Daily Well Practice #20: Reflect, Absorb, Digest

winnie the pooh looking in the mirror It’s the last Daily Well practice, and the end of the semester, which means it’s a great time to pause and take a look back. We often move from one thing to the next without really absorbing what we’ve been through or how far we’ve come. Taking a few minutes to stop and reflect can help us process and make sense of events. This is especially important when we are faced with lots of new information, upheaval, and challenge.

Activity: Take a few minutes to sit and reflect, or write on these questions, as they relate to the full year, or the last couple of months.

Daily Well Practice #16: Compassionate Self Talk

cartoon animal hugging itself Changing how you talk to yourself can have a major impact on your mood, motivation, and ability to move through emotional rough patches. Instead of trying to dramatically change your own perspective, identify a positive, supportive point of view outside of yourself. This could be a friend, relative, or mentor, your dog, your favorite superhero, or a fictional character.

Activity: Take 10 minutes to write freely about a stressful or difficult situation from the compassionate point of view you chose. Write about your thoughts and feelings about the situation, and offer yourself words of kindness, support, and encouragement.

Daily Well Practice #15: Change Your Environment

painted rocks with positive messages Your surroundings subtly—and sometimes blatantly—influence your mood and behavior. Living and working in the same environment day after day may cause emotional strain, fatigue and boredom. Simple changes, such as bringing in a plant, moving to a different room, or changing your view, can provide an energy boost. Introducing new sensory stimuli can also help – from playing music, spraying a scent, or displaying a motivating or calming image. 

Activity: Choose one small change you can make to your environment to lift your spirits. This could be anything from bringing in a plant, tidying up, or displaying a word, quote, or picture that evokes positive feelings.

Daily Well Practice #14: Quieting the Mind

flames We are currently living a very different reality from the one we’re familiar with, and may be facing health, financial, and personal difficulties. This can stir up a lot of stressful, anxious, or bleak thoughts, particularly when the future is uncertain. Rather than trying to suppress or minimize these thoughts and feelings, it can helpful to sort through what is on your mind, and make room for positive thoughts as well.

Activity: Spend 15 minutes practicing this Quieting the Mind meditation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJh0ij052Ic before you go to sleep, or anytime you want help calm anxious, negative, or racing thoughts.

Daily Well Challenge #13: Appreciate and Validate

image that says "I believe in you because..."

Focusing on your relationships may be the best investment you can make in your health and well-being, and expressing appreciation and validation is a powerful approach to improving relationships. Healthy relationships rely on a ratio of at least 5 positive interactions and communications to every negative one. Offering someone validation for what they are going through, and appreciating what you value about them, will give them a boost, bring you closer together, and may even lead to reciprocation.

Activity: Choose someone within the Amherst community that you'd like to reach out to, and use this online form to offer word of appreciation and validation.

Daily Well Challenge #12: Celebrate wins, large and small

fireworks Often when we accomplish something, we simply cross it off the list, and focus on what needs to be done next. Celebrating our own wins provides an emotional boost, and celebrating other people’s wins strengthens relationships. 

Activity: Take a few minutes to acknowledge and savor your accomplishments, from getting out of bed this morning to finishing the semester! Click here for the Counseling Center’s celebration of YOU.

Daily Well Practice #11: Change Your Mental Diet

picture showing artistic images of what is inside people's heads Making conscious choices about what we mentally consume—especially now, when the news is overwhelmingly negative—can have a huge impact on mood and wellbeing.

Activity: Pay attention to the media you consume over the course of one day— including social media, programs you watch, what you read and listen to, etc.—and notice how your mental input influences your mood. At the end of the day, reflect on whether you would like to makes changes to what media you consume or when and how you consume it.

Daily Well Challenge #10: Connect to Your Values

list of values Reflecting on your values connects you to what you care about most, and reminds you of the kind of person you want to be. Writing about your values helps you recognize your own strengths and create a positive narrative about yourself, which can help you get through with stressful situations.

Activity: Take a moment to reflect on your values, and write down the three that feel most important to you right now. You may refer to this list https://thehappinessplanner.com/pages/list-of-core-values, or come up with your own values. Next, choose one value and write freely for 10 minutes about why it is important to you, how you express it in your daily life, and how you would like to express it in the future.

Daily Well Practice #9: Random Acts of Kindness

hands holding heart cut-outs Acts of kindness or altruism can get you out of your own head and focused on others, which increases happiness, and acts as a buffer against stress and depression.

Activity: This practice involves engaging in 3-5 small acts of kindness or generosity today. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas

Daily Well Challenge #8: Breathe!

breath streaming out of mouth into sky Deep breathing improves oxygen delivery to your brain and body, which improves mental focus and physical energy. It also triggers the release of endorphins, which generate feelings of contentment and relieve stress and anxiety.

Activity: Take a few minutes to practice deep, slow breathing. You may time your inhalations and exhalations to one of these images, or simply become turn your attention to your breath and focus on inhaling for a count of 3 and exhaling for a count of 3. 

Daily Well Practice #7: Best Possible Future Visualization

sunrise over field In times of stress and uncertainty, it can be helpful to connect to the possibility of a more positive future. This practice instills hope and reminds us that even while many things are out of our control, there are still steps we can take to create a better future.

Activity: This exercise involves taking 10 minutes to practice the best possible future visualization and let your imagination explore an optimistic—yet realistic—version of the future.

Daily Well Practice # 6: Set a Mini Goal

feet on road with arrow pointing forward Setting goals prioritizes what is important to you, generates action, and engages your pre-frontal cortex, all of which work to reduce anxiety and depression. Because mini-goals are small, they are easy to achieve, and fuel a sense of competence and control. This is even more vital to our wellbeing now, when so many things are beyond our control. If you find yourself sinking into a feeling of sameness, inertia, and blah, the right mini-goal can give you a positive point of focus.

Daily Well Practice #5: Schedule Worry Time

clock Times of risk, uncertainty, and change can stir up a lot of things to worry about. It’s normal to worry, but constant preoccupation with worry can become emotionally draining, interfere with our ability to enjoy life, be fully present, and bring our best selves to the task at hand. Scheduling a specific worry time helps contain it.

Activity: Schedule a designated time each day to reflect on your worries.

Daily Well Practice #4: Meditation on Connection

bird with wing over mouse Social isolation takes a huge toll on our mental and emotional health. However, it is possible to feel connected and recognize we are not alone, even while we’re maintaining physical distance. This meditation promotes a sense of connection to others through stressful and difficult times. It may stir up some emotions in the short term, so give yourself a little time afterward to absorb.

Daily Well Practice #3: Smile!

smiley face Don’t you hate it when someone tells you to smile? Usually the suggestion is made when smiling is the last thing you want to do, to make them happy, not you. Despite this irritating request, smiling when you want to is a simple—yet potent—happiness strategy. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere.

Activity: Practice smiling at yourself—in the mirror, at your dog, in the shower, etc. Smiling communicates to your body that you’re in a good mood and releases spirit-lifting neurochemicals. Practice smiling at others, over Zoom, across the street, behind your mask in the grocery store (to make your eyes smile). The power of smiling is amplified when you smile at someone else, because it gives them a little mood boost and triggers mirror neurons, meaning they’ll probably smile back at you, lifting your mood a little more.