Mornings are generally not my favorite time of day. I love my sleep and I tend to be a bit slow to go from “my eyes are open” to “I’m ready to do the things.” And it’s not hard for me to get super grouchy if something throws me off.
So I’m a big proponent of making sure I do a few simple things to give myself a little happiness boost in the mornings. They’re all super easy, requiring little to no effort on my part, but they make sure that my morning runs smoothly. And that makes the rest of my day better, too.
I’m offering these tips to you today because for many, morning routines have changed dramatically. There’s no longer a commute to work because you’re working from home. The kids are going to school at home now, so you don’t have that out the door rush anymore. For some, unemployment has become a reality that has created some depression and frustration with daily life and sapped motivation to do anything.
But if you can get your morning a little happier, you’ll get more done, feel better about yourself and your productivity, and enjoy even the most mundane, repetitive tasks even more.
Get up on time or even early
I get it. When my alarm goes off, I just want to roll over and go right back to sleep. But when you do that, or you hit snooze so you can lie there just a little longer, you throw your morning routine off. You end up rushing to get dressed, eat breakfast, grab some coffee, and get started on your day. And when you rush, you end up in a less than stellar mood that spills over onto the rest of your day and other people.
Set your alarm for the time you need to get up — and then get up. By getting up on time, you give yourself the luxury of moving at your own speed without being behind. You can take your time to eat or sip coffee, read a book or take a shower.
If you can bring yourself to, you might even consider getting up a little earlier than you need to. The extra time, even if it’s just 15 minutes, will allow you to slowly wake up and ease into your day. And it will still be more productive than lying in bed, filled with dread as you await the next bleating of the alarm.
A daily meditation habit has tons of benefits. If you do it outside, you can add one more: Vitamin D.
We make Vitamin D in our skin through exposure to sunlight. It doesn’t happen through windows so you need to spend some time outside to get it. And since both meditation and Vitamin D can increase your happiness, it makes perfect sense to kill two birds with one stone by meditating outside.
Depending on the source, it’s recommended to get your sun exposure at midday when the sun is at its strongest or during off-peak hours. My suggestion to you, particularly if skin cancer is a concern, is to either stick with early morning hours or keep midday meditations to 15 minutes or less. If you’ve previously had skin cancer, then I would suggest speaking with your doctor first to ensure your don’t jeopardize your skin health.
Another benefit to meditating outside in the morning is that exposure to natural morning light also helps regulate our melatonin production and wake us up. This will give you more energy during the day and help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Get into a gratitude habit
Gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and reduce depression. But you can’t just think about being grateful every now and then or think that throwing a “thank you” at someone will do the trick. Gratitude needs to be a habit.
Grab a notebook, a journal, or download an app on your phone and get in the habit of writing down your gratitude — and do it daily. The morning is the perfect time for this because (hopefully) nothing negative has happened yet. It will be much easier to look at your day, or even your life, and find things to be grateful for.
Try to write down 3–5 things each day. And make an effort to find new things each day. Don’t repeat the same things day after day. Look for something unique each day to be grateful for.
They don’t have to be big things either. Gratitude for the small simple things can be just as effective. Be grateful for a beautiful sunrise, a perfectly cooked hardboiled egg, or how good it felt to stretch when you woke up.
I’m not a big breakfast person. I can’t eat immediately upon waking, and I don’t generally eat a big, filling breakfast. But I do eat breakfast. It may or may not be the most important meal of the day, but it’s definitely a meal you should have.
Waiting to eat until lunch or later can set you up for a grouchy morning. You’ll have less energy. Even if your stomach isn’t growling and churning, your blood sugar levels will be low and hunger will make it more difficult for you to think clearly, focus, and get things done. Eating will give you more energy too.
If you’re not a big breakfast person, that’s okay. Keep it simple. Eat some yogurt, a couple of boiled eggs, a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, or a breakfast sandwich. Even a piece or two of fruit can work. I know this probably isn’t the advice a nutritionist would give you, but I’m not a nutritionist. I’m giving you the advice of a real person who isn’t big on eating breakfast. It works for me.
If it doesn’t work for you, please seek out a nutritionist who can help you determine what you can eat that will be light, healthy, and meet all your nutrition needs.
Get some movement in
Physical activity releases endorphins that improve mood and increase energy. These feel good hormones will give you an instant happiness boost — even if you’re not a big fan of exercise, like me.
You may have heard of these endorphins as a “runner’s high,” but the great news is you don’t have to run to release them.
Take a walk. Go for a bike ride. Head to the gym. Play tennis. Practice yoga. Lift weights.
It doesn’t matter what you do, just get your body moving as one of the first things you do in the morning. The instant happiness boost and energy increase will set you up to sail through your day with ease.
Even if all you can fit in is 10–15 minutes, do it. You can always do a couple more bursts of 10–15 minutes later in the day to equal a full workout.
Make your day’s task list
What do you need to do today? Got a big project or report to finish up? Need to go through the job ads? Clean the house?
Take a few minutes before you start on today’s tasks to make a task list for the day. Write down everything you need to get done. Ideally, write it all down in order of importance so you can go straight down the list, but even if all you do is write down a disorganized list of what needs to be done, it’ll work.
By making a list of all you need to get done, you accomplish two things. First, you get organized so nothing gets forgotten. And second, you can mark things off so you can see how productive you’re being. Both of these things will contribute to your happiness.
When you can see how much you’re getting done, you’ll automatically feel happier. But by also eliminating (barring the occasional memory slip) that late-day panic-stricken memory of the thing you needed to do earlier and forgot, you also eliminate the stress, anxiety, and frustration that can all inhibit your happiness.
This list will also help you with the next step.
Organize your space/day
After you get your task list ready, you’re ready to get to work. But before you do, take a few minutes to organize your space and your day. Gather office supplies, paperwork, cleaning supplies, or whatever you need to accomplish the tasks on your list.
Why take the time to do all this now instead of when you’re ready to move on to a task?
Because it will keep your momentum going. If you finish one task and need to gather supplies or organize an area before you can move on to the next one, you may find that instead of doing that, you take a break for social media or to watch TV or do something else that’s less productive.
There’s nothing wrong with taking those breaks. But by organizing your space and having the things you need already prepped and ready to go, you can eliminate taking too many breaks that are really just about procrastination.
Instead, you can be intentional about your breaks. You can choose when to take them and know you’re doing it because you want an actual break, not because you’re putting off something else that you should be doing.
You’ll also avoid having to break stride mid-task because you can’t find something you need. By having everything gathered and organized before you even begin, you’ll be able to do what needs to be done smoothly and efficiently. And that will lead to more happiness.
Now you’ve had a happy morning — and are ready for a happy day
With just a few simple steps, you’ve added some extra happiness to your morning. And that sets you up for the rest of your day to be happier. Even if something goes sideways, you’ll be in a better mood and less likely to have it throw your whole day completely off.
You can also swap out some of these for things that work better for you. Tailor your morning to the things that specifically make you happy. Fill your morning with the habits and things that make you happy, and you’re practically guaranteed a happy day.
Wendy Miller is a Certified Happiness Coach, freelance writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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