Life is going to throw us some challenges, no doubt about it. My Mom used to call them character building experiences. Apparently, I don’t have enough character because this stuff keeps coming my way. But, now I have a kind of a first-aid kit, a spiritual salve that I can lather on every day that makes it easier to cope with the difficult times. It also amps up the good times.
Best thing is, this salve is easy to apply and can be used right smack-dab in the middle of your day.
Five Ingredients to Make a Better Day
1. Gratitude. This spiritual practice is a fan favorite. Why? Because it is so easy to do and it is transformative. Research by Robert Emmons and other psychologists also indicates that a regular gratitude practice helps us manage stress, make good on our goals and feel better.
To begin your gratitude practice, set a time (I like to do this first thing in the a.m., at lunch time and before bed) to name five things you are grateful for. I do it aloud in the morning and then make a list on paper before I go to bed.
After saying or writing each item, take a deep breath, allow the feelings of gratitude to well up, then then say “Thank You.”
That’s it. Another way to fire up your gratitude during the day is to stop and notice those who help you – the teller at the bank, the bus driver, school secretary, hair stylist, kids, partner, whoever. Pause, look in their eyes and offer a sincere “Thank You.” Not only will you feel good, but you will change their day too.
2. Cultivate grounded optimism. Even if you are prone toward more pessimistic thinking you can behave optimistically. Grounded optimists are willing to adapt and change their goals as needed to overcome challenges and cope with adversity. This helps them to bounce back and persist even after setbacks. The belief that they can make a positive difference in the situation and their willingness to work hard to do so is motivating and often leads to creative solutions, innovation and even positive moods. So, next time you’re feeling down, take one teeny-tiny optimistic action and see if it doesn’t inspire some movement through the muck.
3. Move it. Exercise has long been shown to ease stress and leave you feeling better, but posture and physiological shifts can also change your bio-chemistry and improve your mood.
So, smile, even if you have to fake it. Several studies, including one by Robert Zajonc from 1989 and another published in the journal Psychological Science last year proves that a smile – even a fake, contrived one – can actually induce happiness and reduce stress. Give yourself a grin or simply repeat the long “e” sound, which will move your facial muscles into smile formation, and you’ll feel better.
Or adopt a “power pose.” Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has shown that how we hold our body influences how we feel. Stand tall, lean in, or put your feet on your desk and hands behind your head and hold for a couple of minutes to boost confidence and shift you biochemistry in a way that will support you.
4. Become a creator not a complainer. When we fuss and whine and complain, we get more of what we complain about because that is what we are focused on. This isn’t just the Law of Attraction working here, it’s common sense. If you are complaining, you are not working toward change, therefore you stay stuck in the bad feelings. But, if in those moments of frustration or worry, you can get curious about the situation or your emotions instead of dwelling on them, you begin to create a new experience.
5. Find meaning in the experience. Psychologist Michael Steger and others say that people who find meaning in their experiences and lives tend to feel less anxiety and depression and more satisfaction in life.
If you believe that every moment is here to teach and guide you and you go looking for the meaning behind those moments, you’ll feel better. It’s up to you to find the meaning in your life, but when you do you’ll transcend the difficulty.
Each of these five things can help you shift your daily experience in profound ways, as they have mine. The trick though, is to add them into your regular daily routine. To establish a practice. In Wednesday’s post, I’ll offer up some ways you can do that.
This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post
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