April 15, 2024

The Busy People’s Guide to Shifting Your Mood within Minutes.


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When I was still part of the rut in the corporate world, I felt like I was valued for my productivity.

I worked at the IT service desk of one of the biggest car hires companies and later did the same for a huge pharmaceutical company.

After three years in the hamster wheel, I totally united with the idea of only being good enough if I handled a certain amount of tickets, calls, and had a high rate of good client feedbacks.

When the pandemic hit and I was assigned to a home office, I had more time to simultaneously work on my online magazine, and it became too easy to tell myself that I was too busy for anything recreational or self-indulgent. Basically anything that would make me feel happy.

I started to think that I would spend more time when a) I finished all my tasks and b) have enough time, like on days off.

Truth is, I could never be more productive if I didn’t fill my cup first. In fact, the less I cared about filling myself up, the harder it was to stay on track with my endless to-do lists.

Back then, I worked out a system for myself to save me from burning out again and again, which eventually led me to live my dream life.

Every journey starts with one little step—the very first one. So it doesn’t matter how busy you are; if you have at least one second to spare, you can start to build up to a more fulfilling, authentic, and happy life by practicing these mood lifting habits and eventually turning them into natural activities that are part of your existence.

If you have…

1 second: Smile.

This might sound silly, but I used to sit in front of my computer with a grumpy expression frozen on my face and I wasn’t even aware of it. I had to consciously remind myself to relax my face, and I figured my face muscles actually feel more relaxed when I have a slight smile on, compared to when I think I relax my face muscles and let my face go droopy.

This is best to practice when you’re not feeling like smiling. (It helped tremendously to force-smile behind my headset microphone when I was dealing with a problematic client.) Smiling sends feedback to the brain, telling it that you must be happy about something so your body releases happy hormones, which lead to happier feelings, which lead to happier thoughts, closing you in an endless circle. Same happens with negative thoughts and emotions, so why not teach your body to get in a happy “vicious circle”?

What can be even better? Smile at someone else and spread that goodness around!

10 seconds: Breathe.

Right. You don’t need spare time to breathe because you’re doing it, even if you aren’t thinking about it. But that is the problem. How often do you think of breathing during your day? Many people never think of it until they have hardship with breathing. You need to make it a habit to observe your breath more often, especially when you are tense, upset, or anxious. If you have a spare 10 seconds, spend it with noticing how good it feels having your lungs filled with clean, fresh air. Take a really deep breath. How good does it feel? How good does it feel letting it go?

30 seconds: Let go.

I used to set unrealistic goals for myself and then I would beat myself up for not being able to reach them. Often, it was due to outside circumstances I couldn’t control, like the internet not being able to handle my home office needs, which ended up bringing my productivity scales down because I couldn’t work properly or had to restart the system and it took ages to reboot.

I had to learn more patience, acceptance, letting go of control, and forgiveness. We are humans and there are things we can’t control, and even if we can, what good do we do to ourselves by pushing ourselves to our limits every day and burning out in overachieving?

Take an honest inventory of the things you can do better and that do you good and act accordingly. I used to hate this advice, but now I agree with it: if something doesn’t work, don’t force it. Maybe the low productivity or the mid-week slump is trying to tell you something. Let go and look for new ways to make things work (or even new things to work with?). And why don’t you start it with your own beautiful and worthy self?

1 minute: Act of kindness.

The simple act of passing kindness onto others doesn’t take much time or energy. In fact, I found it gives me more energy when I practice kindness toward my colleagues. A great thing about this is you don’t have to go out of your way to find an opportunity to do any act of kindness for someone else because the opportunities present themselves to you.

I started with simple things, like asking my desk mate if they’d love to go grab a coffee together and I paid for it. Or I took over a difficult ticket I saw was assigned to a newbie and knew they would struggle to handle it. Or I bought some chocolate for my sister on the way home because I knew she had a sh*t day. The opportunities are endless.

3 minutes: Listen to your go-to happy song.

I’ve always had this habit of finding a song I like and playing it on a loop of repeat for a week or two until I found another song that became my trigger-happy hit. Years later, the songs that used to make me happy as a rebellious teenager are still able to make me feel the same happy as back then. I have a whole playlist on my Spotify downloaded that is jammed with these tracks that instantly put me in a better mood. If you only have three minutes, it’s kind of the length of a song, so put your earplugs in and hit the play button.

5 minutes: Clean.

I still surprise even myself with this (if you don’t know me, I hate to clean), but I have to admit that the clutter around me affects my mood and my thinking capacity in a big way. Especially when I was (or sometimes still am) at a home office, the sight of the dirty dishes in the sink, the un-vacuumed floor, clothes laying around on the chairs…everything could irritate and bother me in my work.

Cleaning up the clutter or organizing the mess on my table and around me whenever I had about five minutes to spare helped me to keep myself on track and lifted my mood instantly. Not to mention it cuts the time I would have to spend with cleaning later in my free time.

And that’s it. You don’t need to think of big things when it comes to improving your mood and thus your life; it can be as small as a stolen second spent mindfully.

I hope you can find something in this list of bite-sized mood elevators to get a bit more happiness in your day and that it slowly grows into something big.


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