We read a lot about this or that morning ritual that will make you productive. But what about one that makes you happy?
Research shows that being happy actually makes you more productive. So let’s kill two birds with one stone and focus on smiles.
What’s the first step? Here’s a little secret: happy mornings don’t start in the morning…
1) Have Something to Look Forward to
Happy mornings start the night before. Make sure before you go to bed you have something to look forward to tomorrow.
Research shows anticipation is a powerful happiness booster. It’s 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing.
Got nothing you’re looking forward to? Schedule lunch with a friend or promise yourself you’ll do something you enjoy. It’s one of the secrets of the happiest people in the world.
People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and to experience intense emotions.
(To learn how to be happier and more successful, click here.)
Okay, you’ve got something you’re anticipating planned for the next day. Now what do you actually do first thing in the morning?
2) Manage Your Mood
Research shows your mood in the morning affects your mood for the rest of the day:
“We saw that employees could get into these negative spirals where they started the day in a bad mood and just got worse over the course of the day,” said Steffanie Wilk, associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
What makes you happy early in the day? Do that.
MORE FROM ERIC BARKER: How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert
Are you often stressed in the morning? Then ask yourself, “What gives me a feeling of control?”
Anything that increases your perception of control over a situation — whether it actually increases your control or not — can substantially decrease your stress level.
Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact… Amy Arnsten studies the effects of limbic system arousal on prefrontal cortex functioning. She summarized the importance of a sense of control for the brain during an interview filmed at her lab at Yale. “The loss of prefrontal function only occurs when we feel out of control. It’s the prefrontal cortex itself that is determining if we are in control or not. Even if we have the illusion that we are in control, our cognitive functions are preserved.” This perception of being in control is a major driver of behavior.
And don’t check email first thing. Studies show it stresses you out:
A new study released Thursday by the University of California, Irvine, which was co-written with United States Army researchers, found that people who do not look at e-mail on a regular basis at work are less stressed and more productive.
(For more on what the most productive people do every day, click here.)
You’re anticipating something good and you feel in control. Cool. What’s next? Food.
3) Eat Breakfast
Do you skip breakfast? I recommend you skip skipping breakfast. Eat something. It puts you in a better mood and increases willpower.
Kids who skip breakfast misbehave more than kids who eat their Wheaties. After a snack, all the children are little angels again.
All the children in a class were told to skip breakfast one morning, and then, by random assignment, half of the children were given a good breakfast at school. The others got nothing. During the first part of the morning, the children who got breakfast learned more and misbehaved less (as judged by monitors who didn’t know which children had eaten). Then, after all the students were given a healthy snack in the middle of the morning, the differences disappeared as if by magic.
Think it’s just kids? Wrong. Not eating breakfast can lead to murder. Literally.
…just by looking at the response to the glucose test, the researchers were able to predict with greater than 80 percent accuracy which convicts would go on to commit violent crimes.
So eat something. (And don’t kill anybody.) Going to just scarf something down quick? Bad idea.
Savor your breakfast. Take some time to really enjoy it. Research shows savoring — appreciating the good moments — is what separates the happiest people from the average Joe.
The key component to effective savoring is focused attention. By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being.
(For more on how to savor the good things in life and be happier, click here.)
Feeling good so far. Now it’s time to do something that doesn’t feel so good…
4) Do Something You Dread
Yeah, you heard me. This post is about how to feel happy all day. So ask yourself what that thing is that you’re avoiding.
What’s that thing you’re going to feel guilty about not having done? Going to the gym? Doing that awful chore?
I spoke to the leading expert on willpower, Roy Baumeister, and he said we have the most self-control in the morning. That makes it the best time to do that thing you’re trying to dodge.
From my interview with Roy:
The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.
You have more willpower in the morning so push yourself to do that thing you’ll regret not having done. Afterwards, you’ll feel good about yourself. And the rest of the day will look comparatively easy.
(For the schedule very successful people follow every day, click here.)
Alright, you completed something you didn’t want to. Let’s cheer you up and cheer someone else up…
5) Send a “Thank You” Email
Every morning send a friend, family member or co-worker an email to say thanks for something.
Via Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage:
This is why I often ask managers to write an e-mail of praise or thanks to a friend, family member, or colleague each morning before they start their day’s work—not just because it contributes to their own happiness, but because it very literally cements a relationship.
Or you can send a text. That’s fine too.
(For the morning routine experts recommend for peak productivity, click here.)
But the day will have rough spots. Let’s make sure they don’t get in the way of your good mood…
6) Plan How You’ll Deal With Challenges
Ask yourself the question “What’s the worst that could happen today?” Sound like a downer? This is how youkeep the day happy. By being ready.
The Stoic philosophers would imagine the worst before any major undertaking. Why? To prepare themselves.
MORE FROM ERIC BARKER: New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy
…we look to envision what could go wrong, what will go wrong, in advance, before we start. Far too many ambitious undertakings fail for preventable reasons. Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider something might not go exactly as they wish.
This technique not only helps CEO’s close deals, it saves lives.
…they spend the entire morning going over every possible mistake or disaster that could happen during the mission. Every possible screwup is mercilessly examined, and linked to an appropriate response: if the helicopter crash-lands, we’ll do X. If we are dropped off at the wrong spot, we’ll do Y. If we are outnumbered, we’ll do Z.
(To learn a Navy SEAL’s secrets to being more resilient, click here.)
You’re feeling good and ready for anything. Last secret to starting the day right is quite wonderful and quite easy…
7) Kiss Somebody You Love
Smooches are good science. Men who kiss their wives before work live 5 years longer, make 20-30% more money and are far less likely to get in a car accident.
A ten-year psychology study undertaken in Germany during the 1980s found that men who kissed their wives before leaving for work lived, on average, five years longer, earning 20 to 30 percent more than peers who left without a peck good-bye. The researchers also reported that not kissing one’s wife before leaving in the morning increased the possibility of a car accident by 50 percent. Psychologists do not believe it’s the kiss itself that accounts for the difference but rather that kissers were likely to begin the day with a positive attitude, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
(This study was only done on men but any women who want to repeat the experiment are welcome to contact me directly.)
MORE FROM ERIC BARKER: New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful
No romance in your life right now? Sorry to hear that. But there’s a substitute: give 5 hugs today.
People assigned to give or receive hugs 5 times a day ended up happier.
From The How of Happiness:
The hugging group (which partook in an average of forty-nine hugs over the course of the study) became much happier. Not surprisingly, the students who merely recorded their reading activity (which averaged a not-too-shabby 1.6 hours per day) showed no changes.
(To learn the science of how to be an expert kisser, click here.)
We’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and get started…
Here’s the morning ritual that will make you happy all day:
- Have something to look forward to: Plans with a friend are always good.
- Manage your mood: Don’t check email. Do what gives you a feeling of control.
- Eat breakfast: If you eat nothing and end up killing someone, well… I hope it’s not me.
- Do something you dread: You’ve got the willpower. And you’ll feel so much better afterwards.
- Send a “thank you” email: Yes, it’s that simple. Really.
- Plan how you’ll deal with challenges: Think about the worst that could happen and it probably won’t.
- Kiss somebody you love: If this makes you late for work, feel free to blame me.
Don’t wait. You’ll forget. Right now, plan something fun tomorrow.
Or send a “thank you” email.
Or just give that special someone a big kiss. Who says being happy has to be hard?
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.