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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the person to bust out laughing and I suck at making people smile. But what works for me is focusing daily on trying to find gratitude. Towards the end of this post I provided a few useful tools that work well for me- note that I don’t get anything for this, just sharing what works for me in hopes of it helping you. Leave a comment and help me learn what has worked for you and how you live intentionally to improve your happiness.
Start in the Morning
What you do in the morning sets the tone for your day. I often find myself focusing on a few things every morning that help me get started on the right foot. Daily gratitude, reflecting on what is important, getting exercise or fresh air, and making a plan to drink plenty of water and eat well.
Every morning, I start by finding three things that I’m grateful for. So many times I look around and focus on the negatives. What I wish I was doing better, what I wish I had accomplished that day, week, or month, and living this life of constantly comparing ourselves to others. My grandfather often told me growing up “There is always someone worse off than you.” To this day it’s still ingrained in my head to recognize all of the things we have to be thankful for. For me, it’s a warm uninterrupted cup of coffee, time to read a book or be in my own head, being thankful for time with family and friends. As part of daily gratitude, I’ve also found it helpful to remember what I have accomplished. We often are on to the next thing so fast that we forget to look back and appreciate what we have done. I may not be at my weight lost goal this week, but I worked out 3 days this week and that is something to be damn proud of! I may not be a pro at styling my hair, but I showered today, so there’s that. Don’t judge my newborn mom wins.
Reflecting on what is important
Ever feel like you’re chugging along in life living someone else’s dreams and expectations? At least every couple weeks, I sit down and reflect on what is truly important to me. I attended a conference once where they had you close your eyes and imagine your own funeral. What was it like, and what were people saying about you? Who was there? This hits me hard because I often find myself living a life that doesn’t always align with how I want to be remembered. My daily actions don’t often reflect the person I perceive myself to be. I take time to think about myself, my health, my relationships, and my impression on the community. It’s a work in progress, but every few months I identify a few goals and list them out by week. It can be easy to forget about our passions and our needs (or the needs of those who really matter in our lives). We wake up, go to work, come home exhausted, order a pizza, and watch TV until we sleep and do it all over again. STOP! Where do you want to be 3 months from now, 6 months from now, or 1 year from now? What small steps can you take today to get there, and what is one thing you can do this week to support that goal? We aren’t too busy, but if we take the time to think about it and visualize it in our minds, write it down, you’ll find yourself making it happen and being thankful you did.
Exercise and Fresh Air
I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for over 10 years. I was not someone who enjoyed working out. But when I started to get into running as a distraction for my nicotine addiction, I started to appreciate what it did for my mental and physical health. You may not be able to work out, but that’s ok- go for a walk, get outside and get some fresh air. Our moods can be drastically improved by moving our bodies and breathing. I’ve tried meditation in the past and love it for the ability to focus on my breathing and supplying my body with oxygen. I never regret a workout, meditation, or a walk outside. If I get up early and get it done, I feel fantastic for the rest of the day. It doesn’t need to take long, I usually target no more than 30 minutes for an early workout. Have children, great! Get them involved, do something in your home or get them outside with you. I often used my kids as an excuse, but strollers are a magical thing so you can strap your kids in for the ride, and give you some extra resistance too! My kids always slept better after being outside, so there was that added reward on top of it.
Drink Water and Eat Well
Every morning, I drink about 30 oz of water before anything else. Before breakfast, and before that delicious cup of coffee (or two, or three). I honestly don’t know how people function without coffee, but I noticed early in my career that people who drank plenty of water and prioritized nutritious meals, were extremely sharp at 7 in the morning. I was usually riding out the high of my last nicotine fix, praying the caffeine would hit my brain before my cigarette buzz wore off. It worked, but was not beneficial for the long term health of my body. I was usually crashing by lunch, scouting out the closest vending machine for a mountain dew. When we feed ourselves the right foods, it is amazing how little we crave the bad stuff. I’ll be honest, I grew up on microwaveable TV dinners and cereal, and that trend continued into college. I didn’t know the first thing about eating well, and if you what to know what helped me, I listed some helpful tools below.
You certainly shouldn’t go out and buy stuff to find happiness in your life. All you need is a piece of paper (or even taking a mental note) or the things you are grateful for and what is important to you. Walking is free and so is breathing the air outside. Water is free, and you can eat a healthy meal on the cheap easier than you think. But if you’re interested in what has worked for me, here are a couple helpful tools I’ve used to get my life together.
Every few weeks, I find myself busting out my Panda Planner. A girl I met during my MBA program at Bradley University introduced me to this, and I fell in love. Whenever I feel like I’m stuck, this planner has helped me through and focus on daily gratitude and what is truly important to me. I recently used this planner to write out the 3 months after my daughter was born to help me avoid risk of postpartum depression.
I also keep a subscription of emeals. I suck at cooking, and didn’t know the slightest thing about eating healthy. As a friend of mine likes to remind me, I screwed up kraft macaroni and cheese (who does that?!) When I was working full time, had a newborn, and needed to finish my MBA, this meal planner was a life saver for me. It plans out your meals, and tells you exactly what to buy from the store. The recipes are easy to follow and honestly taught me that I could cook so much more than I ever thought I could. I waste less food and help my family eat healthier meals for minimal effort.
Lastly, I have a subscription for beachbody. You pay less than $100 for a whole year and have a ridiculous number of workouts to stream in your own home. I’m a mom, I don’t want to bring my kids to the gym and most mornings I’m thankful for 30 uninterrupted minutes to crank out an exercise. They also provide nutrition plans that help with the whole eating vegetables thing, and you get a community of people to hold you accountable. For me, it’s been fantastic, and saves me the cost of a gym membership and the time it takes to drive there. Plus my toddler likes to crawl on me to make me work extra hard.