I am a pretty happy person. Most people would describe me as someone who smiles and laughs a lot. When it comes to glass half full or half empty, I look at it as glass is completely full and overflowing. I’ve had people ask me how I stay so calm (even when things are going wrong) and optimistic. Honestly, I think part of it is simply a part of me, but I do think that having been in a car accident, where according to experts, my mother, daughter, and I were extremely lucky to have survived, has also made a difference.
During my initial recovery from the accident, I made a conscious effort to grab onto the good each day. These are the Six Most Important Things to do Every Day that keep me focused on what’s most important, focused on the good, and moving forward.
Beginning and ending each day in gratitude – a conscious moment of gratitude – is probably the most important thing I do. Sometimes it takes the form of prayer. At other times, I make a list in a gratitude journal.
And still others, I simply sit on my back porch, sun shining on my face, breathing in the fresh morning air and just letting myself enjoy the world around me. Taking a few moments before I go to sleep each night to pick out the good that happened that day helps me sleep better too!
Prayer and meditation are an important, if sometimes neglected, part of my life. I’ll admit, I find traditional meditation really hard. I have found some tips on how to meditate that do help me but I do find Lectio Divina a bit easier as the words of Scripture give me something to focus on.
Simply sitting down and having a chat with God (or merely offering up a quick prayer as I go about my day) is what I rely on the most. If you don’t believe in God, you may find my next suggestion a bit odd but I do think simply talking out loud (yes, to yourself) can be valuable. Hearing your own words being spoken out loud can be calming and can help you clarify and work out your feelings and problems.
For me, this is one of the trickiest areas. This is where it can be so easy to replace the joy in your day with stress. Obviously, it’s a bit easier for me than it might be for you. My daughter is an adult now so I have more time to myself (although being self-employed changes some of that).
My daughter was only 10 when we had the car accident though, and I had to learn how to still be a mom (a single mom) and provide for her needs while being on bed rest. It’s amazing what you can do when you have to! That taught me that it was possible to reassess your goals. Many of the things on my daily To Do list – ones that seemed to be “must do’s” really weren’t.
So, go ahead and make your list. But once you do, put it in priority order. At the end of the day, be grateful for what you were able to accomplish instead of beating yourself up for what you didn’t get done. You could even make a “Ta Da” list if you are having trouble celebrating all that you do!
Do something kind for someone else
Whenever people hear me suggest this one, they always chime in that they don’t even have enough time to take care of themselves and their families as well as they need to. How could they ever find time to do something kind for someone else?
I’ve found that if I’m too busy to do something nice for someone else every single day, there is something broken in my life. I’m not using my time wisely, I’ve got my priorities all mixed up – something isn’t right. Kindness doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
If you have time to do some volunteer work each week, fantastic! But that’s not the only way to reach out in kindness to someone else. Yesterday, I sent an email to my priest to thank him for all the work he does in the parish. It took me under 2 minutes. Not only that, but those 2 minutes were a welcome break from my workday. They gave me a moment to smile and regroup before continuing on.
Get some movement
The car accident left me with chronic pain. I have days where simply walking to the bathroom is extremely difficult. Yet, I’ve learned that some movement is important. For me, there may be days where the only movement I do is my physical therapy stretches (in bed) and then walking to and from the bathroom. But that alone is enough to keep my body from stiffening up and ultimately making things even worse.
I had to figure out where the line was. How much is enough on any given day to keep my body flexible? How much is too much and would greatly increase my pain and risk of falling?
I take chair exercise classes and there was a woman who used to attend them as well who was in a wheelchair. She said that she was there because even though she couldn’t do the exercises where we moved the lower parts of our bodies, she was determined to move the parts of her body she could for as long as she could. It’s a good way to look at it!
Time with family
Time with your family can mean time spent in person. It might mean talking on the phone, chatting through messages, or simply sending a quick email. When I have lived alone, this time with family was sometimes time spent with pets.
Even if you can’t be with or talk to your family in any given day, I think that simply spending some time thinking ABOUT them can still bring on those warm, fuzzy feelings. Reminisce over a scrapbook. Pray for your family members. Read through an old journal.
When I do have my family around, I don’t take that time for granted. Yes, there are some days where because of my health and because I’m an introvert, I take a day entirely to myself. However, most days, I try to take some time where I put my devices down and focus on my family. Even if you only have 15 minutes, you would be amazed to see how much of a difference that time spent focused on someone you love can make for both of you.
So that’s it. On one hand, it’s only six things, and yet on the other, it’s everything. Whenever my life starts feeling like it’s spinning out of control, I go right back to these six things. They keep me grounded and focused and ready to tackle whatever life is going to throw at me. Oh and they also make me much more productive!
What would you change about this list? Let me know in the comments below.