HAPPINESS | May 5
10 Simple Ways to Make Today Better than Yesterday
The question isn't who's going to let me. It's who's going to stop me. -Ayn Rand
This morning as I took my kids to school, I was feeling rushed and harried. Stress levels high, my face wore a permanent frown, my mind was in a million different places, and my two youngest kids (3 year old, and 20 months) were quiet in their car seats.
Then I realized: while my mind is elsewhere, I’m missing some prime moments with my kids. And not really enjoying my day.
And so I changed the moment, and in doing so changed my day: we began singing some of our favorite children’s songs. Itsy-bitsy spider, twinkle twinkle, wheels on the bus, ABCDs, I’ve been working on the railroad, the ants go marching two by two … all of the oldies.
Instead of thinking about all the things I had to do today, I brought myself into the present moment. And when we got to school, I took a few minutes to spend time with them. Be present with them. It was truly lovely.
This little incident not only brought warmth and joy into my heart … it brought a realization into my mind: I can either have a stressed, difficult day … or I can have an amazing, wonderful day.
I chose the amazing day.
The rest of the day, I did things to ensure that my day was the best ever. And it was. I had the greatest day … all from simple little things that don’t seem like much, but make all the difference in the world.
Do you have to follow these things step-by-step? Not at all. Find your own methods, or pick and choose a few of these. Main thing, though: take steps to make today your best day ever.
1. Be present. Instead of having your mind elsewhere, bring yourself back to now, in this moment, focused on where you are and what you’re doing and who you’re with. We cannot change things that have already happened, and obsessing over them does nothing to help us now. We cannot predict the future, so worrying about it does nothing to help you either. Instead, focus on now … if something is worrying you, take action … but even better, just be in the moment, and live as if now is all there is. Because it is.
2. Do less. Have a full schedule today? Cut it in half. You don’t need to do everything on that list. I took a few items on my list and moved them to next week. Do less (but focus on the important — not urgent — stuff) and you’ll be less stressed out. If you cut your list down and do only half the things you want to do for today, you’ll have a much better day. You’ll thank me.
3. Get one important thing done. As I said in the previous point, do less but do more important things. When I say important, I mean things that will have a huge impact on your life (personally or career wise) over the long run. Not things that need to be done today or else. Here’s why: If you get something important done, something that will help you in the long run (even if it’s only a step towards a major accomplishment, it’s important), you will feel great! You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. That makes any day a great day.
4. Plan your perfect life. What would your life be like if you had no restrictions? I’m not talking about living in a McMansion or flying around in jet planes, but what would make you happy. A good step: pick the 4-5 most important things in your life, and build your perfect life around those things, eliminating most of the rest if possible. Plan that perfect life, and then plan the first few steps you need to take to get there. Now schedule those first steps over the next week, including one today. It feels amazing to start taking action on making your life the way you want it to be.
5. Declutter. Even if it’s just a little space — say a drawer or a shelf — decluttering an area of your life can have a wonderful effect on your mood and happiness level. I know it gives my day a boost. When things start to get cluttered (and let’s face it, even the best declutterers among us face clutter creep), I take a few minutes to clear it out. Clearing your desk (at least the surface of it) can be a great way to start.
6. Go for a walk. I was going to write “exercise” but I’m afraid that many readers will just skip over this one. So instead, just go for a walk. That movement, and the fresh outdoor air, will have a great effect on your day. And even better: take a few minutes to enjoy the nature around you as you go for your walk. Clear your head. Calm yourself during a busy time of your day. Think to yourself: “How lucky I am to be alive! How wonderful a world I’m in! What opportunities and possibilities lie before me!”
7. Focus on 3 projects. Choose only your three most important projects, and focus on them exclusively. Focus on getting them to completion, to the exclusion of all other projects. Do that today. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll accomplish. I only started doing it recently, but I’m getting so much done that I feel like I was sitting on my hands before this. It feels wonder-tastic!
8. Listen to great music. When I was in the car, after I dropped the kids, an oldie came on the radio: Tommy James and the Shondells singing Hanky Panky. “I saw her walking on down the line (yeah) … you know I saw her for the very first time …” Well, I love songs like that (call me old if you like) and I started dancing in my seat. You might be turned on by hipper songs (or is “hipper” not a trendy word anymore?) but whatever music gets you going, jam it on your iPod or car radio. Or while you work. It’s a great time! “Hey, pretty baby, can I take you home!”
9. Watch a sunrise or sunset. Trite? Yes, definitely. But does it work? Yes, definitely. I took the time to enjoy the sunset on my way home today. Mmmmm. It was lovely. It just fills me with warmth. Sunrises are even more beautiful!
10. Spend time with a loved one. Another obvious one, perhaps, but there’s nothing better, really. When I spent even just a few minutes with my two babies this morning, it filled me with a joy unequaled anywhere else in life. Then I spent some time with my wife, after work, and let me just say that’s about as good as it gets too. Even if you don’t have a spouse or kids, there’s someone in your life that you value … make time out of your day today to spend time with them … and not just to watch TV, but to actually be with them, talk with them, bond with them. It works.
This post originally appeared on Zen Habits.