I opened my eyes and smiled. As I rolled over to turn off my alarm, my legs vibrated with energy. It was going to be a good day. I didn’t always act this way. Most days used to be a grind. I was able to get through them, but it wasn’t easy. I finally admitted to myself that I struggled with my mindset. I was rigid and not very flexible with my thoughts. This is when I started researching happiness.
I wanted to feel joy in any situation, not just when things were going well. All the research kept coming back to gratitude. I started keeping a gratitude journal, but it wasn’t until my third try that it finally stuck with me. My father was passing and I was feeling lost. I made an effort to not only keep a gratitude journal, but I decided to turn these entries into the Bring Gratitude book and create an online community to help people. This work helped me infuse gratitude into my attitude. And as I’ve deepened my gratitude practice even farther, it’s helped me expand into other areas to help me create a more flexible mindset.
When someone makes a negative remark about me, I’m able to handle it so much better. I feel the negativity, but I’m able to let it go, because gratitude has become my default mindset. This took a lot of practice. It started with an evening gratitude journal but expanded from there. I started trying some new things out, tweaking them and getting rid of them if they didn’t work. Through trial and error, both with myself and with my clients, I figured out an evening routine that works well for most people. This routine has helped me sleep better, wake up with more energy, tackle projects that I didn’t have the confidence to take on before and be more present with my family.
The most important aspect of living a joyful life is to have the energy to do the things that truly matter to you. Whether it be family, career or a passion project, it’s important to set yourself up with an evening routine to get quality sleep so you can wake up ready to take action.
The following method, which I call SOAR, works best when done every night for just 10-15 minutes before bed.
- Simplify - Remove the physical and mental clutter in your life. Doing this helps you create the emotional space needed to relax your mind and body before bed. I suggest starting with your physical clutter first. Whatever energy you have left at the end of the day, use it to try to make your home a little cleaner. Then write down your “Top Things List” to get done in the morning to help clear your mind, so you aren’t mentally holding on to them as you try to relax. You don’t need to go crazy on either one. Just pick up some clothes up in the corner of the room and write 2-3 most pressing items that you need to do tomorrow. (Time: 2-5 min.)
- Observe - Assess how you are feeling. Where is there tension in your body? Where does your body feel relaxed? Observing your muscles will help you build internal awareness. Then spend time watching, reading and listening to people you admire. I’m a big fan of reading a quote or listening to a short audio clip before bed from someone I’m currently reading. From a young age we learn by observing others and applying their attitudes, behaviors and processes to improve our lives. We need to bring this practice back so that we can grow happier and stronger. (Time: 3-5 min.)
- Appreciate - Take time to feel grateful for the good things in your life. When you can focus on the positive things in your life, you are rewiring your brain to bring more joy into your life. A positive outlook helps you become more resilient, so whatever life throws at you, you are able to handle it. (Time: 2-3 min.)
- Reflect - Look back on your day, and you’ll see ways you could learn and grow. Ask yourself what you did well, and what you can improve. What we did well is often never thought about. We need to look at what went well so that we can do more of it tomorrow. Then focus on one way you can improve. I’m working on listening to people better, so this is the area I focus on. By making time for reflection, you can better process your day and make tomorrow a little better. (Time: 3-5 min.)
The S.O.A.R. method works well because what you think about before you go to sleep significantly impacts your happiness. If you worry about your day before you go to sleep, you won’t sleep as well and you’ll wake up with more stress and tension. When you are able to reframe your experiences before bed as learning and growth opportunities, you’ll sleep better, wake up more positive, and be ready to tackle those tougher challenges at home and work.
Before you start reaping the benefits of this practice, take the Gratitude Quiz to help you understand where you are currently at in our emotional outlook. You'll get a score, emails to help you deepen your practice, and access to the Sharing and Self gratitude quizzes, so you can go deeper when you are ready.