How to Feel Better

Was it a bad day? Or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day? - Unknown

Pow. That woke me up. My aunt casually shared the quote as I whined to her about my day. Pouting is silent complaining. I can lick my wounds to prolong the pain or I can manage my reaction. It’s a choice.

Work is a grind. My son poured raw egg batter (his uncooked breakfast) into his baby brother’s mouth while my back was turned to the stove. A woman crossing over the yellow divider into my oncoming lane, gave me the middle finger as I slammed on my brakes to avoid a head on collision. This is all fodder to ruin my whole day.

But all of that doesn’t have to. There’s real hope for all of us. Because we can control our reactions. We have the power to feel better.

Find Gratitude
Sure I could complain about the six loads of laundry waiting for me, how my boss spelled my name wrong again, and the ridiculous traffic. But that wouldn't solve anything and it wouldn't actually make me feel better.

I am happy because I'm grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy. -Will Arnett, Actor

There’s trouble in my life that I would rather not have but there are obvious blessings to count too. I think of all the things that make me happy that are completely out of my control. Today it's...

  • Healthy children
  • A stranger held the door open for me
  • 15 minutes of peaceful solitude before the family wakes up
  • Rain (feeds the garden)
  • My grandma is still alive
  • The 19th Amendment (women’s right to vote)
  • Refrigeration
  • My iPhone (I’m never lost)
  • The fact that I don't have to worry that my family will go hungry

I write it down. Seriously, I make a list. I look at it and put it in my pocket. I take it out repeatedly on difficult days. I regularly take for granted what others pray for. I’m so grateful for many things that didn’t exist 10 years ago or 100 years ago. How lucky am I to be born today and in this great country!

What are you grateful for today?

Delight in Coincidences
Life can be so quirky. Just as an event can get us down so can one lift our spirits. Each day is an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time or to witness something magical and beautiful.

Peace begins with a smile. - Mother Teresea, Catholic Saint

It’s 2011 and I binge-watched the TV show, Damages. Glenn Close utterly sucked me into a Netflix marathon and I neglected my real life over a long weekend to watch three seasons. On Monday afternoon, I leave work early and hop on the New York City subway to commute home. I sit in the corner of the car and notice that Ben Shenkman, an actor who played a lawyer on several episodes  I had just seen, is seated right next to me. Whoa. I thank him for such a good show (see previous gratitude section) and laugh the whole way home.

I almost never leave work early. Season 3 of Damages was long off the air. I would never have recognized him if I hadn't just seen the episodes this actor was in just 24 hours before I literally bumped into him. Yet a series of events landed me at that location at that moment. I wonder if he was having a bad day and I was the silly fan he needed exactly at that moment.

Call it divine intervention or random occurrences, with enough time there are bound to be coincidences to delight or frustrate us. Sometimes we win, the coin is heads up.

Check out more coincidences. Is there a coincidence in your life that can remind you that there is good in the world?

Address Physical Needs
The mind needs the body healthy and strong. We cannot be at our mental best when our body is dragging.

To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. - Buddha, Founder of Buddhism

My whole life I'm a bad sleeper. I get a solid four hours sleep and then I toss for the rest night. After the worst nights, I take extra good care of myself. I eat before I’m hungry. I splurge on a latte. I do this because I know my lack of patience and cloudy thoughts are a result of my physical fatigue. I don’t try a new diet or skip breakfast on those days because I need all the strength I can muster to tackle the emotional trials of the day.

Increasing blood circulation can add a surprisingly huge boost to feeling great. I often get my blood flowing midday with a simple stretch of my arms above my head. I take a ten minute walk at lunch. The change of scenery does wonders. 

Is there something lacking today that you need to address?

Complete the Quick Wins
Think about what you can finish in the next 10 or 20 minutes that would put your mind at ease. Do it and feel accomplished.

Success breeds more success. So when you get a bunch of wins under your belt in the morning, your day will come out better and you aren’t too worried about few hick ups [sic]. - Tim Ferriss, Author

No I didn’t conquer the world but I crossed some stuff off the list. Good! Now I can address the larger items and feel good that I already had a win. Maybe it's...

  • Get the laundry started
  • Tidy the living room
  • Clear the kitchen sink
  • Clean out the inbox

Mom was right, making the bed really does set a positive tone for the day. It's the first accomplishment we can make and only takes a minute. If I’m overwhelmed, I start with that.

What are the things on your list you can quickly get out of the way?

Do Someone A Favor
Doing good feels good. You may not be in a magnanimous mood but do it anyway.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. - Sir John Barrie, Playwright

My husband was laid off, arbitrary 15% cuts of the number of employees to reduce costs. It’s right before Christmas. I’m not feeling merry. I’m scared and a bit angry. So I bring Lemon Sugar cookies into work. I walk around the office and offer them to everyone. People smile. I can’t help but smile back at their smiles. They compliment my dress. I feel just a little better and I stop thinking about my situation for a peaceful twenty minutes. I’m glad I did it.

Some days are great and some days just aren’t. That’s common. No person escapes troubles. That’s life. I’ve found quickly getting past my own negative reactions gets me faster to a happier state. Happiness is a choice to make every day.

And if all else fails...

A good day is a good day, a bad day is a good story. At the end of the day, it's all good." - Glennon Melton, Author

[Author's postscript: As I finished writing this piece, it was time to pick up my sons from school and the car battery was dead. In addition, last weekend's pedicure caught an infection and I lost my toenail this morning. God is really testing me to live my words.]