When someone visits a psychiatrist for the first time, it’s usually at an inflection point. Something big has happened, is happening or is about to happen. Helping patients navigate their way through this transition is the goal.
Over the years I have learned an important lesson—in addition to discussing the big issue, it is equally important to focus on the everyday. How a person spends her time and conducts her daily life is essential. Understanding habits and rituals not only helps me understand who she is, it also enables me to recommend small changes that may help her feel just a little bit better. Oftentimes, a minor tweak in the day-to-day routine can help a person feel stronger even during times of stress.
As writer Annie Dillard said:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Dillard’s words ring true for all of us. The actions we perform on an everyday basis determine who we are in the long run.
Here are seven ways to make the most of your everyday:
1. Be strong
Eat well, move more and sleep better. Every bite of food, extra step and extra hour of rest has a significant impact on improving the quality of your life and overall health.
2. Engage your brain
Every single day, look for an opportunity to expand your knowledge. It doesn’t need to be something major. Listen to a podcast, read an interesting article, learn something from a friend. Remember, everyone you meet knows something you don’t.
3. Make someone’s day
Do something — anything — for someone else. It will boost your mood immediately and help you feel more in control. Pay a stranger a compliment, buy a coffee for a co-worker who didn’t even ask for one, give your cab to someone else.
4. Make meaning
By that token, even just picking up a piece of garbage on the street has meaning. No matter how small, do something that somehow improves the world.
5. You do you
Play to your strengths — you excel (and feel fulfilled) when you get to do what you do best. According to research, employees who use their strengths outperform those who don’t. If there isn’t an opportunity to use your strengths at work, work on a hobby in your free time = even twenty minutes will have a significant impact
6. Look forward
What are your long-term goals? Do at least one thing that brings you a step—even a baby step—closer each day.
7. Count your blessings
Spend, at minimum, 30 seconds reflecting on what you have accomplished and appreciating what you have. Expressing thanks is one of the simplest ways to feel better.
By purposefully following these seven steps, your full day can also be fulfilling.