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Are You Trying to Just Get Through the Day?

February 8, 2022

Find more meaning and vitality in your day with four ways to help you shift from “getting through it” to “getting into it” today.

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Diana Hill, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-out speaker on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and compassion

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Find more meaning and vitality by getting into your day instead

I often hear clients (and myself) say, “I just need to get through today and tomorrow will be better.” But what happens when the day turns into a month, or a year, or an entire life? What do you miss out on while you’re “getting through”? And what are you “getting to” that’s any better than now?

Instead of trying to “get through” the day, I’ve been exploring getting into it. We can’t force ourselves (or another person) to get into something. Trust me. I have a pre-teen and I tried to force him on a hike last week. He lagged so far behind, I thought I’d lost him. “Getting in” to something involves a willingness to enter the fullness of the moment, even if that includes uneasiness, low mood, or a sulking teen.

Here are four ways to help you shift from “getting through it” to “getting into it” today.

  1. Choose a walk-up song. Walk-up songs are what baseball players blast when they step up to the plate. They are encouraging, motivating, personally meaningful, and symbolize how they want to show up to an important moment. What do you want to stand for today? What song best represents the values you want to live by? 1
  2. Build-in ritual. Rituals can ground you and help you establish a daily rhythm, and can be especially helpful during times of stress and uncertainty. Dharma teacher Larry Ward, ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh, shared with me some of the rituals he uses daily to balance his nervous system. He says a morning mantra in bed, practices gratitude meditations as he showers, and bathes in the moonlight to prepare for sleep. Rituals don’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and they can be built into what you are already doing. Try adding rituals that calm your body and adding rituals that activate healthy hormetic stress (see Epel and Lithgow, 2014). I like to do soothing rhythm breathing when driving to pick up my kids from school and Sunday cold ocean plunges to stress my system. What ritual can you add to “get into” your day?
  3. Use self-experimentation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. You are a complex bio-psycho-social being and you need to learn what works best for you. With scientific self-help, you can select from evidence-based interventions and test them on yourself to see if they work for your personal goals. Neurohacker Elizabeth Ricker, the author of Smarter Tomorrow, recommends being systematic about your self-testing. For example, you can self-test which evidence-based intervention boosts your creativity more, walking in nature or high-intensity interval training.
  4. Be imaginative. When we are just “getting through” the day, we forget we have choices. Imagination allows us to think about counterintuitive options and increases our cognitive flexibility and critical thinking skills. Research from UC Berkeley shows we tend to get less creative as we age. Julie Bogart, author of Raising Critical Thinkers, teaches one way to preserve your and your kids’ imagination skills is to ask out-of-the-box imaginative questions, like: If you only had $10 in your bank account, what would you do with it? What if you had $1 billion? What do your answers say about your values and how you want to spend your energy today? Get into your day by expanding your imagination, doing something out of the norm, and noticing what happens to your outlook on life.

A well-lived life is not a pain-free one. As Alexander says in the famous children’s book, some days you can tell it’s going to be a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” So, why not enter your day fully with a good tune and a reliable ritual, experiment a little, and get imaginative? How much worse could it get?

For more on the authors mentioned in this blog post, listen to my interviews with them on the Your Life in Process podcast.

Note: I learned about walk-up songs from Nicole Siegfried, Chief Clinical Officer of Lightfully Behavioral Health. To hear the walk-up songs that motivate us to “get into” our days, listen to my interview with her on the Your Life in Process Podcast.

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