There are good days and bad days. Some bad days are out of our control, and some good days happen in spite of themselves.
But I’m discovering there are many things I can do (even if sometimes I really don’t want to) that make an impact on the sort of day I’m going to have. Without sounding ridiculously self-righteous, this is how I have an awesome day:
Start it the night before
I need decent sleep in order to function well, so I make sure to get to bed early. I have been known to go to bed when the kids do, and am always in bed before 9:30pm during the week.
You can: work out how many hours sleep you need, what time you need to wake up in the morning, and work backwards until you find your ideal bed time.
My alarm goes off at 4am every morning except Sunday. I am (obviously) an early bird, so this works for me. It lets me get 2 hours of writing or work done before the rest of the family wakes up, and it takes the pressure off during the day. I get the quiet time that I desperately need – which helps me stay calm and positive during the day, even when milk is spilled, arguments break out and appointments run late.
A good breakfast
When I eat a fast breakfast – something like toast or sugary cereal – my day often doesn’t go to plan. My energy is down, I crave sweet, fatty or carby foods and my mood is darker. So I make sure to eat a decent breakfast, something that includes vegetables and protein to keep my energy up and stop the 10am munchies.
Usually I’ll sautee vegetables (mushrooms, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, corn – whatever is in the fridge) and serve it with either a poached egg or a dollop of natural yoghurt and jalapenos on top. If time is short, I’ll make a green smoothie of frozen banana, almond milk, spinach, chia seeds, coconut oil, honey and cacao and take it with me.
You can: get up 10 minutes earlier and try this yourself.
Even 5 minutes of sun salutations while my coffee brews is enough to make my body feel energised. I also try to exercise a little more intensely a few days a week (either by running or doing a couple of rounds of the 7 Minute Workout) and find my general outlook much sunnier on the days I get physical. Combined with weekend bushwalks, taking the kids and dog for a neighbourhood stroll and the physical activity of gardening, cleaning and parenting – I’m moving more now than I have for a long time, and it reflects in my mood, energy and general worldview.
You can: try the 7 Minute Workout, take the dog for a walk around the block or try some simple stretches every morning or evening. Take advantage of incidental exercise by using the stairs, raking the backyard, getting off the bus one stop earlier or taking a walk during your lunchbreak.
During my 5-minute kitchen yoga sessions, each time I reach my hands above my head and stretch to the sky, I make myself smile. I push a big, stupid, cheesy grin across my face and I say thank you. Seriously. It used to feel silly, but now it really does lift my mood.
You can: smile at yourself in the mirror before heading off to work. Smile at a stranger. Smile for no reason other than to feel it lifting the corners of your mouth. See if it doesn’t make you feel even the tiniest bit happier.
If I’m dehydrated, I get headaches, I feel cranky and my body is sluggish. So I try to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. I’ve found the best way to get close to this amount is to fill my 1.25L stainless steel drink bottle and leave it on the kitchen bench when I ‘m at home. Every time I walk past it, I take a drink. If I’m working I have the bottle on my desk, and if I’m out it goes in my handbag.
You can: take a reusable drink bottle with you to work, the gym, or keep it on the kitchen bench when you’re at home. Start with one full bottle a day and slowly increase your intake to two.
Be kind to myself
Work is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Home-keeping is hard. By showing myself a little compassion, not expecting myself to be all things to all people, and knowing that it’s impossible to do everything, I allow myself to feel good rather than bad. So the laundry didn’t get put away, but I did play hide and seek with my kids. I’m OK with that.
You can: show yourself some kindness. Accept that it’s not possible to do everything, and that’s OK.
Obviously, your awesome day will look different to mine. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s cool. Also keep in mind that these don’t all happen every day. I try to include most of these elements, most of the time, but sometimes life just gets in the way, you know?
But if you’re wanting to create better days for yourself, why not spend this week paying attention to which days are good and which days are not so good. Then ask yourself why. What was different about the good days? What about the bad days didn’t work for you? Try to incorporate more of the good and less of the bad, and see how it impacts your days. After all:
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.”
— Lao Tzu
I’m a huge believer that we ultimately choose our own happiness, but I also believe we need to do the work in order to foster that happiness. No-one’s going to do it for us.
Here’s to a good week, friends.