Let’s put it out there: you’re going to face things you don’t like today.
Maybe it’s rush hour traffic on your way to work, being paired up with your least favorite coworker for a project, or something worse like a new diagnosis or a fight with your significant other.
Whatever it is, it’s going to put a damper on your day and challenge you to focus on the good in order to push through without losing your cool, losing your peace, or losing a good night’s sleep.
And, really, it won’t just be today — you’re going to face inconveniences and potential suffering every single day.
So, how do you focus on the good despite the intensity or frequency of the less-than-ideal?
I’ve developed a formula for focusing on the good, and it’s not only transformed my outlook but extended to my overall health and wellness. I’ve developed the Happier Mind Journal to give you an easy structure for following this process, but any template that challenges you to develop these habits will work.
Because of how well this process works, I’m on a mission to share what I’ve learned with everyone I meet, and I’m excited to share it with you, too. So, with that in mind, here are five ways you can focus on the good despite whatever life hands you.
1. Write Down Your Gratitude Within Minutes of Waking
Start your day recognizing the things for which you feel intense gratitude. Really challenge yourself to explore how far you’ve come, and which aspects of your life bring you true peace and wellness.
The powerful part of starting your day with gratitude is it frames your perspective for the next 24 hours. I can wake up, annoyed that my alarm is going off and I don’t feel as if I’ve gotten enough rest — but if I then take just a couple of minutes to connect with my grateful inner self, my perspective quickly shifts. I begin to consider that as I curse my alarm, a parent somewhere is sitting bedside with a child who is terminally ill. I realize that somewhere firefighters are trying to save a family’s home while they watch in fear and desperation.
While these thoughts are heavy, they force me to consider all the things for which I’m so grateful and access the part of my brain that works to stay positive and move forward:
- I begin to consider my financial state: I have food on the table.
- I consider my career: I have a job I like the vast majority of the time.
- I begin to think about the heat in my home: I am comfortable and safe.
- And my children: They are vibrant and full of energy.
- I think about my faith: I am connected and enlightened.
I even consider the micro-components of life: I can feel the floor beneath my feet. I can hear the rain hitting the pavement and smell that amazing smell that only accompanies a fresh rain. I can feel my heart beating, slow and steady. I can see the sun rise. I write these things down, using all my senses to describe, within moments of waking up every single day.
2. Define Your Intention Every Day
Next, I consider who I want to be today and what I want to achieve.
Most days, I want to be happy.
Most days, my intention is to live with positivity, mindfulness, and gratitude so I can fully experience life from a place of peace and wellness. So that’s what I write.
3. Make a Commitment Every Single Day
Once I know my intention, I can make a couple of small commitments to help me get there. Since my intention is happiness and we’ve already recognized that things will try to impede on my happiness today, one commitment I might make is to control my reaction to my environment.
Max Lucado shows us what this looks like here, and although his Christian belief system is deeply incorporated, I can relate his message to my life even if my belief system is different. Every morning I commit to choosing how my day will day despite the circumstances that are out of my control. Like Max Lucado, I choose love and joy.
I choose to be kind and gentle. I choose to control my thoughts, words, and actions to ensure they are driven by my heart and my intention and not by my surroundings. I know not everybody is on the same journey I’m on, and I choose to respect my colleagues and loved ones for where they are in their own journey.
And then I write that down, too.
4. Stay in Control of Your Internal Dialogue
Throughout the day, my chances of having a negative thought are 100%. My chances of spreading that negative by speaking a negative word are just as high if I don’t stop that thought in its tracks and redirect it quickly.
So, as I face those circumstances that threaten to steal my peace, I take special care to listen to the narrator — that voice in my head. Note that I said listen to it. That’s because I know that voice says whatever it wants, whenever it wants, without concern for my commitments and intentions. I don’t have to identify with it and it doesn’t have to define me.
So, I listen to the voice. And when the voice gets negative, I distract it by listing things for which I’m grateful or re-framing the situation. If it becomes negative again, I redirect it again. Sometimes I redirect it a hundred times and sometimes you’ll redirect it a hundred times. That’s okay, just keep doing it.
5. Focus on Gratitude and Mindfulness Before Bed
This is perhaps the most critical part of the entire routine because it illustrates quite literally the connection between my intention, my follow-through, and my results, and it allows me to shift back to gratitude before my head hits the pillow.
At the end of the day, I take time to reflect. I ask myself how well I did following through on the commitments I made that morning and how I feel as a result. What I find is that when I follow through, I feel peace. When I don’t, I feel unrest. And over time, I follow through more and more consistently because I’m hungry for peace and have an aversion to unrest.
Finally, I circle back to the gratitude with which I started my day, using all my senses to recall the best moments of my existence since I awoke. I think about the deep breaths I took while waiting for my coffee and the surge of energy and feeling of revival it gave me. I think about my daughter’s lanky little arms wrapped tight around my waist before she hopped on the school bus. I think about those things, and then I sleep.
If you need help getting started with journaling and nurturing gratitude, either download our free eBook or purchase a hardcover Happier Mind Journal with a 20% WLC discount. Use promotional code WLC20 at checkout.