Originally published in the Chicago Tribune on 6 Sep 2015 Amy McDonnell, CareerBuilder
Some days, it’s a struggle to find the energy to push the snooze button, let alone get out of bed. Other days, though you think you’ve got it all together, you arrive at work and realize you forgot your headphones, your morning coffee… or your laptop. And on those “I can’t even…” days, you step on said headphones, spill your coffee all over your new white shirt, or face the “blue screen of death” as you open up your computer. Here are four hacks to turn a bad morning into good day:
1. Clear your head. OK, first things first: Step away from your desk or work area. Pry your eyes off that keyboard or phone screen, and head to the nearest exit. Use the 20 minutes or so you’d normally spend surfing the Internet and instead, get outside and enjoy some fresh air with a walk around the block. (Studies have shown even 20 minutes of exercise like walking can boost happiness, reduce risk of disease and improve memory). Practice your breathing techniques while walking (aka breathwalking) — and actually reap the benefits of meditation while getting your circulation going.
Can’t get outside? Walk around your office, or take three minutes and meditate at your desk before you step back into reality. The benefits may last you all day long.
2. Laugh. Sometimes, on a bad day, you aren’t sure whether to laugh or cry. And while it’s true that sometimes you may just need a good cry, it’s not always easy to open the floodgates while surrounded by co-workers. Something you can do — without usually getting too many raised eyebrows — is laugh. Laughing is almost always guaranteed to get you out of your current slump, it helps to put things in perspective, and it not only costs you nothing — but also has major stress relief benefits. It even may be contagious: If you find something funny (and work-appropriate)
That gets you back on your A-game, why not spread the love with colleagues to give them a boost?
3. Do something nice for others. There are many other simple but meaningful ways to improve the day of those around you — and it’s a proven fact that helping others actually raises your own happiness levels.
Try the “Five-Minute Favor.” Take just a few minutes a day to do something small but with big benefits to the recipient. This could mean buying a co-worker a cup of coffee, making it a point to say hello to people you pass in the hallway, writing an email to thank someone for his or her efforts on a project, or even retweeting someone or replying to a friend or stranger with an encouraging comment. It’s a small commitment for you, but may mean a lot to them.
Try extending your altruism outside the office walls, too. Consider volunteering at an organization that means something to you, help others in need, and start getting the feelgood vibes back tenfold.
4. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes you need the work equivalent of comfort food to get past your blue mood (or, you may just really need some mac n’ cheese). It’s important to be kind to yourself and realize that everyone has a bad day now and then — and we all make clumsy mistakes. Give yourself a break! Consider treating yourself to a latte, maybe even a piece of chocolate (#noregrets). Schedule a massage so you have something to look forward to that night or later that week, or make a date to marathonwatch whatever. Dive into a good book at lunch (while eating that mac n’ cheese), or spend an extra five minutes chilling out to the new Radkey album.
Whatever your happy place, get yourself there, even for a few minutes: It may just be the indulgence you need to get past that morning’s horrors and face the rest of the day … and then do it all again tomorrow.