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10 Things the Happiest People Do Every Morning

Here's how to start your day off right, according to mental health experts.

As anyone who's ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed can attest, the way you start your morning can have a profound impact on the rest of your day. In fact, mental health experts say that many of the happiest people have specific morning habits in common and that it's important to establish a routine that will set you up for other successes.

Ryan Sultan, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist, therapist, and professor at Columbia University, recommends beginning by adopting the habits that make the biggest impact on your own mental health. "Remember, it's not about adhering rigidly to all these practices, but finding what resonates with you and making it a cherished part of your morning routine," he explains. "Incorporating even one or two of these habits can make a marked difference in one's outlook and overall happiness."

Wondering how to transform your morning to transform your life? Read on to learn the 10 things the happiest people do every morning, for a happier, healthier day ahead.

RELATED: 8 Affirmations to Feel Ridiculously Happy Every Day in Retirement.

They wake up gently.

A young man waking up in the morning with the sun shining through his window, sitting up in bed stretching.
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

If your first waking moments begin with the jarring jolt of a harsh alarm clock, you may be setting yourself up for more anxiety than calm.

"Instead of blaring alarms, happy people consider a softer wakeup method like nature sounds, slow-building music, or even light-based alarms that mimic the sunrise," says Michelle Landeros, LMFT, a therapist with Therapist Pages. "There's something inherently joyful about greeting the day gradually."

However, experts recommend against hitting the snooze button, since this can make you feel more groggy, disoriented, and lethargic. By adhering to consistent sleep and wake times and practicing good sleep hygiene, you can train your body to wake up without those extra 10 or 15 minutes in bed.

RELATED: 50 Happiness Hacks That Are Entirely Backed by Science.

They hold off on reaching for devices.

Woman stretching in bed after wake up. Beautiful girl enjoying morning light.
iStock / Boris Jovanovic

Another way to start your morning off on the right foot is to refrain from instinctively grabbing your phone or device when you first wake up.

"Instead of immediately reaching for their phones or diving into emails, the happiest people often have a 'digital detox' period in the morning," says Niloufar "Nilou" Esmaeilpour, a registered clinical counselor with Lotus Therapy & Counselling Centre in Vancouver, Canada. "This allows them to start the day on their own terms, rather than being reactive to notifications and demands."

RELATED: 7 Easy Things You Can Do Every Day to Keep Your Mind Sharp.

They create before consuming.

man meditating and writing gratitude journal

Spending a few moments on a creative project can help put you on the right path for a more fulfilling day, experts say. Sultan suggests sketching, playing a musical instrument, gardening, or spending time on any activity that brings you joy: "Even if it's just for a few minutes, this act can be a soulful way to commence the day."

"No matter how small, this act of creation sets a tone of proactiveness for the day," agrees Landeros.

RELATED: 11 Things People With High Emotional Intelligence Do Every Day.

They practice mindfulness and gratitude.


Research shows that practicing mindfulness and gratitude can lead to better mental health and higher levels of life satisfaction. That's why beginning your mornings with a positive mindfulness practice can make you happier over time.

"Before the rush of the day begins, many happy individuals take a moment to center themselves. This might involve a few minutes of meditation, deep breathing, or simply reflecting on things they're grateful for. Such practices ground them, instilling a sense of peace and appreciation for the present moment," says Sultan.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Feel Calm and Happy (That Aren't Meditation).

They make time to exercise.

Older woman checking pulse after exercise.

Exercise can help release endorphins and dopamine, brain chemicals that lower your stress levels and naturally boost your mood.

In fact, a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that exercise habits were a key indicator of happiness, life satisfaction, and self-esteem. "After four weeks of exercising, beginners revealed greater life satisfaction and happiness compared to the baseline," the study authors wrote.

"Whether it's a brisk walk, yoga, or a full-blown workout, many content people swear by the power of morning movement," shares Sultan. "It not only wakes up the body but also the mind, setting a lively and energetic tone for the day."

RELATED: 8 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Take a Daily Walk.

They eat a healthy breakfast.

Man eating breakfast at a table.

Eating a nutritious and well-balanced breakfast is a great way to start the day with physical and mental health in mind.

"It fuels the body and provides the necessary energy for the tasks ahead. Happy individuals often prioritize a nutritious morning meal, understanding its role in mental clarity and sustained energy levels," says Sultan.

R.Y. Langham, PhD, a psychologist at Impulse Therapy, adds that making a thoughtful decision at the breakfast table "sets the tone for making mindful choices throughout the day."

RELATED: 12 Best Foods to Ease Anxiety, Experts Say.

They set their intentions for the day.

young black man meditating in a chair

Whether in the form of affirmations or written goals for the day, setting your intentions in the morning can help set you up for a more fulfilling day ahead.

"Instead of wandering aimlessly into the day, content individuals often set clear intentions or goals for what they wish to achieve. This provides direction, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment as they progress," says Sultan.

RELATED: 7 Journaling Tips to Feel Happy Every Day in Retirement.

They connect with loved ones.

senior couple walking through town in autumn
Ground Picture/Shutterstock

Between work and your other responsibilities and commitments, the day can easily get away from you. That's why experts recommend prioritizing your connections with loved ones early on in the day to ensure that you stay connected for the remaining 23 hours afterward.

"A quick chat with a family member, a morning hug, or even a short call to a close friend can set a positive emotional tone," says Sultan. He adds that a feeling of human connection can help remind people of the love and support they have in their lives.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways to Instantly Feel Happier on a Rainy Day, Experts Say.

They do nothing.

Mature woman sitting on a bench in the sun.

You may have a busy day ahead, but according to Landeros, one of the best ways to boost your happiness in the morning is to carve out a few minutes to do absolutely nothing.

"Taking 10 minutes to just be—not meditating, not planning, just existing—can be revolutionary. It's an affirmation of the idea that our value isn't tied to productivity. Sometimes, in those moments of stillness, happiness sneaks in," she tells Best Life.

RELATED: Taking a "Smell Walk" Slashes Stress and Boosts Your Mood—Here's How to Do It.

They spend time in nature.

Portrait of a mature man breathing fresh air

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), spending time in nature can help enhance your mental wellbeing and subjective happiness.

Bayu Prihandito, a life coach and the founder of Life Architekture, says that's because nature has a unique way of making us feel more connected and alive. "Even if it's just for a few minutes, connecting with nature can have a very positive therapeutic effect," he says.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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