Small habits can create significant benefits. For instance, even though I’m often bleary-eyed as I get up, writing before the sun rises, in a still, quiet house, energizes and inspires me. Listening to music often does the same. These small changes have shifted my perspective and the tone for the rest of the day.
Sometimes, we think we need to overhaul our days and our lives in order to feel more satisfied and uplifted. We want to burn it all down and start fresh. But really the smallest activities can do wonders for us.
Below are 10 ways to make your days more nourishing, illuminating, inspiring and uplifting.
1. Bake bread.
At the beginning of 2017 writer and speaker Amanda Viviers set an intention to learn something that had zero to do with technology. Enter sourdough bread-making. “Over the last season of taking my hands away from my phone, learning a new skill, immersing my heart and life in something so grounding has been an amazing discovery. I’m now somewhat obsessed with my sourdough starter and the endless knowledge found from starting again…So much of our world thrives on immediate gratification. Taking the time to let the bread prove mirrors our internal need for space and reflection.”
Baking bread might not interest you. If it doesn’t, consider something else you can do with your hands, and without your phone, something else with a slower pace and some built-in waiting.
2. Compliment a loved one every day.
“We can get too caught up in what the people around us are not doing, or the mistakes they are making, or where they are not meeting our needs,” said Rebecca Ray, a clinical psychologist, writer and founder of Happi Habits. Which leads us to take them for granted, and gloss over who they are and the thoughtful gestures they do extend.
Compliment your loved one’s kindness and compassion. Compliment their sense of humor. Compliment their smile and endless enthusiasm. Compliment their work ethic. Compliment their ability to listen, and stay in the moment. “Consciously celebrating those we love deepens our connectedness and reminds us how lucky we are to have love in our life,” Ray said.
3. Write about what went well.
Psychologist Nicole Archer, Psy.D, suggested this exercise, which comes from Martin Seligman’s book Flourish. He recommends setting aside 5 to 10 minutes every night for 3 weeks to write down three (big or small) things that went well and why they went well.
For instance, according to Archer, you might write down: “I met my best friend for coffee,” and “Our friendship is really important to us so we made the time to get together; also, I love cappuccinos.”
4. Surround yourself with inspiration and positivity.
What inspires you? What soothes and refreshes you? What energizes you? Reflect on these questions, and experiment with the answers. For instance, you might put up quotes around your home that remind you of your values and what you want to focus on. You might start reading encouraging or heartwarming books.
You might start “putting some fresh flowers in the bedroom or on the kitchen table [and] having spaces that are cleared and uncluttered, so there’s literally some breathing space for mind, body, heart and spirit,” said Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC, the director of both the International Association for Journal Writing and Creative Wellness, specializing in the healing and transformational power of writing.
In other words, you create an “environment that supports positive feelings,” Monk said.
5. Make meal-time into an experience.
Writer and communication expert Monica Kade suggested eating slowly and savoring each bite you take. What flavors and textures do you notice? What does each bite smell like? Does the scent shift with different bites? Reflect further on how you feel as you eat your meal, and whether you’re enjoying it, she said.
“We want our meals to nourish and inspire us, and if that’s not the way you feel when you eat your food, maybe it’s time to revisit what you are eating,” Kade said.
6. Take regular breaks to center yourself.
Psychologist Kristi Van Sickle, Psy.D, suggested sitting down, taking a deep breath and noticing: five things you can see; four things you can touch; three things you can hear; two things you can smell; and one thing you can taste or like the taste of.
7. Handwrite a thoughtful letter, card or quick note.
“We have the power to impact people’s lives in the grandest way through the most smallest gesture,” Kade said. Mail your loved one a sweet letter, or slip it into their lunchbox or wallet or even inside their shoe, she said.
“Sharing what you love about someone, how you appreciate them or just wishing them a beautiful day in the non-traditional way allows you to express more love and kindness into the world and into that person’s life.”
Van Sickle suggested doing any kind thing for others. Just think of anything that makes your day brighter when others do it for you, she said. This might be anything from holding the door to giving a hug to dropping off a home-cooked meal.
8. Read fiction.
Viviers tends to pick books from the self-help section of her library. However, she’s set an intention to pick more fiction instead. “[W]hen I spend the last few minutes before I fall asleep telling myself things that I should try, or should implement or should do, I go to sleep thinking of my lack, rather than my amazing abundance.”
However, reading fiction inspires her toward change, instead of making her feel stuck in obligation, she said. (By the way, her recent fictional favorite is Wonder by RJ Palacio.)
9. Try a technology Sabbath.
“A lot of my work is online, my overseas family communicate online and I love to engage in positive communities there,” Viviers said. However, she also finds herself quickly trapped in a web of comparison. “As a stay-at-home mum, I swing from being super happy in the flexibility of my life, then I see what other people are doing and question everything.” Which is why Viviers has started venturing outside and leaving her phone at home.
Ray also stressed the importance of breathing fresh air every day, and reconnecting with nature (and ourselves). You can even start paying closer attention to your natural surroundings. What does the sky look like today? How has the tree in front of your office building changed this week? What do you feel as you breathe in the smell of grass or snow or rain?
You might pick one day each week to be without your phone, and focus on meaningful moments, such as time with family and friends, Viviers said. Overall, she encourages us to focus less on shopping, rushing, consuming, working and being in noise and to focus more on cultivating space, resting, creating, being in silence and playing.
10. Find one activity to help you express yourself.
“Creative self-expression is a gift we give ourselves, it breathes life into life and offers a positive ripple effect of good energy out into the world around us,” Monk said. For instance, you might express yourself through writing, dancing, painting, gardening, sculpting or collage-making, she said.
Explore and experiment with the above suggestions. Maybe none of these ideas interest you or appeal to you. If so, I hope they inspire you to take a closer look at your days and find what does.