Some days can be one problem after another; on others, everything seems to be going out way. While there are steps we can take to troubleshoot a bad day while it’s happening (see “Having a Bad Day? Here’s Why” and “How to Stop Having a Bad Day“), we can also help encourage good days. In my last article (“How to Have a Good Day: The Night Before“), I offered some steps we can take at night to help make the next day as good as it can be. Today’s article continues the topic with steps we can take in the morning.
- Set aside some time to think. It’s often inconvenient to try to make time in the morning, especially when it means getting up earlier, but doing so is powerful. When we don’t have time to think about what’s going on, we generally act on habit, so that bad habits–like being late, eating poorly, or avoiding stressful responsibilities–can often start a day off on the wrong foot. Our brains have developed to take cues from the world around us and interpret them to predict the future, so that a few bad habits first thing in the morning can set the stage for a downward spiral. By contrast, starting off with a few good choices provides encouragement, happiness, and self-confidence.
- Remind yourself of your goals. Whenever we want to move forward with a goal, it’s worthwhile to keep that goal in mind as often as possible. If you’ve ever had the experience of making a strong resolution, keeping it for a little while, then forgetting for a few days or weeks when something else came up, you probably remember coming back to it later to feel completely derailed. Reminding ourselves clearly and explicitly of a current goal first thing in the morning helps keep our focus and mental efforts on that goal.
- Remind yourself of immediate payoffs. Although major goals are by definition long-term, a good goal usually has short-term payoffs as well. Examples include things like feeling physically better when not eating junk food or finding things that are needed while organizing, but progress on any goal also can have the effect of increasing self-confidence, relieving stress, and generating a sense of accomplishment. Reminding ourselves of these immediate payoffs provides a reason to care about our goals even when the long-term results don’t feel important, as sometimes happens when we’re wrapped up or emotionally involved with other things.
- Be willing to let go. Sometimes the first step in increasing happiness is being willing to surrender things we’re upset about–to stop focusing on upsetting incidents or self-defeating thoughts. As ridiculous as it sounds, I sometimes picture things like this floating away from me as helium balloons. Corny or not, an approach like this gives me a way to separate from what’s bothering me. Consciously committing to doing this when necessary through the day–and starting with any trouble that may already be brewing in the morning–can relieve stress and aid focus.
There’s more we can do in the mornings to encourage the day to go well: I’ll take up the other techniques in my next post.
Photo by OldOnliner