Life can be a beautiful thing, especially when daydreaming about taking a vacation or looking at all those gorgeous nature and travel photos on Instagram! But I’ll bet that sometimes, maybe even more often than not, you look around your world and see a messy room (or entire house), a yard that needs serious maintenance, laundry that should be folded, paperwork lying all over the kitchen table, and probably more. Until recently, that’s how I saw my world, and I was sick of it. You may feel like I often did—closed-in, oppressed, and helpless. I had to ignore aspects of my life just to survive. It wasn’t that my life was much different than most other people’s; it was just that I couldn’t handle it all the time. Sometimes, I just needed a break from it, time to feel sorry for myself.
Eventually, I got tired of wasting so many days of my life wallowing in unconstructive thinking and negative thoughts. I knew there must be more to my life than all of this, and I felt kind of stupid, because I couldn’t figure out where to start. So, I began looking for free online workshops to help me figure out what I could do to make my life better, and that’s when the changes began happening. In the last podcast I listened to, I was reminded that I need to live my life by design rather than default. What does this mean? It means that I plan my days and how I will respond to stresses rather than letting my circumstances determine how I feel each day.
It truly is the little things that make such a huge difference—really! I learned that there are 3 small steps that everyone can take in order to turn around a bad day very quickly. Most of us just figure that it’s the circumstances that make the day bad, but usually it’s just how we feel about the circumstances that is the real problem. So how do we change our state of mind?
(1) Take on a physical posture of confidence, with the chin lifted and shoulders back. When you stand tall, you will feel better. I have read articles discussing why this happens, but the gist of it is that our posture helps to either improve or worsen our mood. When we slouch and hang our heads down, we can actually make ourselves feel powerless and depressed. When we stand tall and straight, we begin to feel in control and hopeful. Add to this posture and smile! Look at yourself smiling in the mirror; it’s like seeing another person smiling, and that makes you feel happy and even relaxes your facial muscles, relieving stress and anxiety. It feels good!
(2) Make a decision to be happy and see things from a positive point of view, even if you don’t feel like it. Making a decision empowers you and helps you to feel like you can change your day and your life for the better. Eventually, this decision will lead to actual happiness. Don’t whine and complain, because this perpetuates the problem. Complaining never solves anything, nor does it ever lead to feeling happier. It is interesting how the Bible describes this so perfectly in Matthew 6:27 (ESV):
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Incidentally, this same verse is sometimes translated, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his height?” Wow, this goes along with #1—worrying or being unhappy and anxious doesn’t make us any taller or cause us to live longer; it’s just a waste of time and energy! So make a decision not to let circumstances determine how you will feel and react to them. Also, don’t listen to negative self-talk, because it will unmotivate you. This is one of those times when saying “no” to yourself is a really good thing.
Turn on some happy, motivating music to get going, and move to the music. You don’t necessarily have to dance, but listen to it, feel your mood lift, and at least toe-tap. It works! This goes along with #1; physical movement helps release tension, elevates endorphins (hormones that make you feel happier), and helps you to come up with creative ideas and solutions.
In conjunction with this, you can start working on something constructive that will make you feel good (like tidying up for 15 minutes or organizing paperwork, for example). Making the decision to take action and then doing it gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
(3) Change your focus, and stop analyzing and magnifying your negative thoughts about your current situation and problem. Focus on creating solutions, which will make the problem appear to be less big and scary, and more solvable. When you also remember that God is with you, that you can pray for help, then you don’t need to feel ill-equipped to overcome your problems. You can finally stop planning for your own failure and take positive steps toward solutions.
What is remarkable is that it really doesn’t take much to make the move toward a better state of mind. One small step will lead to another, which will lead to more things getting done, more problems resolved, and more positive changes in your life. Apply these steps to anything—work, home life, organization, relationships—and you will begin to see positive changes in you, your thinking, and those of the people around you. It’s contagious!