How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of it. Many of us start our days with a groggy phone grab. Eyes barely open, we’re diving into social media, checking email, scrolling news feeds—and launching ourselves into the stress zone before we’ve even gotten out of bed.
But there’s a better way: We can start the day with intention, setting ourselves up to connect to positivity and purpose. And it’s as simple as asking ourselves just three questions.
Whether you’re managing a lot of uncertainty and stress right now or you’re just looking for an easy way to build resilience, this little shift can make an impact.
1. What am I grateful for?
Why it works: As humans, we tend to skip over what’s going well and default to what isn’t working. Why? Because we are wired to feel negative emotions more easily and quickly than positive emotions. (It’s what helped keep us alive when we were being chased by saber-toothed tigers—we could spot a threat and run.) However, we can counter this evolutionary response by intentionally recalling a few things that we’re grateful for. Everything and anything counts, no matter how small: The sun is out, I had a great call with a friend last night, my project is going well. This simple practice helps us recall the good that’s already happening in our lives.
Pro tip: Don’t just think it, write it. Jot down what you’re grateful for. Use our Three Great Things activity or write it in a journal you keep by your bed. Read past entries when you need a lift.
2. What does it look like to show up as my best self?
Why it works: This question spurs positive visualization for the day ahead. Picture yourself showing up as the best version of you, as clearly and detailed as possible, whether it’s to meetings, interacting with customers, diving into your project, helping your kids with homework, or cooking dinner with your partner. Hold a mental “picture” of it as if it were occurring right at that moment. Studies now reveal that simply thinking about something can produce the same brain activity as actually doing it. What’s more, visualization can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow—all relevant to achieving your best life.
Pro tip: Engage as many of the five senses as you can in your visualization. Who are you with? Which emotions are you feeling right now—are you confident, with an open mind? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What do you hear? What is your environment? Eliminate any doubts, if they come to you. Combine this with meditation or an affirmation (e.g. “I am courageous; I am strong,”) for even better results.
3. What can I let go of?
Why it works: We often carry over stress from one day to the next. In addition, our thoughts tend to circle around the same stressors time and again, particularly in the morning as we start to wake up. Start fresh by asking yourself what you can let go of. Much of the time, we stress about things over which we have little to no control—a global pandemic, a reorganization at work, or even smaller issues such as a change in the schedule or a project shifting. Consciously identify the issues in your life that you can’t really control, then mentally release yourself from having to solve them. Take a moment to feel the weight lifting and notice how you’ve freed up your energy and how these thoughts have slowed.
Pro tip: When life seems completely out of control, there is always something, even if small, that we can do to help us regain a sense of control amidst the chaos. For example, you can’t control that your work schedule is changing. But you can make sure that you take a 10-minute walk on most days to boost your mood and manage stress—and you can take a few moments to visualize how this new routine will work. This helps us move beyond a victim mentality and to feel empowered to take action.