- Michael Thompson
Start by making a “Holy Sht Jar”*
Like most people today, I have many titles: Dad, Husband, Career Coach, Son, Consultant, Writer, Friend.
But when the dust settles, my only real job is to not be grumpy all day.
This can be challenging. Being positive doesn’t come easily to me. I have a bad habit of focusing on the negative things around me instead of appreciating all the good things in my life.
The 6 exercises below have helped with this.
1. Start a “Holy Shit Jar”
For as long as I can remember I’ve known that practicing gratitude is important. But no matter the sales pitch, I struggled to turn it into a habit. Then I would beat myself up for not taking the time to appreciate all the good things that life has to offer.
This all changed the day I heard Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo, talk about his “Holy Shit Jar.” If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s super simple. All you have to do is grab a jar from your kitchen and cut up a few pieces of paper into a bunch of small squares. Then, anytime throughout the day, you think to yourself — “Holy shit, that’s cool!” — write it down and put the paper in the jar.
It doesn’t have to be something big. In fact, the smaller the better. This will help you to be on a lookout for the details that make you smile.
Not only has this helped me boost my mood in the moment, but since starting a “Holy Shit Jar” with my family, it’s lead to fun dinner time conversations when we look back at our older entries: “Liam said the word smile for the first time.” “Luc only woke up crying about how hard life is three times last night.” “The pumpkin soup Laia made for dinner tonight made my knees weak.”
For all you parents out there, this is also a fun way to get kids interested in reading and writing.
2. Get yourself a venting partner.
I know we aren’t supposed to complain in 2019 about how difficult our lives can be. But if you’re anything like me, sometimes it feels good to get all of the things that are bothering us off our chest. This is where a “venting partner” can come in super handy: they allow us to voice our frustrations without bogging down every person we come across with our problems.
Start by counting backward from 3. When you hit 1, say out loud the name of the person in your life who complains the most. This act alone should boost your mood.
Then call them up and say, “Hey, I know sometimes life annoys you. It bothers me also. How about we call each other once a week and each of us spends five minutes bitching as much as we possibly can? No brainstorming ways to solve our problems. No pity. Just a few minutes of pure negativity.”
No matter how well you live your life, there will be times when you are in a shitty mood. Sometimes leaning into it can be just as effective as trying to fight it.
3. Make it your mission to lift up three people a day.
I was complaining to my dad about my first-world problems. Before I could really get on a roll he stopped me and said, “Michael, shut up and go buy that beautiful wife of yours some flowers.”
For once, I listened to my dad and later that day I went out and bought my beautiful wife some flowers. Upon receiving them, she wasn’t the only person smiling. So was I.
Out of all the personal development advice I’ve written about over the years, the words of my dad stand alone at the top. They serve as a strong reminder that the best way to improve our own mood is by doing what we can to improve someone else’s.
Start your day by looking your partner in the eye and telling them they’re beautiful. For a mid-afternoon snack, send a message to a young writer whose work shows promise telling them to keep at it. On the way home from work, call an old friend and tell them you were just thinking about them and you value their friendship.
Creating momentum for others has a funny way of creating positive energy for yourself. Not only that, but you may find that people start to take time out of their day to lift you up as well.
4. Identify the activities in your life that don’t make you feel worse after you do them.
Have you ever felt worse after going to the gym? Have you ever felt worse after taking 20 minutes to clean your house? Have you ever felt worse after going for a drive while playing your favorite music?
Being happy all the time is an unrealistic goal. But there is much to be gained by doing what we can to feel less miserable.
Take a moment and write down 5 to 10 activities that help you to not feel worse after doing them and sprinkle them throughout the day. Then anytime you think to yourself “Wow, I don’t feel worse after doing that” add it to your list. Your mood will thank you for it.
5. Crank up some cheesy music and dance like an idiot.
I have a one-year-old son. Whenever he gets grumpy, my wife or I crank up “I’m Sexy and I Know It”. In no time at all, my boy’s little legs start moving and his mood starts improving.
As adults, we aren’t all that different. The fastest way to change our mental state is by moving our bodies.
Give it a shot. Put on some music that would normally do your head in and let yourself go. You may be surprised about how good dancing to bad music can feel.
6. Write out 25 reasons why you love your life and read the list out loud in front of a mirror.
I asked a friend of mine who had recently gone through some serious life challenges how he was able to keep it together. He responded by opening up his computer and showing me a 20-year-old video of legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.
In the video, Zig tells the story of how he helped a woman overcome a severe case of what he refers to as “Stinkin Thinkin.” Zig helped the woman to defeat this dreadful disease by making her sit down and write out every single reason why she liked her job. Later that evening, Zig instructed the woman to read her list out-loud in front of her mirror. However, instead of saying “I like my job because….” when reading her list, he encouraged her to say “I love my job because….” Sure enough, the next time Zig ran into the woman she was beaming.
Not only will this exercise force you to put a voice to the positive things in your life, but it’s also downright impossible not to at least crack a smile while doing it.
Like a great deal of the advice in this post, Zig’s suggestions may sound cheesy. But I’ll be damned if allowing yourself to feel ridiculous from time to time isn’t one of the best ways to improve your mood.
When all else fails, grab a pear, go outside, take off your shoes, stand in a nice patch of grass, and eat the pear as slowly as you possibly can.
I can’t guarantee that your neighbors won’t think you’re nuts. But I can promise you that you’ll feel much better.
After all, pears are delicious.