tension in your neck or shoulders or back. Raise and lower shoulders, do some head rolls, bend forward while sitting or standing, raise your arms over your head, do some side stretches. Take a moment to notice where you are feeling tight and focus on that area. Don’t push too hard, it’s not a contest to see how flexible you can make yourself, just stretch enough to release the tension.
Walk – Doesn’t matter where you work you can take five minutes and walk. Inside your building, around your parking lot, down the street in your neighborhood. Short breaks are uplifting and good for the body and mind. A walk will get your blood flowing and make your brain function better.
Say “No” – Getting comfortable saying no is a skill that pays off in many ways. Pick situations when you truly have a choice (it’s more often than you may think) and practice saying “thank you for thinking of me, but no, that’s not something I can do right now.” If you need to compromise somehow, you can always add, “But here’s what I CAN do.”
Be grateful – Write down three things for which you are grateful. These don’t have to be big things and frankly it’s better if they aren’t. If we can be grateful for a comfortable desk chair and a really delicious cup of coffee, we’re going to be grateful a much greater percentage of the time than if we are grateful for a fabulous vacation.
Volunteer – Volunteering takes our mind off of ourselves – which is a good thing. You can volunteer at a local organization that matters to you or even volunteer to help a colleague who could use a hand. Volunteering in any capacity is good for your spirit and has a way of spreading. A kindness done for others leads to more kindness being passed along.
Be mindful – Whatever you are doing, be fully aware and focused in that moment. Taking your first sip of coffee? Enjoy the warmth of the cup and the aroma, as well as the taste. Composing an email? Tune out everything else and focus on just that one task. Speaking with a colleague? Give that person your full attention.
Notice nature – This can be purposeful or on the fly. Driving to work or walking by a window pay attention to whatever nature you see. Having lunch, pick a seat where you can see outside, or better yet, sit outside. Listen to the sounds, smell the scents. Put a live plant or fresh flowers on your desk. Even for a few seconds, take in whatever nature falls into your line of sight.
Listen to music – Pick some music to suit your mood – or perhaps to change it. Listen to soothing music to reduce tension, upbeat music to re-energize you, or your current favorite song to lift your spirits.
Go on a media fast – Turn off the television and the radio. Stay away from newspapers and avoid online news sources just for a day. The news will keep happening without you and in fact will still be available to you later. This isn’t putting your head in the sand regarding current events as a lifestyle; it’s for a short while. Give your brain a break from all the sensational bad news stories out there.
Declutter – Take a few minutes and clear off a corner of your desk that’s been piling up or a drawer that over-accumulated stuff. Getting rid of stuff feels good. Completing even a small project can have residual positive mental effects for days.