Not having a perfect day?
Here are 37 ideas to make your day a bit (or a lot) better.
None of these suggestions are going to take up your whole day. Some will take a minute, some may need an hour or two.
In any case, here they are, in no particular order:
1. Do a tiny bit of exercise
Even if you are not the fitness type, you cannot deny that exercise is good for you. It keeps you healthy, gets your blood going and releases beneficial chemicals in your brain. If you really can’t fit in an hour or two of workout into your busy schedule (or are just too lazy), try a smaller workout. Even 10 minutes of basic calisthenics, such as push-ups and crunches, will make you feel much better. 10 minutes is nothing, so why not make this one a daily habit?
2. Spend time in nature
Go take a walk in the forest or along a wild beach. Neither of these may be in your immediate vicinity, but they are worth the drive. Most of us don’t live close to wilderness anymore, but we are still nature’s children. Wild nature can inspire a feeling of awe, serenity and also humbleness. The fresh air is good for your lungs and open space is good for your mind and your eyes. Nature is conductive to creativity and inspiration. It’s much nicer to think about things in wild surroundings than on busy city streets.
3. Skip one unhealthy snack
It may taste good and make you feel satisfied in the moment, but it’s not doing you any good – and on a deep level, you know it. So when you reach out to grab another piece of chocolate cake, pack of crisps or whipped-cream latte, stop and think. Skip it and avoid both feelings of guilt and excessive carbs. Plus you get to train your willpower. You’ll need the latter for a lot more than just keeping a healthy diet.
If you already are an experienced meditator, then you know what to do and you already know the benefits meditation can bring. For those who have never done any meditation, it may seem like an activity wrapped in both Eastern mystery and also in modern new-agey wackiness. But really, it doesn’t have to be.
Find a comfortable position, but preferably not one where you’ll easily fall asleep. Breathe slowly and focus on your breathing. Your thoughts will start to drift at some point. When you notice that, acknowledge the thoughts and bring your attention gently back to your breathing. That’s all there is to it. Even a 10 minute session of such focus per day will improve your attention and clarity of mind. You will also likely find that it makes you feel more relaxed and at peace with the world.
There’s nothing like dancing: it’s happy, it’s physical, it’s a bit wild. If you have somebody to dance with (your partner, a roommate, your dog), put on some music and dance away for a song or two. If you don’t have anyone nearby, no worries, dancing with yourself is almost just as good.
6. Read something thought-provoking
Our highly developed minds make us unique in the animal world. But the mind needs training too. If you’re not already in the habit of doing so, try reading something intelligent and thought-provoking to stimulate your mental activity and give yourself some “food for thought”. This doesn’t have to be deep philosophy. There are plenty of excellent non-fiction books nowadays that present novel ideas on how the world works or how our minds work. Go explore the bookshelves and find something that clicks with you.
7. Skip the news
How much of what is broadcasted on the news is actually directly relevant to your life? Not much. How much negativity do you soak up during one news watching/reading session? Tons.
Skip the news, you’ll be better for it. In the unlikely event that some current event concerns you directly, somebody will tell you.
And yes, there are many bad things in the world that need to be solved, but you will not make the world a better place by being a dedicated consumer of daily news. You will make the world a better place by: a) growing on a personal level and helping others grow and b) by dedicating time and effort and taking specific action to help resolve the world’s problems.
8. Create a dream achievement plan
We all have dreams, both big and small, but how much do we actually do to achieve them? We like to daydream, but daydreaming will not get us any closer to fulfilling our dreams. We may be fooling ourselves that someday we’ll get there, but actually we’re stuck in the proverbial hamster wheel, which we know does not lead anywhere.
The harsh truth is that the only way to get anywhere substantial is by taking action. Make your day by taking a piece of paper and writing down:
- Your dream goal
- Steps needed to achieve it
- Deadlines for each of the steps
- What you’ll need for each step
- Difficulties you are likely to encounter and how you’ll deal with them
9. Hug someone
Hugs are great. Not only are they a way to show love and appreciation for another person, they are also very healthy. Try to stick a few hugs into every day (a dozen hugs is even better). Kisses are also a great addition to any day.
10. Tell a dear person you love them
If you love somebody, tell them so. It feels great to both hear it and to say it, so you’re making two people happier. One of the most cited regrets people have about their lives is not telling their dear ones that they loved them more often. Don’t make that mistake.
11. Do something nice for a stranger
Doing nice things for others is not only good for those others, but also good for you. Help an old lady with her bags, help some tourists find their way, give a beggar a coin. Notice how you suddenly start feeling a bit happier once you do. Yes, there’s this little selfish aspect in helping others, in that it makes you feel good about yourself. But if both parties are better off and happier, then why the hell not, right?
12. Take a little step out of your comfort zone
We like being 100% comfortable. It’s secure and undemanding. Sadly, there is no growth in being comfortable. The only way to grow is to explore beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone, and this requires courage. The good thing about courage is that after doing it and making a little departure from your comfort zone, you suddenly find yourself feeling really really good. Growth feels good, even if it is hard.
Do something today that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a phone call that you have been avoiding or chatting up that cute new colleague of yours. Even though the outcome will not always be what you expected, the mere act of courage will probably make your day.
13. Get back in touch
If I asked you to, you could probably come up with quite a few nice people you wouldn’t mind getting back in touch with. Usually people you hanged out with at some point until life got in the way.
Well, get back in touch with them. This undertaking would have been difficult a few decades ago, but now it’s so easy, you just don’t have an excuse. Probably many of these people are already on your Facebook friends list, it’s just that you never talk to them. Write them a short message asking how they’ve been doing and whether they’d like to meet up at some point.
14. Write down what you are grateful for
“Gratitude attitude” has been getting a lot of attention lately. And it’s not just some rosy new age concept, its benefits have been demonstrated by scientific studies. Being grateful for small everyday things makes you happier, simple as that.
Take a notebook and write down 5 things in your life you are grateful for. These could be anything from “having a roof over my head” and “having such a great spouse” to “Beatles”. Just keep it sincere, because you are not doing it for anyone other than yourself. Do this tonight and every night.
15. Do something nice for a close person
Let people around you who are dear to you know that they matter. After all, they are going to be there for you when you’re stuck in the mud. Show somebody in your life that you care by doing something nice for them (and not simply because it’s their birthday). Make them a gift or, even better, help them with something which is important for them.
16. Watch something hilarious
There are few things as uplifting and liberating as laughter. It’s good for your mood, and your physical health. Luckily, nowadays there is no lack of “funny”. Go find something online that suits your personal sense of humour and have a good laugh. If you have somebody who shares your taste for pranks / cat videos / classical comedy, get them involved: humans laugh way more often when they are in good company than when they are alone.
17. Befriend somebody new
We’re social animals. Connections with other humans are important to us and few things feel as great as creating a new friendship. Naturally, not every attempt at connecting with somebody will result in a new friendship, but it’s always worth a try. Remember that it is not your fault if you don’t bond with a particular person – most likely the two of you are just not a good fit.
You probably have a whole bunch of people at work, at social events you attend and even on your Facebook friends list who you barely know. Why not invite a person out for lunch and pick up the tab, and just see where it goes?
18. Throw away old junk
Sort through your old stuff and send everything you don’t need into the trash bin. You’ll probably have to be quite firm and resolute, otherwise you’ll end up keeping almost all of it. But making space and getting rid of unneeded things feels liberating. There’s no need to turn your entire home inside out in one day, however. Just pick one drawer and sort through it. Leave the other drawers for another day.
19. Teach something to somebody
Sharing knowledge and skills with others is fulfilling on many levels: you give the other person something they will find useful in the future, you get to connect more with the other person, and you can even learn something new yourself.
Look out for and don’t shy away from opportunities to pass on some knowledge. Maybe your colleague needs help with some work stuff, maybe it’s time to teach your kids some new everyday skills, or perhaps you could even create a short how-to video and post it on YouTube for everyone’s benefit.
20. Learn a new skill
We never really go a single day without finding out something new. What I mean here, however, is not simply gaining some bit of everyday experience, but acquiring a genuine skill. At least partially.
Ever wanted to learn a foreign language? Go learn 10 new words today. Over three months that will be almost 1000 new words, enough to read a newspaper in that language. Effort adds up.
Go learn to cook a new recipe, learn to draw cartoon characters or acquire a new computer skill. Learning does not have to be like school: it can be entertaining and fun. And ultimately useful.
21. Make the first step towards solving an old problem
Maybe you need to file some documents with an institution, maybe you have a wart on your toe, whatever — we all have our share of unresolved issues from who knows when. We keep postponing these problems because it’s just easier to go another day without touching them. The first thing to realise is that many problems are not nearly as difficult once you start resolving them as they seem before that.
Make a list of your long-standing problems. Take the first one and do something concrete towards resolving it. If you don’t know where to start, make a list of options. Get in touch with somebody who may know. Just start doing something. You may discover that the issue was much easier than you thought and it was not worth worrying about for so long.
22. Eat something ridiculously healthy
Eating healthy is not only healthy (by definition), but also makes you feel good afterwards, since you know you did something good for your body. If it doesn’t make you feel good, then that’s all the more reason to start adding healthy meals to your daily menu and getting used to how healthy food tastes. (Presumably one of the reasons we so often avoid healthy meals is that they rarely taste as good as their unhealthy counterparts.)
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since you ate something healthy, it’s now okay to eat something unhealthy on top of it, because that will only negate the benefits.
23. Do something silly with your friends
Silliness is actually not so silly: it has several very positive aspects to it. It makes you take yourself less seriously, which can ease your outlook on life; it bonds people, often creating lifelong “inside jokes” between the participants; it usually leads to loads of healthy laughter.
When the last time you did something really silly with your friends? You know, the high school type of silly? If you’ve got all too serious about life since your teens, maybe it’s a good time to revive the silly in you?
24. Stop and wonder
Pause the rush and wonder about the great mysteries of life. The enormity of the universe, the smallness of human life in the grand scheme of things, the miracle of life, our ultimate purpose. There are so many unanswered questions about our existence. Having correct answers to some of them may have huge implications on the way we live or should live. Yet not knowing these answers we hurry about our lives giving little thought to things that are way more profound.
Ground yourself for a minute and return to the basics. Why are you doing what you are doing? Who are you? Why are you? What for are you?
This little ritual may not make you jump with joy, but learning to wonder about one’s own existence is a crucial part of growth as a human being.
25. Go somewhere new
Take a walk into a neighbourhood you’ve never been to, take the train down a branch you’ve never had a reason to take, visit the peculiar little shop you’ve walked past so many times. There is something special about the sense of discovery, even if it’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s still an adventure, even if a very small one. If you always travel the same path, it’s almost certain that nothing special will happen. The more you deviate, however, the less certain that becomes.
26. Watch your breath
Do you realise that of all the things you may be doing right now, breathing is the single most important one, without which you’d be done for within minutes? Our bodies have developed this peculiar ability to hide our own breath from us such that we can go a whole day without noticing our breathing even once.
When you don’t pay any attention to your breathing, it tends to become shallow and rapid – a sign (or even cause) of mental stress. Many people go through their entire lives with rapid and shallow breathing, basically existing in a state of never-ending stress.
Pay attention to how you breathe. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Hold your breath for a second or two. Breathe out slowly. Slow and deep breathing brings with it mental stability and calmness, so the more you manage to do it during the day, the better.
27. Watch your posture
Our posture has great effect on both our short-term and long-term wellbeing, since it affects our health as well as our current mood. When you are standing, walking or sitting, keep your back straight and shoulders back. Don’t push your head forward or downward.
If you are not used to keeping a good posture, you will probably find it difficult to maintain it all day long, because you will either forget or start getting tired. Nonetheless, try doing this even for one day and you will notice how much better it makes you feel.
28. Watch an inspiring video
Inspiration is one of the truly great human states of being. I would say it’s somewhere up there with love, courage and compassion. When you are inspired, you don’t worry about the mundane and start thinking of things beyond the everyday and beyond yourself.
Being deeply inspired day in, day out can be a tough call. Even though watching an inspirational video will not keep you at the height of inspiration forever, it’s a good start nonetheless. The web is full of inspiring videos and many of them are great: you can sense that their authors put a lot of effort into expressing their message. Here’s one I have thoroughly enjoyed and watched numerous times:
29. Interact with animals
For some this may seem like common sense, but actually there is even scientific research showing that people who interact with animals have happier lives. It’s hard to say why exactly animals have such a positive effect on our mood. Maybe it’s simply their cuteness, or maybe it’s some instinct we have inherited from our ancestors whose livelihood relied on animals so much.
Whatever it is, it’s clear that we can benefit from the company of animals. If you have a pet, then you’re in luck: go play with your pet or take it out for walk. If you don’t have pets and don’t have easy access to your friends’/neighbours’ pets, you can probably still get a little happiness boost from watching animals on your screen. So log onto YouTube and start watching those cat videos.
Walking is what we are made to do. It has been our main way of getting around since times immemorial.
Walking is both healthy and also lets you experience your environment like no other means of transportation. This is for several reasons: you are out in the open, you move slower and you don’t need to focus so much on merely keeping yourself safe, as with driving or cycling. I would say walking even has a meditative aspect to it.
Put aside sufficient time to avoid rushing and take a stroll to work, to the store or wherever you need to go.
If you need some inspiration for walking, I suggest you read this brilliant piece on BBC about Paul Salopek, a man who decided to walk from Africa, around the world, and all the way to South America. It’s no short story, but definitely worth the time.
31. Take a bath instead of a shower
Showers are for busy people. But you don’t have to always be that busy. Allowing yourself the luxury of a bath is a great way to wind down, relax and get clean at the same time. Bathtime can be your little session of peace and silence during the day.
32. Go to theater or a museum
Theaters, exhibitions and museums offer a different, a more unmediated experience of culture than what most of us consume on a daily basis. The actors in a theater do not have benefit of repeat takes or computer generated graphics; the items in a historical museum are usually not copies, but the actual items that were used by people in the times past.
And just generally, the experience created by these venues is very different from watching Hollywood movies or browsing stuff on the internet.
When was the last time you enjoyed a cultural evening out? Get your family or your friends and take them out for an opera, a ballet or a play. Or, take a tour of a local museum during your lunch break. There are probably lots of venues around you that you didn’t even know about – go look them up!
33. Do something unplanned
Think back and notice how many of your best memories in life are connected to spontaneous and unplanned events and decisions. Spontaneity is the spice of life, a necessary ingredient of any good adventure.
Notice during the day the times when you have the choice between the routine, planned option and a new, previously unthought-of, spontaneous option. Don’t shy away, choose the latter. You can almost always go back to the routine option later.
If cooking is not something you do daily, you may find it’s a pleasant activity to engage in for a change. First, it’s creative, in the sense that you create something with your own hands, even if you are cooking by recipe. It’s also connects to a very basic human need – the need to eat. Finally, self-made food is usually very enjoyable to eat, even if it’s not quite as tasty and as neatly served as in your favourite restaurant.
As a side note, cooking something from your childhood is also a good way to reconnect with your old memories and enjoy a bit of positive nostalgia.
Our facial expressions express our current mood, but it works the other way around too: your mood is affected by the expression you have on your face. So put on a little smile. It may seem fake and weird at first, especially if you are not in a smiley mood, but you’ll feel much happier very soon.
36. Write something for the world
You might think the world doesn’t care about what you have to say, but it almost always does. A blog can be a great outlet for your ideas and feelings. If you’ve never done it before, it does require some courage to start writing for the world at large. Once you do however, you will discover it’s an excellent way to open yourself up, to find likeminded people and to generally express your thoughts. I specifically say “blog” because it gives you a lot of control over what and how you write. If you feel like it’s too much, you can always use an existing platform or social network instead.
37. Drink plenty of water
A lot has been said about the importance of drinking water, so this is just a friendly reminder. You body needs water to function well. How much you need to drink exactly varies across sources, but the daily minimum often recommended is eight 8-ounce glasses, which amounts to about 2 liters of water.
This list is far from exhaustive. These are only some ideas for what you can do to improve your day.
What other things could you do to make your day a bit better? Share your thoughts in the comments!