How many parts of your day have you enjoyed today? Seriously. How much was actually pleasant vs how much was numb going through the motions? If that’s an uncomfortable thought, you’re not alone. But there’s good news.
The quality of day you have is like a garden. You can allow weeds to grow, or you can remove things that are holding you back. You can even be deliberate and consistent about planting the right seeds, the things that fill days you enjoy living. Our days are shaped by the stimuli we encounter – the problem is I think most of our stimuli are the unconscious negative kind.
The time wasters like scrolling on social media that often start and end your day. Does that warped reality make you feel uplifted and motivated, or insecure and inadequate? That pile of mail you’ve been meaning to sort or mess you’ve been meaning to clean up. How often do you walk past it and have a micro guilt trip? Cluttered email inboxes. Messy fridge with expired food. Piles of dirty clothes. The check engine light that’s been on for months or the oil change you have been putting off. All of these are weighing you down just a tiny bit, but they add up.
These are the weeds in your garden. Unproductive or even destructive habits or circumstances we continue out of absentmindedness. It’s not that we actually want more of this negativity, we’re just so used to this dull ache that we forget healing is an option. The weeds have been there so long we forgot we could have flowers if we wanted to.
If that analogy isn’t working for you, I’ll try another: You have tremendous power to set the tune for your days, and there’s a good chance you’re choosing an old sad song just because you know the words. Learn a happier song.
Have you tried starting your day with positive stimuli instead? Whatever it is that fires you up. Some people like listening to motivational speakers on YouTube, some exercise first thing in the morning to make it rain endorphins and feel proud of themselves.
Honestly I have the disposition of a bratty 2 year old in time out when I get out of bed. It’s not pretty. Which is exactly why I make myself go for a walk and listen to personal development audiobooks. Something about listening to methods for productivity or hearing how someone built a company fires me up. The gears in my brain start turning on “how can I use this information? How can I apply this?”
Maybe you don’t like those kinds of books, that’s okay. The point is you don’t have to feel stuck with the autopilot version of you. You can find stimuli which have positive effects on you and make them a consistent part of your days.
Similarly with the mail clutter. I feel 1000000 times better when I walk around a tidy house than a messy one. The stress of being in a messy place is usually unconscious, but you’ve experienced the pleasant aesthetic joy of walking into a clean tidy room. When you compound this over “how many times do I walk into a room each day” you see the importance of those being positive stimuli instead of negative stimuli.
The great news is that these stimuli can be cultivated. All you have to do is identify what stimuli creates positive feelings and which ones drag you down. Then you can systematize the positive stimuli and mitigate or eliminate sources of negative stimuli. Here’s how:
Ask what things lift you up. For me:
- Positive messages/audiobooks
- Being proud of having exercised
- Feeling calm after meditation
- Expressing gratitude/compassion
Ask what things weigh you down. For me:
- Living in a mess
- Being in my own head too much
Pick a time you can plant the happy seeds and pull the sad weeds each day. For me:
- Every morning I drag the 2 year old brat (morning me) out to go for a walk while I listen to a self improvement audiobook (instant positive mood reset, exercise pride)
- Quick 5 minute meditation when I get back plus gratitude practice (gets me out of my head, eliminates stress)
- Quick 5 minute meditation breaks at noon and 5 PM help me reset if negative stimuli make me stressed or negative.
- Quick 10 minutes tidying session before bed ensures my apartment never gets too messy and for the most part I get positive boosts from it being clean when I walk around during the day.
Each stimuli is small and happens at the exact same time every day; there’s no will power involved, it’s just “a thing I do everyday.” And because all of this positive stimuli stacks up it quickly puts me in an amazing mood.
Some readers (definitely not you) might be saying “DERP DERP I’M NOT A MORNING PERSON THIS WON’T WORK FOR ME I WANT TO BE SAD STOP TRYING TO HELP ME.”
Thank God you’re not one of those readers. You’re smarter than that. You understand that you can create routines at any part of your day you want to. You can schedule a dose of whatever makes you happy at the same time every day. You can cultivate your own joy and create amazing feelings to put yourself in a great mood as regularly as clockwork. Why would you want anything else?
It might seem like overkill to plan out so much routine for each day, but you need to. Life happens one normal day at a time. “Normal days” are all we have. Don’t you want to enjoy them?
Further reading: If you’re thinking “Of course I want to enjoy my days but this ding dong didn’t actually explain HOW to do it” then PLEASE READ Miracle morning by Hal Elrod. That book changed my life, and he covers in great detail how to incorporate healthy habits into a daily routine so each and every day is a step forward. You don’t have to boil the ocean and you can take small steps like a 6 minute routine once a day that add up over time. You also don’t have to do things in the morning if you don’t want to, I’m not your mom. I do believe in you think and you’re cuter than the other kids at school and bake amazing chocolate chip cookies though, so close enough.