I expected to feel horrific when I got back from travelling. After being away for 14 months I thought the initial ‘see my friends and family and be back in the motherland’ feeling would wear off after a few weeks and I’d be left sobbing alone in the corner. Everyone would be bored of my stories and I would come to detest the English accent because let’s face it, the kiwi accent is a million times better.
But I’ve only really had a couple of ‘woe is me’ days. Usually, I can’t believe I’m back and I absolutely love and appreciate all the things I missed, having baths, eating dinner with my family and not waking up in the middle of the night to some Germans sitting on my bed snorting coke.
Worryingly, I sometimes forget that I actually went away and it’s only when I suddenly think of myself hiking on Rangitoto, flying to Myanmar completely alone or becoming such good mates with a Colombian taxi driver that he hugged us when we said goodbye, that I start to panic.
I panic because I feel like I grew so much as a person in those 14 months and now what if it all goes to shit and I’m back to my usual anxious worry-about-everything self. I panic that I haven’t achieved anything substantial, and the only significant thing that’s happened to me in the last 2 months is I’ve gained 5lbs.
My life is so good and I have recently discovered how to make myself so much more appreciative of everything. Legit everything. I spent an hour yesterday looking up pictures of puppies. I have incredible people around me, I’m slowly realising that I don’t care what people think, and have so many Yankee candles that my room now permanently smells like a cookie.
But getting stuck on the Central line during rush hour wondering how life got this mundane does not make for a good day. Because life isn’t mundane at all. And I sometimes forget to recognize and appreciate the good things about my day, whether it’s successfully navigating London’s tube system whilst hungover, or the fact that my bank balance expectations were low enough that I actually enjoyed checking it, (N.B this actually never happens to me and is one of the disadvantages of being an optimist).
So, I wrote myself a bucket list. A list filled to the brim with habits to gradually increase self-awareness, allowing me to life mindfully and accomplish things which don’t involve eating the largest amount of peanut butter on toast in one sitting.
Whether you’re happy with your life as it is, or sitting in the hallway sobbing because Britain voted to leave the EU and maybe you should just volunteer in every country in Europe to prove to that we are actually nice people, these little habits can help you turn a bad day around. Do them on a daily basis, and you will feel calmer, more present, and less like the substance of your brain consists solely of murky grey fog – although this still happens to me on a Sunday afternoon when I realise I’ve been watching Netflix for seven hours and omg how many brain cells have I lost?
Turn off your phone
Turning off your phone, or at least logging out from social media is one of the best things you can do for your mind. How many times have you concluded your Instagram stalking with the realisation that your life is shit? If I’m not careful, I’ll spend hours looking through travel photos wondering how I entered the miserable realm of normality and how I can get out of it soon as possible. Cue feeling terrible for the rest of the day and spontaneously spending what’s left of your overdraft on the next flight to Nepal.
Turning off your phone means you stop looking at what other people are doing. If you stop looking at what other people are doing you can focus on what you’re doing. I have now deleted Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook & Twitter from my phone. Occasionally in a wild moment of weakness (or extreme boredom) I install them again, but never for long. Usually I try to embrace boredom and appreciate a day or entire weekend without technology. Making the choice to step away from it every morning and evening is the best decision I could make for my sanity.
Play your happy song
Everyone should have a happy song. If you don’t, then find yourself one ASAP. Mine is ‘Send me on my way’ by Rusted Roots. It’s just so damn happy and when I listen to it I honestly feel like I could run a marathon and win it no bother.
There has actually never been a time when this song hasn’t cheered me up even a little bit. It’s uplifting in so many ways. It reminds of watching Matilda as a child with my family and wondering why our pancakes never looked like hers and being told that’s just what pancakes look like in America.
Whilst travelling in Asia, if there was ever a bus journey in which I felt scared (all of them), I would play this, and suddenly it’s OK that you’re hurtling around cliff corners at 150km/h and your bag has now flown across the bus approximately three times and all your possessions have broken but it doesn’t matter because you’re going to die anyway, but what will you leave to your sister? It’s healing powers are limitless.
Do some breathing exercises
Shamefully, I used to laugh at anyone who would tell me that the best way to turn a bad day around is to do ‘breathing exercises’. But since starting my 30 days of meditation and realising that taking time to notice your breathing is actually hugely beneficial, I am loving breathing exercises, and don’t even feel embarrassed when I do them on the train.
It works best in times when you know you shouldn’t be stressed, but stress out anyway – such as when you’re stuck in traffic or pissed off because you thought you boiled the kettle so poured the water into your mug but it turns out you hadn’t and now it’s a waste of a teabag (anyone else?). My instinctive emotion during times like these is generally anger, and it’s anger I usually take out on others who are in no way responsible. Doing breathing exercises when I feel myself beginning to get stressed is the best way to calm myself down and helps me realise that life isn’t actually that bad.
Brush your teeth
Does anyone else find brushing their teeth makes them feel so much more in control? Brush away the taste of the 7 peanut butter sandwiches you just ate, brush away the fact that you are so far into your overdraft that only God can help you now, and brush away the fact that you’ve gained 7lbs in one week. You got this.
I’ve turned into a bit of a madwoman in my quest to always have my life in order. I make my bed every morning, and make sure my room is spotless, and if it’s not I will actually just storm around my room picking things up and folding them erratically then picking things up and putting them in the same place but slightly neater. It’s only writing this that I realise some of my habits I use to ‘control’ my mood are ironically, fairly out of control, but to be honest, if it works it works.
I wake up at 5.15am, I make sure my room is tidy and then I go to work. Am I crazy? I’m not sure.
Write in a gratitude journal
This is a great one if you want to snap out of that ‘woe is me’ feeling but don’t know how. I have a journal which I write everything in, and if I’m feeling sad or annoyed about something I write it all down and then continue with a list of good things about my day. Sometimes these are literally as vague as ‘I’m alive so that’s good’ (this was obviously a really bad day), or they can be more specific. There is always something to be grateful for no matter how bad your mood, so give this a go and see how you get on. If you really can’t think of one then something like ‘I read Alex’s blog for these tips which means I am able to read which naturally puts me in a better position than over 400 million women’ is a good choice. Just a suggestion.
Drink green tea
In terms of ‘things to consume that make you happy’, green tea is up there with chocolate, mashed potato and apple crumble made by your Gran on a rainy Sunday. It’s the king of all teas. It’s good for you mentally and physically and as soon as I have a cup I can just feel my insides glowing and thanking me for taking such good care of them.
Watching Bridesmaids is possibly not something you should do on a daily basis, as that would be extremely unproductive. But this is my ‘if all else fails’ mood booster and is perfect for Sunday afternoons when the realisation that the weekend is almost over smacks you in the face and suddenly there’s only 7 hours until Monday. I honestly find it impossible to watch Bridesmaids and be sad at the same time, as it’s the funniest film of the 21st century. Fact.
Lie on your back with your legs up against the wall
As soon as I wrote that I realised just how ridiculous it sounds but bear with me. This is the ultimate mood booster I swear, and there are so many benefits both physically and mentally. I like to do it if I’m feeling a bit stressed, restless or just want to wind down before I go to bed. I put on relaxing sounds, usually the sound of rain or a crackling fire from my Calm app (although lucky to those in the UK because it’s usually raining anyway), and then I just lie there for a while and take deep breaths. I made my sister do it when she was feeling sad and it worked an absolute charm. You can read all about the actual physical benefits here (seriously your body will thank you). A lot of the time I lie in this position and watch Coronation Street at the same time, so it’s both comfortable and practical.
So, next time you wake up in the morning thinking it’s Sunday and it turns out it’s actually Monday and it’s the worst day of your entire life, try some of these to give yourself an extra boost of positivity.