I’ve read lots of advice on how we should start our day. People tell me that I should wake up early (not likely), make my bed (always), stretch/exercise (usually), meditate (usually), and eat a good breakfast (I try). But I prefer to approach each new day by focusing on four things:
It is a form of meditation, but I always think about something that I am grateful for as I start a new day. Too often, we don’t appreciate our blessings and the good things around us. It’s too easy to focus on the negative or the things that are frustrating us. Showing gratitude also helps us focus on the present rather than worry about the past or consider the future. It also keeps negative emotions away. A 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality shows that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
The second thing I like to do is, to begin with, a plan. I’ve written before about the 3” by 5” card I keep with me that includes the three to five things I am promising myself to get done that day. I have found that if you don’t have a plan, you will waste more time. Most of us have a long list of things to do, and if you don’t triage that list, you are likely to focus on the easy things to do rather than the most important things. Your plan will increase your focus and your productivity. You will find yourself feeling more organized and accomplished. Plus, a plan will keep you from being overbooked.
I try to start my day with a positive attitude. If you can’t begin your day looking at a glass ‘half-full,’ you won’t have it get better as the day progresses. It can also keep you healthy. A John’s Hopkins study found that people with a family history of heart disease who had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more pessimistic view.
And I also pledge to try to learn something new every day. This new knowledge can come from something I’ve read or someone I talk with. New knowledge will keep you fresh, and it will help you relate to more people and help with your self-esteem. If you only rely on the things you learned a long time ago, you will feel and appear less relevant.
While these four steps will help you take on your day, not every day will work out the way you hoped. Don’t dwell on what went wrong when you have a bad day. Instead, recommit to this strategy for the day ahead.