I was walking back from work the other day and smiled at a man by the tube station handing out free newspapers. He was a little scruffy around the edges and looked chilly in the cold evening weather. He smiled back and for a moment I felt a pleasant sense of connection. A brief bond with a man I didn’t know.
It got me thinking about the small things you can do in a day to make it better. Things like smiling at people (I do that a lot), being present, getting enough sleep, making an effort to really listen to people without just waiting for a pause in the conversation so you can say your part.
Words like “appreciate” and “smile” began to pop into my head and I thought I’d write a blog post about simple one-word-long ways to improve your day-to-day experience of life.
I think that smiling is one of the absolute easiest ways to bring more happiness into your day. I’ve always been big on smiling (my parents used to call me the magic smile maker when I was little because I’d smile at anyone and everyone and usually got a smile in return from even the most grumpy of people). The great thing about smiling is that the person on the receiving end is nearly always happy to have had a smile sent their way and that makes you feel, well, happy.
The more you smile, the more it becomes a natural thing to do. You get to go about your day giving out more love into the world and are left feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
Trying to be more mindful in your life is a very hard thing to do. When your mind is constantly full of thoughts and worries and a to do list that stretches from here to timbuktoo it can be hard to focus on the present. I’ve found that the easiest way to become more mindful is to focus on your breathing. In moments when I’m feeling a bit stressed or anxious and very much not present, I take a deep breath and it instantly connects me with my body and in turn with my surroundings.
It’s all to easy to focus on what you don’t have in life instead of focusing on what you do have. I’ve been doing a daily gratitude journal for almost a year now and it has really helped me to appreciate things in my life more. Simple things like a sunny morning or a good night’s sleep and bigger things like a loving family and supportive friends. That sense of appreciation acts as a buffer against trivial day-t0-day frustrations that can get you down and gives you much needed perspective on bigger problems.
The wonderful thing about being more appreciative is that it automatically makes you a warmer and happier person. You stop complaining and instead give off a positive energy that extends out to other people and hopefully makes them more appreciative too.
I heard a great phrase recently: “two ears, one mouth.” We should be listening double the time that we talk. In lots of daily conversations, the oppositve is true. People love to talk about themselves and the problem with that is that it makes it hard to really hear what the other person is saying. When you stop talking so much you may actually get to know someone rather than just yapping away at them without pausing for breath. The result? More interesting conversations and a better day!
Besides becoming a better listener, a great way to have more interesting conversations and in turn a more interesting day, is to ask more questions. My dad’s partner is a great conversationalist and her secret is to ask really fascinating questions, questions that encourage people to open up and share things about their lives that they may not usually share. When you get a knack for this there’s so much to learn! You can find out the most unusual and unexpected things about people’s lives and it adds to that sense of connection that smiling can give you.
We all know that we should be getting exercise and if we’re not getting enough then we’re left with a sense of guilt. Yes, exercise is great for your body and for your wellbeing but I’ve come to believe that it has to be the right exercise for you. I’ve gotten really into yoga over the past few years and for me it has been the best way to get my body moving and feel great. It’s always a part of my day that I look forward to instead of something that I dread and that’s the trick to maintaing some form of movement in my life. Maybe for you it’s running or cycling or going to the gym or joining a dance class. Get moving and release those endorphins but in a way you’re going to enjoy.
Getting enough sleep is paramount to a good day. If you’re sleep deprived then the chances are that you’re more likely to get frustrated and emotional, be less productive and ultimately have a worse day than you would have had if you’d gotten your beauty sleep. So have an early night if you need it, don’t use technology before bed, read a book to get nice and sleepy (and drop off quicker) and treat yourself to a moderate lie in at the weekend to reward yourself for all those early starts during the week.