This is my thought for the week: have a good day!

No seriously, I mean it. Resolve to have one truly good day, this week.

Not a day when everything goes right, because you can't control that... But a day when whatever goes wrong, you'll handle it, smilingly, elegantly, gracefully learning its lesson, rising to the occasion with grace and gratitude - because you are having "a good day", because you have chosen (just for today) not to let anything faze or frustrate you.

Already, that breezy American throwaway greeting Have a nice day is seeming a little harder to achieve isn't it?

The very notion that we get to choose to 'have a nice (or a good) day' is a bit of shock, to start with, then there's the immediately hot-on-its-heels notion, that maybe as well as having to choose to do so, we're going to have to work at it! What seemed like an inane wish from a stranger is slowly becoming an injunction.

Yes, that's the size of it. I'm not wishing you a good day. I'm injuncting you to have one: challenging you to create one.

Even Tolkien's Hobbit-friendly wizard, didn't stretch the idea quite that far, when in response to "Good Morning" from Bilbo, Gandalf said “What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” He didn't add "Or that you mean I should ensure that I and / or others have a good one?"

I am.

Adding that last bit – and not just for the morning – for the whole day.

So: let me repeat: have a good day!

Resolve to have one truly good day this week. Commit to it. Then make sure you honour your commitment by creating it: one truly GOOD day.

The first problem most people come up against with this exercise is that they don't even know what a really good day would be. Sometimes they know when they've had one; it takes them by surprise when they stop in the evening and think "you know what, that's been a really good day".

Worse than that, from talking to people in a completely unscientific research fashion, my impression is that many don't even get that far. Too many of us don't even spend five minutes late in the day assessing whether the day we've just experienced was good, bad or indifferent. If we can't spare five minutes a day to evaluate how we're spending our time, I suspect there's a good chance we're not spending it well or wisely.

Most of us know when we've had (to be polite) a "rubbish" day. Or at least the people around us do. We come home, kick the cat (or the sofa), shout at the wife (or the husband or the kids or the TV), generally whinge and moan and vent… all of which is understandable and some of which is acceptable (for avoidance of doubt: the bits involving inanimate objects). But even then, do we stop and wonder: why was it rubbish?

Not "what was rubbish about it" – that's the easy bit – it was the boss or the underlings or the government or the weather or the customer or the supplier or the landlord or the tenant or the technology or…whatever.

But that doesn't answer the question. Why? Why did all of those things that went wrong during your day make it a rubbish day?

Because even on that rubbish day, I can promise you there were glorious, beautiful, life-affirming, joyful, pretty, humorous, supportive, loving, and lucky things happening too.

The only difference between a good day and a bad day is what we choose to notice. What we choose to make 'matter' in the shaping of our day.

Ok. I'm not Pollyanna. I do know that some days are really hard. And that no amount of refocusing your attention is going to suddenly turn them into blissed out sequences in your life. What I am saying is that even in the midst of the darkest of times you can give yourself the gift of one good day in a week.

That's less than 15% of the week. Surely you owe yourself that much?

So: how do you do it? Supposing you take up the challenge, how can you make sure you do have / create one really good day this week?

Honestly, I have no idea. It's a personal thing. Only you know what a good day for you looks like.

But here are some of the things that work for me:

  • Committing a random act of kindness.Taking stuff to the charity shop to keep it out of landfill is one thing; a better feeling is donating something I know I could have sold. Paying the bill in the restaraunt rather than having the debate about how to split it. Making up the difference when the person in front of me in the queue is figuring out what to take off so they can actually pay for their shopping. And, yes, agreeing that it is just a loan and they can pay me back next time they see me.
  • Giving someone the gift of allowing them to help me.I struggle with asking for help…but if I get a kick out of helping others, why deny that 'kick' to someone else – instead of seeing my inadequacy as a failure, why not see it as a gift to the person who comes to my assistance?
  • Looking for beauty - and remembering to smile when I see it. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.  I carry a camera and try to capture things I find beautiful in the moment: usually light, or water, or flowers, or art, or architecture.  I don't go around taking random portraits of strangers but there is a line from a song that comes back to me time and time again when I walk around the city"Every time I see the glory of a good-looking face, I've just go say, hey now!..." and the rest of the tune dances around in my head and I feel light.  So why not?  Take a walk and notice the 'good looking faces'.  Be even braver and smile at one or two of them.
  • A smile from a stranger always lightens my day.
  • Time out.The very best of days always involve time out, just sitting and being and noticing (or not) what's going on around me.  A cup of tea in the early morning garden.  A glass of wine looking at the night sky.  Pausing on the river bank with my elbows on the railings looking into the water.  Waiting for a train, having decided not to care how late it is, but to watch the people, look at the way they dress, the way they move, make up life-stories for them the way I did as kid. Or count the containers of the passing freight train and marvel at the length of them even in this tiny island, or ponder the workings that keep the whole operation going.  Time out isn't always in the most beautiful of places, but if every delay is accepted as unexpected down time, an uncontrollable moment in which I might as well rest rather than fret, it can be enough to turn worse day into a better one.
  • Tell someone I love them.Or if that is a step to far: validate them in some other way, but let them know I appreciate them being in my life.  Say thank you.  Send them 'thinking of you' card. Make them a cup of tea. Small things. Important things.
  • Counting my blessings.How old fashioned is that? But it works.If you've never kept a gratitude journal, start now. If you don't know how to start having a really good day, get up, earlier than usual if you have to, make yourself your favourite breakfast, take a pen and a notebook and start a list of all the things you're grateful for. Start with that breakfast you're eating…and the room you're eating it in…and the people in your life.  My gratitude lists always start with: four walls and a roof, clean water, freedom… That alone makes my day better than millions of others will have.
  • Doing the work.  A good day isn't necessarily a day of rest.  I have had really good days where I have worked long hours and come home exhausted, but I have achieved what I wanted to achieve – sometimes with no issues, sometimes with definite "issues" and "people stuff" that I could have well done without – but having got there, done what needed to be done.  Achievement.  That in itself has led me to collapse in the evening and say "you know what, I've had a really good day today".  Sometimes it really is just the noticing that makes the difference.

So go on. Work out what makes you smile and do it (or seek it out). For a whole 24 hours.

And have a really good day!

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