The 5-Minute Habit That’s Made Me a Less Stressed Dad

"It was a big shift, almost a complete 180. It helps me remember all of the good in my life."

Anthony Hudson, a dad of three from Omaha, Nebraska, overheard a friend talking about how he would write down what he was grateful for every day. Looking for a way to de-stress and ground himself, he decided to pick up the habit. It’s helped him get a better handle on his stress and attitude that he also began writing down his daily ‘wins’ at night. Here, in his own words, is why the simple change worked.

I had gotten into a vicious circle of waking up and checking my email and checking my phone first thing. I was letting the phone and my email and messages control my day. So, I made a change.

Now, every morning, the first thing I do is work out to get the cobwebs out and get my body moving. From there, I do my gratitude exercises. I always write down five things I’m thankful for. Whether it’s my bed, if I had a good night’s sleep last night. Or my bike that I just went for a ride on. Or somebody in my life that I had a good conversation with. Or something at work. Whatever it is, I put it down in my Evernote App. If for some reason, at the end of the day, I’m having a really bad day, I can always go back and look at those things and think: “On Tuesday, I had all these things I was thankful for.”

Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life — especially the parenting part. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous.

At the end of the day, I also write down five ‘wins.’ It has the same effect. Even if I had a bad day, I can think of all these other good things that happened, so truly the day wasn’t actually a bad day. I can look at my list and see that had five other things that happened that were phenomenal.

The wins are usually really small. I’d write down that I had a great date night with my wife, or I got to read to my daughters before bed. I try to hit a few categories of my life, too, so one win in work, one in finances, one in family, faith, or fitness. I try to put a win in at least one of those categories as much as possible, because that’s what success is built around for me. By doing these things, it helps me choose my attitude every day instead of letting something else control how I felt or how my day was going to go.

Our minds are a powerful tool. By doing these things, I felt better and more positive and that I could tackle anything at any time. Everybody deals with their own demons, but by saying and thinking these things and having this gratitude and writing down these wins, it just truly made me feel like I do actually have it pretty good, and there’s nothing that I honestly can’t tackle.

There will be days where I used the same thing I used a few days before, and that’s okay. I mean, I still need to be reminded that those things are still great for me and that’s what helps me be successful. It can be difficult, but it’s okay to use the same thing over and over again. It’s not like I have to come up with brand new things every single day.

I was more stressed than anything before I started with this habit. Things would pile on me at work and I’d come home and still be doing things on my phone. I wasn’t realizing how important the time is with my kids. They have a routine, too. So I only get two hours every night with them between dinner and their bedtime. In finding this routine, I could decompress and get rid of all this extra stress I was carrying. It was a big shift, almost a complete 180. It helps me remember all of the good in my life.