The following was originally published on Pyschology Today. Copyright by Dr. Barbara Koltuska-Haskin.
There are simple things we can do to have a great day. They do not require money or a lot of energy, just only a willingness to do them. There is no guarantee in life and nobody promised us that every day will be a great day, but we at least can try. It is important to remember that each day we can live only once. Why not make the best of it?
Wake Up With a Gratitude
Research finds that people who practice gratitude daily have a better and healthier life (Alex M. Wood, et al. 2010). It is trivial, but why not be grateful that we wake up, in our own bed with our favorite sheets, and that we will have food for breakfast. Also, be grateful that we are well and able to take care of ourselves. If you have a problem waking up with gratitude, think for a moment how many people in the world are not as fortunate as you are. Try to begin each day with good thoughts and intentions. This will help you get through the day. Practice positive thinking and, just like that famous 1930 song, be “on the sunny side of the street.” This is important for your brain health. Remember that you are in charge of your mind, not the other way around (although for some people it feels that way) and you can choose what you think, how you feel, and what you do.
Take Time for Yourself in the Morning
Mornings are important because they set up our mood and attitude for the rest of the day. It is important to take time for yourself in the morning. Start with doing something nice for yourself, something that will bring a smile to your face. It can be as simple as having a cup of your favorite coffee, playing with your pet, or just having a moment to enjoy the beautiful summer morning. Find time to do a little meditation. It can be as little as five to 10 minutes of just sitting quietly and breathing deeply. It will relax your body and calm you down. If you have time, try to exercise and or go for a walk. These things will give you the energy you need to move through the day. They will also lift up your mood by pumping the “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain. Energized and calm yourself internally, it will be easier to go through the day.
Set up Goals for the Day, Prioritize
Try not to set up a lot of goals. Start with three to five important goals that really have to be done this day. The others may need to wait until tomorrow or the next day. If you constantly fall behind a schedule, and this is not due to medical reasons like illness or injury, try to find professional help. Nowadays, insurance will pay for counseling. If counseling is not for you, try seeing a life coach who might help you with your organizational skills. Please remember, we will never have more time (we may have more energy), but we can definitely learn how to organize our time better. There is always room for improvement.
Be Good to Yourself
If you aren't good to yourself, who will be? Do not try to do it all and do not overextend or overcommit yourself at the expense of your physical and or emotional health. Find time to rest and rejuvenate. Do not punish yourself for your faults and mistakes, just learn from them and move on. Practicing self-care and self-compassion are very important, but frequently forgotten during difficult times such as pandemics. Practicing them will not only benefit you but also your family and your social environment. According to a study from the University of California at Berkley, people who practice self-compassion are more motivated to improve themselves (Breines, J.G. and Chen, S.2012)
Do Something Nice for Others
This will instantly make you feel good, especially if you do not expect any repayment. If you have spare time, do some volunteering services in the neighborhood food bank, animal shelter, or other organization in need of these kinds of services. You can also donate money to a charity, or simply be a shoulder to lean on for someone. Doing something nice and being kind to others boosts serotonin, and dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitters in your brain. Therefore, the most important thing to remember is that being nice and kind to others is good for your brain.
Barbara Koltuska-Haskin, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist in private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico with over 30 years of clinical experience, and the author of How My Brain Works: A Guide to Understanding It Better and Keeping It Healthy. Her book has won 2 International Book Awards and 3 National Book Awards.