It’s the end of a long and satisfying work day. I am exhausted and my eyes are dry and blurry, but I wanted to take a few minutes to myself to sort through my day and my feelings.
The past few weeks, I’ve been happier. I’ve had some days where I was in the most amazing mood all day, I’ve been feeling cheerful and smiling more, I am having an easier time getting out of the bed in the morning, and I’m not eating junk food nearly as much. I’ve been working out more consistently, spending more time with my kids, and more pleasant with my husband.
I was thinking about what changes I’ve made over the past several months to lead me to this place of growing contentment and I can pinpoint several habits I’ve adopted that have made huge difference in my level of happiness.
1. I started working with a life coach. Working with her has been incredibly enlightening. I’ve worked through stuff from my childhood, started to tune into my thoughts (which were not self-loving in any way), started to shift my thoughts, took steps to move away from feeling overwhelmed all the time, and started dealing with the poor financial situation I’ve found myself in due to my business not growing the way it was originally planned to. I have moved away from ruminating on problems and complaints to accepting what is and looking for possible solution.
2. I practice gratitude daily. My life coach encouraged me to end my day by taking the time as I was lying down for bed to mentally run through what I appreciated from my day. That was good, and I stepped it up a couple of weeks ago to keeping a daily gratitude journal. I use it at night and write down everything I can think of that I am grateful for from the day. As an extra bonus, if someone has ticked me off during the day or I’ve felt frustrated about something, I try to look for what I appreciate about that person or situation. For example, after a day of fighting with my daughter, I will note that I appreciate her fierce spirit.
3. I’ve been eating the frog. Some tasks you dread so much that they create a knot deep in the pit of your stomach and seem to grow over time. I decided that instead of procrastinating when dealing with those unpleasant tasks, I would tackle them first thing. I’m not always successful. Sometimes my desire to avoid the unpleasant feeling of doing the tasks wins out, but increasingly, I eat the frog and feel that knot unwind, leaving me higher in energy and lighter in spirit.
4. I set my three most important tasks for the day and don’t stress out about the rest. This has been particularly challenging for me, as I have a habit of overestimating what I can accomplish in a day. I would make a long to-do list and then beat myself up for failing to check all of the items off my list. This would negatively affect my energy so that it was even harder to be productive. Once I started scaling back my expectations, my load lightened. When I completed my three tasks, I felt good about myself, and if I didn’t complete my three tasks, I started to use that opportunity to analyze which goals were really important to me and what my priorities actually were vs. what I said they were.
5. I strive to be curious. When I’m feeling low energy or a negative emotion, I really try to zone in on my underlying thoughts, without judging them or trying to change them. I’ve often been surprised at the internal dialogue going on, and at how often it was negative. That growing awareness has often been enough for me to start to think differently about myself and what I’m experiencing, and in general, my thoughts have become more positive.
6. I’ve been meditating daily. I started using the Calm app on my iPhone, often before bed or before work in the morning. It really helps me let go of my stressful feelings and the related tension in my body. When I meditate in the morning, I find that I enter my day with greater calm and a brighter outlook.
7. I’ve been practicing yoga regularly. At times, I practice daily. At minimum, I practice a few times a week. Not only am a noticing an improvement in my balance, but also I am enjoying the time I am spending to take care of myself. My back feels freer, my mind calmer, and I really appreciate that I am taking better care of my body so that I can be more active.
8. I’ve simplified meals. Much as I love meal planning and believe in the value of it, I’ve been finding it a struggle lately. Often, I would plan the week but not make it to the grocery store, so then the plan would get scrapped and we’d be scrambling at dinner time. Sometimes I would plan and shop and then find I didn’t want to cook or was short on time to make what I had laid out. In addition, my expectations in terms of home-cooked, healthy meals were high – too high. I decided to let go of the expectations, buy more pre-chopped and packaged veggies, rely on deli chickens more, stock up on easy (though not always super-healthy freezer items), and roll with it when our time was tight or we didn’t feel like making a big meal. It’s been a relief and seems to be working for me right now.
What habits do you practice to make your life better?