How to Have a Good Day
Want to learn how to have a good day?
The book, How to Have a Good Day, by Caroline Webb is a great place to start!
I just finished reading it thanks to my Blogging for Books connection (I was given a free copy to review) and it's been my favorite book of its type that I've read in a while (and I read a LOT of books!).
The author’s “central purpose of the book…to translate all [the] science into step-by-step techniques for improving your day-to-day life,” is achieved through her use of copious annotations, bulleted lists, and reference boxes at the end of each chapter.
Below, I share some of my favorite tips and insights from the book to help you learn the basics of how to have a good day.
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The Science Behind How to Have a Good Day
Webb starts How to Have a Good Day off with a section called The Science Essentials, which she says you don’t have to read. However, as a science geek (I used to be a science teacher) I thoroughly enjoyed it. In this section she explains that the abundance of similar books is thanks to transitions in the fields of psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience.
In psychology we're seeing a greater focus on well-being versus depression (case in point - my favorite positive psychologist, Shawn Achor. Check out his book and Ted Talk for some inspiration). The field of economics has also changed to show more realism in theories of behavior. Finally, neuroscience has changed thanks to more sophisticated techniques used in the measurement of brain activity.
At the heart of the intersection of these three fields are three scientific themes:
- The two-system brain
- The discover-defend axis
- The mind body-loop
Understanding these themes lets us understand how our brain works, why we behave a certain way, and ultimately how we can use these facts to have a good day.
1. The Two-System Brain
To complete all of the various tasks it must do in a given day, our brains run two very different systems in parallel.
System #1 is the deliberate system. This system is responsible for reasoning, self-control, and forward thinking. As Caroline Webb summarizes, “the deliberate system is responsible for putting us on our best behavior.” While the deliberate system is smart, it’s also small, sequential and slow. That’s why we really can NOT effectively multitask and why all the distractions of our modern days can be tough to handle.
Enter system #2, the automatic system. This system is in charge of background processing and unlike the deliberate system, it can handle more than one task. The way it does that is by filtering information, much like a spam filter on our computers. What this means is that we don’t experience the world as it is. Rather, we experience an edited version!
Understanding the way these two systems work might feel scary. However, Caroline Webb argues that we shouldn’t worry too much. Instead, we should use her strategies to make the best use of each system’s complementary strengths in order to have a good day.
2. The Discover-Defend Axis
Our brains are constantly on alert to figure out if something in our environment is a threat or a reward. When we’re in defensive mode, we’re focused on protecting ourselves from an environmental trigger. This mode has us in fight-flight-freeze response and is responsible for what might seem like inexplicable behavior from a colleague or ourselves. Knowing what triggers ourselves to feel threatened can help us avoid having a bad day because of the defense mode (for more on this topic, check out Marshall Goldsmith's book, Triggers).
We’re in discovery mode when we’re having a good day. Discovery mode can be found more readily by looking for potential rewards in a given situation. Humor, learning new things, having a sense of autonomy, and feeling personally competent can help keep us in discovery mode and on track for more good days.
3. The Mind-Body Loop
This, it should come as no surprise, is my favorite theme of the book!
While we often ignore the fact that the way we treat our bodies has a big impact on our minds, research shows that the mind-body connection is real and an important part of having a good day.
Webb shares that “decades of research suggest that the way we treat our body has a huge effect on the way our brain performs, thanks to the way it affects the brain’s blood flow, the balance of its neurochemicals, and the degree of connectivity between different brain regions.”
The good news is that we don’t need to run 5 miles a day, get 12 hrs of sleep, or go on a week long silent retreat to have a positive mind-body shift.
One single bout of exercise “immediately improves our intellectual performance, giving us faster information processing and reaction time, more effective planning, better short-term memory performance, and more self-control,” Webb shares.
In terms of helping us have a good day, the impact of exercise is huge, increasing motivation and mood by 41 percent and our ability to deal with stress by 21 percent. Again, these benefits don’t require you to be in the gym all day. You can get them from as little as 20 minutes of walking!
The Seven Components of a Good Day
The rest of the book is divided into seven sections, the components of a good day.
1. Priorities - Setting intentional direction and focus for your day
2. Productivity- Marking the hours in your day go further
4. Thinking - Being your smartest, wisest, most creative self
5. Influence - Maximizing the impact of all you say and do
6. Resiliences - Sailing through setbacks and annoyances
7. Energy - Boosting your enthusiasm and enjoyment
Webb offers many great insights and stories throughout these sections that will help you have a good day and see the three science themes in action.
How to Have a Good Day Checklist
In the appendix, Webb offers up a checklist on how to have a good day. Here are her key tips (that I’ve since added to my journal!):
- Before work:
a. Set your intention
b. Visualize the ideal
c. Plan a peak
2. As you get started
a. Batch your schedule
b. Metaphor your space
c. Keep your eyes on the prize
d. Set the tone
3. During the day
a. Express random appreciation
b. Protect your thinking time
c. Overcome perception gaps
d. Help other people think
e. Borrow a good mood
f. Label any frustrations
a. Connect with someone
b. Do some exercise (we’d love to help 😉 ).
5. For each task
a. Set yourself up for success
b. Reboot (another good time for a short bout of exercise every 90 mins max take a break) For inspiration on the exercise piece check out my interview series with top female entrepreneurs HERE).
c. Be forensic
6. At the end of the day
a. Do the gratitude exercise
b. Sleep the good sleep
Want to have a good day? Check out this checklist to get started!
If you are looking to have a good day, you have to check out Caroline Webb’s How to Have a Good Day! The science will help you understand why you do what you do and her insights will help you use your knowledge of the way your brain works so you can take positive action and enjoy better days.
Have you read How to Have a Good Day? Did any of these insights hit home for you? How have you observed exercise impacting your day in a positive way? Share your thoughts with a comment below: