“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control over what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli
A few years ago I was feeling what we all experience from time to time: chaos. Life had turned into one big juggling act where the days were blending together and I felt like I was doing hundreds of things only adequately. What was worse was I was losing touch with myself and the things that bring me happiness and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
It’s no secret that life can get crazy. In an effort to accomplish all our responsibilities and dreams, we often stretch beyond our limits in an attempt to do it all. While there’s something admirable in being an expert juggler, it can sometimes be overwhelming and you may feel like you need a change in your day-to-day routine.
I used to believe that in order to notice the positive effects of change, the change needed to be noticeable to others, massive and life altering. I’ve discovered though, that sometimes simply making a few adjustments in your daily routine can be the extra boost you need to get less chaos and more calmness into your life.
Here are six of my favorite practices that may help you get started.
1. Start your day with a relaxing routine.
It’s essential to begin your day in a way that doesn’t cause anxiety, high blood pressure, or you breaking out in a sweat in your rush to get out the door. We’ve all been there and we know starting our day by being crazed or flying around sets the tone for the entire day, often leading the rest of it to be stressful. Figure out what relaxes you in the morning and make time for that! One of my favorite routines is having a cup of coffee in bed before I talk to anyone else or begin checking emails. Maybe for you it’s reading the newspaper or eating a nice breakfast.
Whatever it is, vow that before you rush out of your house to attack the day, you do at least one thing that brings you joy and peace. Give yourself all the time you need to walk out into the world in the spirit of serenity, even if this means stopping in your tracks to have a sixty-second time-out. (Yes! I’ve done this!)
2. Make time to be alone with your thoughts and set your intention for the day.
Commit to giving yourself a minimum of five minutes to sit alone, take some calming breaths and set your intention for how you want your day to go. However you want this to look is entirely up to you. Sometimes I sit on my bed, sit on my floor or sit on my yoga mat; it doesn’t matter. Just sit alone.
If certain mornings it is impossible to do this, be creative in how you picture this time to look. You can always set your intentions in the shower, on a train or car ride (this happens with me pretty frequently), or even on your walk into work. Setting your intentions creates a feeling of happiness and eases you into the day ahead with confidence.
3. Plan your meals ahead of time.
For the most part, I try to eat healthy. But I’ll admit that there have been mornings when I’ve jetted off for a long day ahead with no real plan for my meals. Spoiler alert: those days are not pretty. Truth be told, they have even involved choosing from a convenience store menu of cherry cola and candy. Not surprisingly those are the days I end up feeling the lousiest.
I’m happy to report I’ve made an effort to be much better about planning ahead. Case in point: I’m munching on grapes right now! You don’t have to be trained as a chef to eat healthy. You just need to commit to make the time to do it. Lately my crock pot has been a lifesaver! A soup in there equals lunch for the week. I’m also a big fan of making my next day’s lunch while I’m cooking dinner. If you make time, I promise you’ll thank yourself later. I’ve found I never feel the time I take to plan ahead is wasted and in fact, I feel grateful for the meals and snacks! And making yourself happier and healthier by eating well are added bonuses.
4. Exercise as regularly possible.
I won’t lecture you on the benefits of exercise so I’ll just say this: No one ever regrets working out. Ever. If exercise isn’t part of your routine, start small and work your way up. If you have the time for your favorite workout or a trip to the gym, that’s wonderful. If you don’t have the time, don’t get discouraged. Try doing squats and lunges while you cook, parking a little further than you normally would, stretching throughout the day, or simply jumping for joy. I’ve even found a few minutes of an impromptu dance party—no one else has to be invited—can be invigorating and instantly mood-lifting.
5. Treat yourself daily.
Don’t wait for others to make you happy. Put that responsibility on yourself. Start by asking what is it that brings you joy? I’m not talking about a trip to Tahiti, though by all means plan that if it’s your life’s desire. I’m talking about the small, manageable choices you can make every day. Is it a cup of green tea in the afternoon? Is it reading a novel for twenty minutes? I’ve noticed mine changes based on my mood or the seasons so have several options available! Having a little treat to look forward can be the bright spot in even the gloomiest of days.
6. End your night with gratitude.
As you fall asleep replay the best moments of your day and give thanks for them. We often can get caught up on what wrong, what we didn’t have time to do and call it a bad day. Most times there’s a spark of light in each day. Don’t forget to look and acknowledge it. It’s a lot more calming and rewarding than ending the day with worries, regrets or tomorrow’s to-do list. You’ll fall asleep more peacefully and sleep better.
As with any new practice, I had to commit to these for a little bit before feeling a difference. If you’re considering making some of these changes, I suggest starting with one at a time and tailoring them to fit your needs if necessary.
The important thing is to consciously make an effort to carve out time for yourself, your joy and your peace of mind. Creating moments for solitary peace and happiness—even five minutes—can make all the difference. Being in tune with your body and mind—by being aware of how you feel and what your thoughts and intentions are—can lead to better choices and better mental and physical health.
Change doesn’t have to be massive to be felt and sometimes a minor shift creates a ripple effect of more positivity and inspires new choices.
What will you do to add a little more zen to your life today?