By Eric Barker
January 8, 2016
IDEAS
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

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.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

(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:

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.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

And don’t check email first thing. Studies show it stresses you out:

(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.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Think it’s just kids? Wrong. Not eating breakfast can lead to murder. Literally.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

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.

Via Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth:

(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:

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.

There’s tons and tons and tons of research showing that over time, this alone – one silly email a day – can make you happier.

Via Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage:

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

Ryan Holiday, author of the excellent book The Obstacle Is the Way explains:

This technique not only helps CEO’s close deals, it saves lives.

Dan Coyle, the expert on expertise, says it’s an essential part of how U.S. Special Forces prepare the morning before every dangerous mission:

(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.

Via The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us:

(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:

(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…

 

Sum Up

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.

 

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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