So I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible headache. For someone that rarely gets headaches, when I do have them, I turn into someone completely different: quiet but ready to burst into tears until the Aleve kicks in. This time, however, it was 3:35am and my sleepy boyfriend was lying next to me. The last thing I wanted to do was wake him because I had a headache. After all, I’m 27 and should handle the situation like an adult would – go downstairs and have ice cream.
I ended up lying silently in bed and counting the seconds until the meds started to work. In the midst of my counting, I had a slight epiphany and wondered, “Why does it take a painful moment for me to be so present?” Ironically, this incident happened after I was having a “meh”-without-a-headache kind of day. Think about it, the painful (physical or emotional) moments always seem to stick with us for far longer than any of the positive ones; or, at the very least, are easier to recall than the positive ones. We can hear 10 compliments in a row but we’ll likely spend the rest of the day dwelling on the one negative comment - a negative comment that most often comes from someone who hardly matters. At that very hour, it all seemed so silly to me.
Gratefully, I was able to fall asleep for a few more hours and when I woke up, I actively went about the gloomy-weathered morning differently:
1. SOL: Smile Out Loud…at everyone
I woke up and smiled. In the mirror, at Bryan and even at the “I hate happy people” gothic teenager on the train. And guess what, everyone smiled back. Did I throw a little happy party in my brain after each occurrence? Technically, yes. Studies have shown that smiling activates the release of neuropeptides in your brain. Neuropeptides are molecules that allow neurons to communicate – from the brain to the rest of your body. In addition, when you smile dopamine, endorphins and serotonin (feel-good neurotransmitters) are released – helping your body relax.
My favorite part about smiling that morning was that I was able to pass it on.
2. What’s your favorite color?
I don’t know about you but I love bright colors. That morning, as sleepy as I was, I perked up and decided to put on something that I knew would make me feel better (in addition to smiling, that is), a brightly-colored scarf. Ok, so am I seriously naïve enough to think a scarf could make me feel less sleepy? No (see step 3). However, the scarf did add a very pretty pop of color to my outfit and looking good, quite simply, made me feel good.
Everyone has an article of clothing or an accessory (necklaces, belts, tie etc.) that is the go-to item because it’s the most comfortable or, without even really knowing, makes them feel good. So find yours. Chances are you already have it, just identify it.
3. Smell the coffee
Am I one of those people that would put coffee in her veins in the morning? Maybe. But I’m European and that makes it totally acceptable. Drinking coffee is not about the caffeine for me; it’s a great byproduct, sure, but it’s an experience. It’s the hazelnut scent that fills the entire house, the noise of the machine that queues its finish, the deep, perfectly round mug that holds on to the heat for as long as possible but lets the steam dance off into the air ever so peacefully. And, furthermore, it’s the 10-minute ‘me’ time that I carve out to sit with my feet up on the couch, coffee in one hand and some great reading material in the other. As I said, it’s the experience.
It might not be coffee for you, but find that experience that you can enjoy in the morning. The thing that makes you carve out time and helps you just be…even if it is for only 10 minutes. It’s well worth it.
4. Your parents taught you to say “Thank You”
Gratitude is one of those dual-benefitting aspects of life. On one hand, the person you’re thanking will feel good that their time and effort was noticed and appreciated; and, on the other hand, you’re lucky enough to have someone that is willing to do stuff for you – pretty cool! I’ll bet someone does something for you every day that warrant a “thank you”: you just have to pay a little more attention and feel a little less entitled. Say thank you and mean it.
On the off chance that nothing happens to you today that makes you exclaim your gratitude, call your mom, dad, brother or sister. Thank them for putting up with you on that one day or through that one time, that would have been very easy (even for family members) to just not put up with you.
5. Music to my ears!
Lastly, I listened to music all day. I had my iPod on shuffle but I skipped the slow and mellow tunes. Maybe you can’t work while listening to music with lyrics, that’s completely understandable. I would encourage you to still put headphones in and listen to all instrumental beats, then. Music, studies show, is the only activity that utilizes your entire brain. Given this information, it’s imperative that you choose your tunes carefully because it has the power to affect how you view your environment. For example, more upbeat music will likely give you a little energy (think of your playlist for the gym) than slow, mellow music – which is more likely to relax you and help you unwind. Music even has the ability to change how you feel about the person you’re looking at, at the moment you’re listening to a song.
If a beautiful song has the ability to alter your mood and bring about a good feeling; I think the idea of adding this to your daily routine is a no-brainer.
Be it the beginning of the day or the end of the day, invest some time in thinking about you and how/what makes you happy. What can you do tomorrow to get you out of that funk? Maybe you don’t know and feel stuck, try these five things. If they work, great! If not, it’s also great because now we’re in the trial-and-error phase and knowing what doesn’t work is equally as helpful.
Regardless, life is too short and each day is precious. Share a smile and make it count.