How To Have A Great Day

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Depression and Suicide

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, since 1999, suicide rates have increased in every state. A range of factors can lead to someone taking their life, but in almost all cases, individuals who commit suicide are burdened by multiple life stressors including substance abuse, depression, mental conditions, relationships issues, and financial strain.

I’ve personally experienced the darkness that leads to suicide. As an Army Veteran, I’ve deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan five times. I’ve experienced the unfortunate effects of war. War can steal your spirit and humanity. War has a knack for presenting you with the worst the human race has to offer.

As an Army Veteran, I’ve been a part of an institution that has one of the highest rate of suicide in the U.S., along with divorce. Military leaders are trained to see the signs leading to such a catastrophic event, although sometimes you don’t see any signs.

We also are trained to develop strategies to lessen the risk of suicide and increase your quality of life. Personally, the following strategies have helped me come out of the darkness to lead a fulfilling, productive life.

Whether you’re dealing with depression or just want to have a great day, these strategies are backed by science and can be implemented easily. A few years ago, I started implementing some of these after realizing my job wasn’t fulfilling and started to go down a path of depression.

A few years ago, my job rolled out what they called the “Performance Triad (P3).” It is a program that aims at optimizing your performance by targeting your sleep habits, nutrition, and exercise. The program is important because these three areas can not only determine your performance during the day but add years to your life.

As I started to implement some of the strategies in the P3 program, I wondered what else could I do to supplement my lifestyle choices to be more productive, improve my mood, and otherwise, improve my quality of life.

As I began to read, research, and find other ways to optimize my life, I realized my job was becoming more fulfilling. I began to change how I viewed my job. I didn’t mind things I necessarily didn’t like to do. Finally, I began to change my daily habits for the better.

I began to have a lot of great days.

1. Get Great at Sleep — Quality And Quantity

I put sleep first because it can affect your whole day. The studies are pretty clear. The correlation between quality sleep and performance (physical and mental) is strong. The American Sleep Association illustrates that sleep deprivation has been linked to depression and poor performance — it can proliferate every area of your day. It’s important to ensure you not only have the proper quantity but good quality sleep as well.

Set the conditions for good sleep. Dim the lights, eliminate anything that will be a distraction and create a routine that lets your body know it’s time for bed.

Wind down 30 minutes to an hour before your intended sleep schedule. For example, if you want to go to sleep at 9 p.m., at 8:30 p.m. turn off the T.V., your phone, and do something that will start to decrease brain activity. Good activities are reading, meditation, etc.

Having a great day starts with great sleep.

2. Go For a Stroll — or Run — in the Woods Before Work

Serving in the Army for 20 years, I understand the importance of exercise as it relates to the quality of life. Proper exercise can improve your mood during the day by lowering depression. It releases endorphins and helps you sleep better. Kill two birds with one stone — exercise to sleep better!

A study listed multiple observational studies that implied the correlation to lower levels of depression, improved mood, and more levels of happiness during the day.

Observational studies have shown that depression is associated with low levels of physical activity. Whilst an association between two variables does not necessarily imply causality, there are plausible reasons why physical activity and exercise may improve mood. Exercise may act as a diversion from negative thoughts, and the mastery of a new skill may be important.

However, from my perspective, I don’t need studies to know exercise DRASTICALLY helps me physically, mentally, and emotionally. There have been periods when I took long periods off of daily exercise and I began to not feel very good. I began to feel unmotivated, I gained weight, and didn’t feel as purposeful and productive in my life. I’m sure everybody is different, but the research has shown exercise can help you have a great day.

Lastly, I found out that exercising in green landscapes, trails, for example, can help improve mood as well. So, I’ve been doing more trail runs instead of running around my neighborhood or in the city. Check out this Harvard Health article.

3. Eat a Healthy, Light Breakfast

I like to eat a healthy breakfast low on carbohydrates. Typically my breakfast is light. If I eat a light breakfast I don’t have to battle the insulin spikes that accompany high carbohydrate meals. A large breakfast with pancakes and syrup, for example, will cause me to crash an hour later. It’s not really conducive to a productive day — I just don’t feel good after that.

I like to have my coffee and something light, like yogurt and bacon. Or, maybe just an egg. Sometimes, I’ll just have my morning coffee. Some people will not agree with not eating a meal for breakfast, but it’s worked for me. Hell, sometimes I go on 7–10 mile runs with having just a cup of coffee.

The point? If you eat a meal for breakfast, eat something low on carbohydrates to eliminate that late morning crash.

4. Manage Your Expectations — Anticipate Failure, Then Welcome it

Expect to experience failure or disappointment. It’s okay, that’s life. It’s normal. I think you can be an optimist and still be prepared for setbacks during the day. In fact, I have learned to welcome failure. Some people have a hard time dealing with failure in their lives. I’ve changed my mindset with failure. I know I will experience failure no matter what — it’s a given. So, I’ve learned to look forward to it in a weird way.

For my next failure, what will I learn to make me better?

I think failure is the greatest teacher and has helped all the greats become legendary. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Tiger Woods for instance have used failure to learn and reach greatness.

The point? Reframe how you think about setbacks and use them as a learning opportunity. It will help you become more resilient and not see failure as purely a bad thing.

5. Delete Your Facebook app. Instead, Call Your Best Friend to Say Hello

Studies have shown that Social Media has been linked to higher levels of depression, especially among teenagers. Seeking validation through social media coupled with the fact that it’s easily accessible 24 hours a day has created an indelible hunger for “likes.”

In addition to the need for self-esteem, screen time had contributed to the quality and quantity of sleep.

Some great strategies to limit screen time, start your day with contacting friends via call or text. Connect with someone you know will support you and your endeavors. Limit screen time until your day is done, and don’t overindulge, especially right before bedtime.

6. Tell Three People In Your Circle That You Appreciate Them

If you want to know what motivates people, look no further than Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist in the early 20th century that learned people need to feel good about themselves by having a sense of self-worth. By letting people know you appreciate them, it makes them feel valued. Offer your appreciation when they least expect it. They’ll appreciate that you remembered the help they provided you after the fact — it’s more meaningful.

Also, a great side effect is it will make you feel good too. The environment you will create within your work or personal tribe by making those around you and yourself feel good about yourself creates an environment rich in self-esteem and positivity.

7. Take a Step — No Matter How Small — Toward Self-Actualization

Let’s not walk blindly toward some obscure endeavor you found in another Medium story; follow your “passion”; start your own business.

You have to know who you are and where you're going.

Taking a step toward self-actualization requires you to realize your purpose in this crazy world of ours. For me, I’m a helper, trainer, and servant-leader. My niche is learning and development. Aside from working toward being a good father and husband, my purpose in this life is serving others through my work.

I’m most energized and fulfilled when I’m able to help somebody else learn something new or professionally develop themselves. I enjoy it. I’m good at it. The small steps I can take each day toward self-actualization is learning a new skill within the L&D domain, working toward being a better father, or husband.

Find your “why” and work towards it every day.

8. Smile

Force yourself to smile…seriously.

Forcing yourself to smile can trick your brain into making you feel happier, boost your immune system, and reduce stress. The physical act of smiling causes a chemical reaction in the brain that releases neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine.

Smiling is also infectious. Neural mirroring, also known as “emotional contagion,” is responsible for spreading emotions within a group. I’m sure you have been around loved ones, leaders at work, or other people that are closely associated with you who have been in a bad mood. Those bad feelings can transfer to people around them. Well, so can positive emotions.

Leveraging the “smile” is one way to help you, and others around you, to feel happy.

In sum, take a deliberate approach to “having a great day.” But, the biggest advice is to be a value to somebody. Contribute to somebody else’s happiness. The filling of purpose and gratitude will fill your heart.

Go forth and have a great day!



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Trevor Woods

I’m a Father, Husband, and Veteran. I write about Personal Growth, Mental Health, and Careers!