We all have those days when our news and social feeds seem full of conflict, tension, and strong opinions. At times it can feel overwhelming, not to mention anxiety-provoking. It might feel like the only way to escape the controversy is to avoid it in all its forms (an impossible and impractical task).
Luckily, there are simple research-backed ways you can make your day better when cozying under the covers simply isn’t an option (we’re looking at you, Election Day).
01. Do something nice for someone else.
While it may sound counterintuitive, doing something nice for someone else is scientifically proven to make your day better. The Journal of Social Psychology found that individuals who performed acts of kindness for someone reported greater levels of happiness. So call a friend, write a handwritten note, pay for the coffee for the person in line behind you, or grab lunch with a coworker. Not only will this help take your mind off of whatever is bothering you, but it will also make someone else’s day better.
02. Take a break with nature.
A Stanford University study found that participants who walked in a natural environment (think trees and greenery) reported higher levels of happiness and decreased anxiety. By contrast, their study counterparts who walked in an urban setting near traffic did not report these same positive changes. Find creative ways to spend time in nature during the day. Go for a morning run around a park, take a lunch hour power walk, or go for an evening stroll.
03. Write it down.
It is all too easy to focus on the negative things happening, such that it seems like there are only negative things happening. Don’t let the negative drown out the positives in your life. Spend five to ten minutes creating a gratitude list, which psychology research has shown to increase happiness levels. A gratitude list simply involves writing down what you are grateful for in your life. Feel free to be as existential or as simple as you’d like. It’s your list!
04. Deep breath . . .
There’s a reason why therapists teach their clients deep breathing exercises. The American Institute of Stress reports that deep breathing reduces stress, and the American Psychological Association recommends deep breathing as an effective practice to reduce workplace anxiety. Taking deep, focused breaths can help melt away the stress you experience throughout the day. Harvard Health has a simple guide to deep breathing to get you started. Or, you can download an app, such as Calm, as a helpful guide.
05. Listen to your favorite song on repeat.
Do you have an energizing or mood-boosting song that you like to listen to when you need a jolt of positivity or confidence? If not, it’s time to find one. Scientific American reports that “music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort, and may even promote metabolic efficiency.” This makes music not only a good workout companion but also a great midday mood booster. Find a go-to power song, or go the extra step and create a playlist so that you’ll never run out of options.
06. Start your day right.
We’ve all been there: We begin the day full of energy and optimism only to find ourselves dismayed and discouraged before the end of the day. A little intentional planning when it comes to your morning routine can go a long way to making your day better. Start your day with time for reflection, and consider adding something creative (such as journaling, listening to music, or reading). Planning the night before by packing your work bag and setting out your outfit can also make the morning a peaceful start rather than a rushed and taxing experience.
07. Dress for success.
It’s no secret that what we wear affects our self-confidence. The Wall Street Journal reported research showing that when study participants wore more formal clothes, they engaged in greater abstract thinking and were able to focus on the “big picture,” whereas those who did not dress formally did not. Similarly, P&G reported that participants wearing clean clothes demonstrated better cognitive performance. Wearing a clean outfit that makes you feel good, whether it’s a killer dress or a fantastic pair of shoes, will put some sway in your step.
08. Be your own cruise director.
Plan something to look forward to in the evening once your workday is done. Somehow, just knowing you are going to a fun concert makes an ordinary weekday that much more exciting than a day where you have nothing planned after work. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. The only requirement is that you enjoy doing it and it’s something you anticipate with joy. Trust me, as a therapist, I know this totally works.
There will always be demanding days, but you don’t have to let them set the tone—you’re in control. These easy tricks will help you take an intentional approach toward making your day brighter.
Photo Credit: Erin Woody