Recipe For a Successful Day – 10 Tips
Creating a day that just feels awesome, should always be the aim, to a certain degree mind you. Now I’m a realistic optimist, and I know not every day can be this epic adventure filled day full of pure bliss, and void of responsibility, but there are a few non-negotiables we can commit to daily that will make our days feel more meaningful, engaging and fulfilling.
Exercise and movement is a key tool for any successful day. The benefits are abundant, including greater aerobic health, increased alertness and focus to improved blood flow to the brain and body. The neurotrophic benefits are also well known, which help elicit hormonal responses (like dopamine norepinephrine, and serotonin) that help make us feel happier, more creative and better about ourselves.
Starting your day off with some morning movement is always recommended. Not only does this awaken the system and loosen the body up from being in a static position for close to 8 hours, but also starts the signalling process to generate those feel good hormones.
Apart from morning movement, finding time during any part of the day to regularly exercise will open up a number of pathways that make you think clearer, feel stronger, and ultimately perform at your best.
2. Eat nutrient dense foods
Food plays a much greater role in our overall well-being and performance than most people give it credit for. Food is a source of energy. What we eat effects how we feel. Food also effects how we look – if you haven’t noticed. And food has a major connection to how we think, thus how we view stresses and opportunities.
The more nutrient dense foods we consume – which leave us feeling satiated and energized – the healthier our chemical responses within our brain will be. High quality foods, rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, omega 3 fatty acids, high quality complete proteins and vitamins and minerals, protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation, both major causes chronic disease and illness including type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The more inflamed and stressed the body becomes, the worse the brain responds and reacts to the high processed ingredients. Diets high in sugars and processed foods have been linked to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626)
Be cognisant of what you eat, that way you can maximize how your body and mind react both in the short and long term, thus giving you a much greater likelihood of creating a highly productive day.
3. Challenge yourself
During a Key Note Presentation I gave 2 years ago in regards to a 365 day challenge I was in the middle of completing, I suggested to the audience of 500 fitness professionals that, “If we challenge ourselves, both mentally and physically, in some regard every single day, we will all live more fulfilled lives.” I stand by this statement even more today than I did when I stood on stage back in 2018, which says a lot, as I was pretty sold on my hypothesis.
Anecdotal evidence from the world’s highest performers, like the 30+ guests I’ve had on my podcast have consistently backed my theory up; The more we challenge ourselves, the more stimulated and accomplished we feel.
Challenging ourselves isn’t even something we need to think twice about. The more we do it, the more habitual it becomes. Any behaviour can be molded into a routine, in which we subconsciously embrace. Keep in mind, if we change our habits for the better, we change our life for the better.
No one likes to hide in fear or feel like they’re regressing. A fundamental strategy to build a more robust, resilient, confident self, is by doing something that challenges you, and not giving into the discomfort, habitually. If we can create a small win in the face of discomfort every single day, we’ll greatly limit negative thinking patterns, and build a mind and body primed for success, achievement and true internal self-gratification.
4. Create a day you’re looking forward to
Dr. Jordan Peterson, infamous outspoken lecturer at both Harvard University and The University of Toronto, and author of his best-selling book, ’12 Rules for Life’ , has gone on record to highlight the importance of putting together a day that you are actually looking forward to.
He suggests that a good majority of people are waking up dreading the day they’ve created for themselves, and that this is no way to live.
I took his advice to heart, and refuse to put together days that I’m not looking forward to. I actively engage in creating days that I know will boost my energy, liven my mood and improve my overall well-being. I choose jobs that I like. I make sure I have time for activities that I love. I avoid activities and people that bring me down. I find time for energy boosting habits.
If you hate the days you’re setting up for yourself, stop putting those days together. Simple as that. That might mean improving your skill set so you have the leverage to leave the job you hate. That might mean saying ‘no’ more often, or removing tasks that are purely busy work and aren’t necessary to complete as frequently (constant email checks for instance).
Before you go to bed, put together a day you’re excited about: Set time aside for a hike, a coffee date, a movie to go see, a fun activity to embark on, and spend time in environments you enjoy. Start there, and good things will naturally follow.
5. Get outside
‘Forest bathing’, a well-established Japanese health practice is scientifically proven to improve your health. No surprise there, right? The lush greenery, fresh air, and sunlight are great natural resources for feeling more calm, activating our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), and promoting neurochemical responses to feel happier and less anxious.
Tree’s in particular emit oils – called phytoncides – which are used as protection against germs and bad bacteria. These oils help protect our immune system. Studies found that forest and trees also regulate our blood pressure, reduce our stress hormones, and lower our heart rate. In doing so, our mood can be greatly affected, reducing feelings of depression and anxiety, thus improving our mental-well-being, as much as our physical.
Apart from immersing yourself in nature, which isn’t always practical to do, simply being outside, amongst the fresh air and natural sun light, providing the body with some much needed vitamin D, is going to be an immediate mood booster, and health enhancer.
Mix in walks or outside engagements throughout your day, for the greatest benefit.
6. Drink lots of water
For the body to function and run optimally, our cells and organs of the body need water. Dehydration is a major cause for achy joints and muscles, as well as over eating, and low energy.
Aside from the benefits water provides our skin and beauty which keep us looking vibrant and healthy, water is also a key regulator for blood pressure, helps our digestive system, removes waste and flushes away toxins, and is involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters, thus effecting our mood and energy levels, along with many other bodily functions that promote optimal performance.
When the body gets dehydrated, we lose out on a number of key bodily functions that we often take for granted, thus reducing our ability to think as clear or perform as fluidly.
A recommended daily intake of water consumption is between 2-3.5 litres per day. Sipping water throughout the day is a great strategy to constantly keep your body hydrated, filling up every time you go to the bathroom. Just remember, the body is made up of about 60% water, highlighting the need of constant hydration to maximize our daily function.
7. Keep your mind positively stimulated
How we keep our mind positively stimulated will most likely look different from you to your neighbour. The key is to involve yourself – and your brain most importantly – with tasks and activities that promote a flow state, provide you with a sense of true purpose, and keep your mind engaged in a positive manner. Cooking, researching, reading, creating, designing and our work for that matter, can all be great resources to keep our mind focused on something that we’re passionate about, or interested in.
You can argue that playing video games is positively stimulating, but as we all probably realize and have heard or read the studies backing this up, there are a lot of reasons over-consuming an activity that shares a lot of unhealthy connections with it (artificial light, sitting for extended periods, snacking, low level of actual personal growth and connection – touch, feel, smell etc), doesn’t fit the bill as, “positively stimulating”. *I do share when and how this activity can be enjoyed and maximized, below.
It’s important to be mindful of how we view ‘positive stimulation’. A great definition I use is making sure the activity “provides a true sense of meaning, feeling of accomplishment, and a sense of connection to a greater purpose, while limiting any potential negative mood-lowering consequences.”
By following this definition, we’ll avoid ‘stimulating’ activities that are exciting on the outside, but afford us very little, if any, personal sense of achievement and self-satisfaction, once the initial dopamine release inevitably wears off
8. Laugh and connect with others
Connecting with others is a fundamental human characteristic. We’re not meant to be isolated, yet this is becoming reality for more and more people due to covid-19.
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Some of us have been forced into environments that only provide social connection via the computer, which I can’t justify as true social connection. Visually seeing people up close, talking with them (with no delay) and sharing laughs, insights and stories is where true connection thrives. Whether or not your environment affords you the opportunity to personally connect with other people, it’s our responsibility to structure a day where this is possible.
This might mean setting up afternoon grocery runs, midday coffee breaks with a friend, partner or spouse, or joining a recreational sports league or social group of some kind. It’s our obligation to create social connection and in doing so, feel more connected to the world and to the person we’re happiest being.
9. Check off 2-3 ‘to-do’ items
‘To-do’ items are the nagging itch that you just seems to linger. The good news is, ‘to-do’ items are always within our realm of completing, just like that itch can always be scratched.. The key is to not overwhelm yourself to the point that you feel unaccomplished, or utterly defeated with the amount of tasks on your plate. This is no way to approach ‘to-do’ items or goals.
Instead, focus on 2-3 items per day. These items are the primary focus of the day in regards to removing items off your plate. When we cross 2-3 items off a list per day, we’ll get much more done in the grand scheme of our ‘to-do’ list, compared to always trying to knock off 5-10 items in one heroic Spartan like day. We’re not fighting in the The Battle of Thermopylae, you’re checking off nagging items. Even if we were to get those 5-10 items checked off the list, which is not sustainable, we would have neglected too many other important areas of our life.
“Attention must be given to all pillars of our life, as neglect of any one over time will adversely affect the others, and ultimately one’s health, well-being, and quality of life.”
Be efficient and clear with your ‘to-do’ list. Make it appear simple and easy to do. The easier the list looks, the less you’ll resist it. And the greater you’ll feel once you accomplish your micro goals for the day.
How much we get done vs how much we attempt to get done is a weird paradigm. If you had 5 items on your list and you only got 3 done, you’d feel like you underperformed and didn’t accomplish a whole lot. However, if you only had 2 items on your list for the day, but knocked both of them off, you’d go to bed feeling accomplished and satisfied. Even though the second scenario is 1 less task over-all than the first scenario, you’re more likely to feel better about yourself.
Our mind works in weird ways. Either way, at the end of the week, just know you’ll have a boat load of items checked off your list.
10. Earn your comfort
I love relaxing as much as the next (motivated) guy. I enjoy watching my favourite Amazon prime show (currently, ‘The Boys’, kicking back and watching some football or watching a Seinfeld re-run for the 15th time. These mindless activities are good for the soul, but when we do them, makes all the difference.
Relaxing is much easier to truly, authentically, intrinsically accept once we’ve put some work in. A great principle to live by is “rest after you feel accomplished” aka “Earn your comfort”. The importance of earning one’s comfort relies on historical evidence, demonstrating that humans are designed to have a purpose and attack the day.
Waking up, and planting yourself in front of the TV for 3 hours is a bad strategy. If you did this 10,000 years ago, you’d be the fattest, least sexually active, disconnected, weakest and most vulnerable person around, who probably wouldn’t survive long enough to appreciate the gravity of the situation.
Going grocery shopping, doing the laundry, and going for a run, on the other hand, followed up by a nap or a movie on the couch, feels great. The only difference is that the person in the second scenario accomplished a great deal before resting. They did what humans were meant to do, and that is provide for themselves and provide for others. This allows us to feel connected to society, and a true sense of meaning. A life devoid of these is a life destined for tragedy.
When we do something, is almost as important as what we do. There’s a time and place for just about everything. When we schedule it however, and how long we do it for, can be the difference between enjoying a relaxing activity to its full capacity, or feeling like a ne’er-do-well while doing it.
I use the term “earn your comfort” as a reminder to earn that feeling of accomplishment, before I put my feet up. 365 days a year, I aim to earn the ability to lay back and relax, with a clear mind and clear conscious, knowing that I put a solid effort to become a better version of myself.
Going to sleep, knowing you regressed or did very little to improve, is a sure fire way to view life in a nihilistic manner, and feel very little sense of personal acceptance and pride.