Honestly, this question used to annoy me. I couldn’t just say, “oh, fine” unless I was actually feeling it, and I knew no one wanted to hear me complain either. As a result, this question often just served to make me grumpier than I already was! (Okay, so every day wasn’t horrible, some were even amazing—but I had a very different reality back then—read older posts and explore the site if you need some background.)
I don’t dread this question any more. In fact, now I love it! I generally answer with something like, “Never better!” I get comments about how much lighter and happier I seem and lots of inquiries into what’s changed and how can they get some of that!
In this post, I’m going to share how I changed my reality. It all started when I took charge of my happiness! I adopted daily practices that provided little shifts in my thinking. These shifts eventually opened up to me a whole new world of possibilities!
Simple, quick actions or thoughts that had the power to transform my lens. Without them, I would have continued to just drudge through the daily grind, discontent, and wondering if this was all there was to life—this constant uphill battle that left me drained and aching for something more gratifying.
Now, my world is amazing and I feel I wear rose-colored glasses all the time! Okay, that’s not completely true. I still get discouraged and even downright grumpy sometimes. (I still have hormones.) But when I do, I can fall back on those aforementioned practices. Little habits that keep me from “giving up” on myself and my dreams. Now that I’ve experienced this crazy, fun, inspiring, challenging, crazy, (did I already say that?) world, I’m determined to never go back to a soul-sucking J-O-B!
Gosh, I digress. But I truly am grateful for the contrast that allows me to appreciate how much more AWESOME life is now that I’ve seized control. In fact, this lens of gratitude is part of the magic. There’s nothing new here; you’ve probably heard most of my strategies. They work. If you’re committed, they really work. Start with one or two and add more as you get them down. Here's a sample of the habits that keep me happy:
I started with a gratitude journal. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it took me several years to make it a daily commitment to write 3 things every night. Once I made it a habit, it truly did change the way I view my world. I now move through my day with an immense sense of gratitude! I’m even incredibly grateful how intolerable my former job was because it inspired me to take action and change my environment! It’s much easier now to rattle off things I’m thankful for at any given moment—I no longer wait until evening to express my gratitude. This one minor change in the way you view your world can have enormously positive consequences. It’s truly transformative!
Play, Mindfulness, and Spontaneity (they overlap)
Find the fun in everything—or make it fun. Work and play should not be two separate activities! Turn things into a game. Research shows that when you do, you’re more likely to go after what you want with more courage and determination and to not give up when things are challenging.
I also take time to play with my children in a mindful way. My two kids used to call me on my wandering mind when I was with them--truly heartbreaking! It's taken practice, but I've become much better at staying present and enjoying the time I make to play with my children. We spontaneously do things we didn’t have time to do before: blast music and dance, walk to the park and play on the equipment, go on exploratory journeys on our bicycles, be goofy with each other, make up games, endless possibilities here!
Honestly, I could work on my business 24/7 and in fact, it’s pushing midnight right now as I write this, but creating the time to be present in the moment when I’m with people I love and to make that time active and FUN does wonders for boosting my mood! This time also strengthens the social bonds that are known to improve vitality and increase life span. In fact, Dr. Jane McGonigal would say that I’m increasing both my social and my physical resilience through these activities.
Doing kind things for others without expecting anything in return is a powerful way to turn a day around! Especially because this is often the last thing you want to do when you're in "a mood!" It definitely takes more effort, but when you make someone else's day just by performing a simple act of kindness, it's nearly impossible to wallow in your own misery.
Seek Positive Messages
My teaching partner gave me one of those calendars with inspirational quotes last year for Christmas. She was pretty sure I was bordering on depression, and she was right. I ended up with pages from that calendar pinned up in my classroom; I used to give them to students when the message fit. I still have pages from that calendar scattered in strategic places all over my house. My kids do too! That cheesy calendar was instrumental in my shift. I clung to those messages and saved ones I needed to see most often. I could refer to them when I needed to be reminded of the message on the page. I’ve even become one of those Facebook fanatics that are constantly posting positive quotes. Sometimes they’re just the shift I need!
When I’m feeling especially challenged or grumpy about something, I think of what I need to hear most and I find a TED talk that will give it to me. I’m going to share some of my favorites, because they always remind me that we are ALL human with the same capacity for dreaming and for vulnerability. They remind me to believe in myself, and to never give up on what I’m passionate about.
Fun TED talks to give you a boost (There are many more; these are just a few of my faves!):
The Happy Secret to Better Work | Shawn Achor
The Game that Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life | Jane McGonigal
Massively Multi-Player...Thumb Wrestling? | Jane McGonigal
My 38 Random Acts of Kindness | Botlhale Tshetlo
Uh oh, I feel the need to quote coming on...
" Choose the positive--you have choice--you are the master of your attitude!" ~Bruce Lee
I invite you to leave a comment below and share something you do to battle discouragement or to turn around a bad day. What actions or mindset management strategies do you use to boost your mood? Or feel free to add a resource (book, video, article, whatever!) on this topic. The more strategies we all have, the better!