Remember that song, “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend”?
After a long week packed with work, errands, appointments, etc. the weekend offers a much needed physical and mental break. On the weekend I find time to do some of the simple things that make me happy. I sit down to drink my morning cup of coffee, usually outside where I can listen to the birds and breathe in some fresh air, I read a book, organize my house, exercise, meet up with friends and family, and journal my ideas and goals. These simple things feed my soul and bring me a sense of peace and happiness. Then I realized, I don’t want to go through life workin’ for the weekend, especially since those weekend days are few and far between. I wanted each day to be enjoyable, so I came up with some daily habits for happiness. It has made such a difference in my life and I want to share it with you in hopes that it will do the same for you. Here are my simple daily habits for happiness.
1. Be grateful. Find something everyday to be grateful for- there are so many reasons! Thinking of all our many, many blessings helps to put our wants and disappointments in perspective. A gratefulness journal is an excellent idea to help you keep a positive attitude.
2. Make the bed. Research has shown that simple tasks like making the bed help keep you focused and calm. Each morning either my husband or I make the bed. At the end of a long day when it’s time for my body to rest, crawling into a fresh, clean bed feels relaxing a rejuvenating. Organizing your desk and other personal spaces a little each day also helps to keep your mind clear and less distracted. It might also save you time (and stress) when you don’t have to run around looking for documents, keys, etc.
3. Wake up 15 minutes earlier. I started waking up earlier so that I have 10 minutes to sit down with my cup of coffee and read something inspiring before I start my day. I’ll either read Melody Beattie’s “Journey to the Heart” or a book of daily bible verses. As I enjoy my cup of coffee relaxing on the couch, I set an intention for that day based around what I read. I try to let the peace of mind I find on the couch in the early morning continue throughout the rest of my day.
4. Exercise. Exercising in the morning before work is also an excellent way to start the day. It gives you energy, starts your day on a positive note with a release of endorphins, and can help you to make healthier choices the rest of the day. If you can’t work out in the morning, fnd time in the afternoon or evening. The benefits of daily exercising are many!
5. Practice acceptance. This one is huge for me. Things are not going to go as planned everyday. There will be promotions you don’t get, jobs you lose, financial struggles, lost relationships, business deals that don’t go through, traffic jams, disease and injury, etc. I think we have the conscious choice to see these struggles as working for us or against us. Are they opportunities for us to improve our patience, faith, health, compassion, etc that are delivered to us through these challenges? I try to see every obstacle as an opportunity. They are not put in our way to keep us from where we are supported to be going but to guide us away from detours to what the big plan of our future holds. These perceived setbacks are not happening to us, they are happening for us.
6. Live in the present. When you become aware of your thoughts it is amazing how much time and mental effort we spend on thinking about the past or preparing for the future. Over the next few days tune into your mindless thinking and notice how we are always living outside the present moment. Life has taught me that you don’t know what tomorrow will hold and there is nothing you can do to change the past. So focus on the present moment and you will immediately find more peace and happiness, because in each single moment life is good and there is so much to be thankful for.
7. Connect with friends or family. Of course, this is easier during the weekend because we have more time but there are ways to sneak in quality time with friends and family during the week that will make each day more enjoyable. I have seen research articles, books, 60 Minutes episodes, etc. showing a clear correlation between time spent with friends and family and longevity. The connections, emotional support, and laughter that come from friendships can boost our immune systems by calming the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system that negatively affects every body system when it’s over activated, as is the case with most Americans. So sneak in an early morning coffee, lunch, cocktail, exercise class, or dinner during the week. It will give you something to look forward to and add in some laughter to your day.
8. Dream big! Setting personal and professional goals can help keep you motivated and add enjoyment back to daily life. Schedule a continuing education course that interests you, challenge yourself to give a lecture, start a new business, give back to your community, learn a new skill, or save money for a big trip. Choose one personal goal and one professional goal and take actions to help you reach them. Once you meet them, set another, and another! Notice how they can reinvigorate your excitement for work and for life.
9. Help someone. Whenever I am having a little pity party or upset about something, I try to focus my attention away from myself to someone else. Helping another person instantly takes your thoughts away from your perceived problems and gives you a sense of joy. Remember that no matter what your job or day entails, every day is an opportunity to have a positive impact on someone’s life. Imagine you have the power and capability to make another person’s day better than it would have been without you. That is awesome! So give someone a compliment, hold the door open, smile at everyone you meet, pay for someone’s coffee behind you in line, do a chore for a family member you know they dislike, buy your spouse flowers for no reason, donate school supplies to a teacher, etc. etc. etc. The list is endless. Pick something really small and do something each day. The other week we were having a Miami “cold front” and as I was walking into work outside the hospital a doctor stopped and gave his hot mug of coffee to a homeless person who was cold. How simple and, yet, how impactful. I decided to pass it on. I passed out a bag of food to a different homeless man as I was leaving work that afternoon. Remember, even something as simple as complimenting someone on their smile, might be the thing that changes their day.
10. Sleep. So often overlooked, sleep is vital to our happiness. Sleep is the time for your body to rest and recover. Sleep improves focus and creativity and helps to keep you healthy by allowing your body time to detox and heal. Restful sleep takes planning, too. Stop looking at bright lights (tv and computers) an hour before bed, eat at least an hour before bed, calm your mind with meditation, prayer or read a book (unless it’s one of those cliffhangers you can’t put down!), and create a calm sleeping environment with cool temperatures and soft bedding. Your body and mind will thank you, as well as your friends, family, and coworkers!
To your health and (daily) happiness!
Sabina Gempel, DPT, PT