Nov 12, 2010
In a previous article, “How to Have a Good Day: The Night Before,“ I talked about ways to help make a day go well through preparation. In my last article, “How to Have a Good Day: 4 Ways to Make the Most of a Morning,” I continued the discussion by talking about things that can be done in the morning to help improve the rest of the day. This third article offers more strategies to improve a day by handling the morning well.
- Do one constructive thing early on. Accomplishing something worthwhile, even if it’s a small thing, tends to give a boost in self-confidence and optimism, especially if it’s a task that has been lingering or that has more impact that something its size normally would.
- Keep an eye out for broken ideas. “Broken ideas” or “cognitive distortions” are patterns of thinking that do more harm than good; you can read about them here. By reminding ourselves to be aware of our own thoughts and being vigilant for broken ideas, we can head off emotional problems and distractions.
- Be prepared to face trouble. Any day can potentially bring trouble: unexpected expenses, illness, things breaking, people not coming through, and so on. Since trouble can’t be eradicated from our lives, it helps to be of a mind to face it. When we’re distracted, unprepared, or in a bad mood, it’s often difficult to steel ourselves to tackle problems that arise, and instead we may tend to avoid, make bad compromises, give up, or struggle unnecessarily. Reminding ourselves to do our best to take problems in stride will help lower stress and increase our ability to fix issues that come up.
- Meditate. It’s true, meditation takes time, and it’s not easy, at least at first. But meditation has proven itself valuable again and again in studies and human experience in terms of aiding focus, lowering stress, and increasing happiness–which makes it a very useful practice for first thing in the morning. For more on this, see my article “Strengthen Willpower Through Meditation.” Yoga can have similar benefits in the morning, and even beginners can benefit through use of tools like yoga DVDs.
- Exercise early. Exercise ups metabolism, improves mood, and increases immediate physical well-being (even if you’re a little sore from the workout). It also starts the day off with a constructive accomplishment, which as we’ve already discussed, has its own good impacts.
- Use music to your advantage. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys adding music to other activities rather than being distracted by it, you can take advantage of music’s ability to make a noticeable impact on mood and emotions. Memories and associations, rhythms, the act of singing along (if you’re inclined), and other aspects of music give it a direct line to the parts of our brains that regulate emotions. For more on this, see “How and Why Music Changes Mood.”
Photo by Roshnii
Nov 10, 2010
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