17 Things Happy People Do Every Morning
Start the day on the right foot—every day.
Ever notice that the effects of waking up on the wrong side of the bed can reverberate throughout your day? Hit the snooze button one too many times and you could end up diminishing the amount of happiness you feel right up until your head hits the pillow again. You get ready in a hurry, stomp on a Lego, burn a piece of toast, and, once you’re on your way to work, find that everyone else on the commute seems to be a total jerk. On and on it goes until the whole day feels like a write-off—and it all started with those first few moments.
And while happy people are of course not immune from having bad starts, most of them know that, by adhering to certain morning habits, they can prevent them from happening too frequently—and know how to right the ship when they do. While many of the mood-enhancing habits listed herein have been known for centuries, even millennia, many have yet to take advantage. Integrate at least three of the following into your morning routine to unlock their time-honored (and, now, thanks to science, research-backed) benefits.
They limit news consumption.
Fact: We live in interesting times. And that can fuel the urge to consult preferred current affairs outlets see what craziness has transpired since the night before. But, while it’s of course good to be informed about what’s going on in the world, consuming news isn’t exactly a prescription for the warm and fuzzies. One study showed that people who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a 27 percent greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later than if they hadn’t.
In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor writes: “Studies have shown that the less negative TV we watch, specifically violent media, the happier we are.” If you want to start your day in a positive way, limit your consumption of the news—or better yet, completely eliminate it from your morning routine.
They cut back on social media time.
Another thing that you’ll want to consider in your pursuit of happiness is social media—Instagram in particular. According to a recent study, it’s the worst social media platform for users’ mental health and happiness, and is associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, and FOMO (the “fear of missing out”). It’s hardly surprising, given that we’re all prone to post pictures of us looking our absolute best and having an absolute blast. In the same study, conducted by Britain’s Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram also earned some mental health demerits for its disruptive effect on sleep.
They hang out with their pet(s).
You could hardly spend your morning hours more wisely than with your dog, cat, emu—whatever! Speaking with Psychology Today, Allen McConnell, a leading researcher in the field of pet-human relationships, cites a study involving 217 community members, which showed that pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, were less lonely, were more conscientious, more socially outgoing, and had healthier relationship styles (they were less fearful and less preoccupied) than non-owners. To sum it up, McConnell said that “pet owners were happier and healthier than non-owners.”
They head outside.
The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, which can be translated as “forest bathing.” Developed in Japan during the 1980s, the practice of taking a stroll in a wooded area has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. One 2015 study showed that taking a walk in a natural environment increases people’s mood and decreases the number of negative thoughts they experience. People who walked through city streets didn’t show any of these benefits. If you’re a city dweller, think about changing your commute so it takes you through a park or a green space.
They get frisky.
If you and your partner are—or are willing to become—early risers, you’re in a great position to boost your morning happiness quotient. Sex, you see, floods the body with endorphins and the stress-relieving hormone oxytocin. This cocktail of naturally produced feel-good chemicals is almost sure to make you feel relaxed and happy, starting your day off right.
They hug their partner.
Regardless of its proven impact on happiness, morning sex isn’t always practical or desirable (for one or for both). The good news is that touch alone can also increase the production of oxytocin. In other words, a sunrise spooning session can still increase your happiness quotient for hours—even days—afterward.
They drink coffee.
Many studies have linked coffee drinking to lower rates of depression in both men and women, so it’s not terribly shocking to learn that a study conducted by The Harvard School of Public Health found that coffee can help people become generally more positive in their lives and have the same effects as a mild antidepressant.
A steaming cup of joe is such a mood booster because it contains high levels of caffeine, a psychoactive drug that stimulates the release of dopamine—which produces euphoria, or “happy feelings”—in your brain. And thanks to the ritualistic nature of morning coffee, there’s a sort of Pavlovian reaction, where the euphoria is automatically associated with that first cup. To really make the most of it, cut out the sugar, which has been linked to depression in several studies.
And work out while the coffee’s brewing.
On average, people who work out regularly do so for 45 minutes to an hour (or more). Now, fitting that in before you head to work is a tall order. But happy people don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Consciously or otherwise, they know that they needn’t bust out endless reps and sets to get the mood-boosting effects of exercise.
Michael Otto, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston University, says that, within five minutes after moderate exercise, “people will usually feel the mood-enhancement effect of exercise.” So put that coffee on to brew and commit to a blast of intense exercise between now and when the pot is ready. Burpees, jumping jacks, bicycle crunches, or mountain climbers—all are equipment-free movements you can do release a flood of mood-enhancing endorphins in short order.
Another old adage that seems to have been proven true through peer-reviewed research is a classic: the one about laughter being the best medicine. It’s been shown to boost immunity, reduce stress, temporarily relieve pain, and even prevent heart disease. It has also been shown to have an immediate effect on happiness, as—like exercise, or physical intimacy—it triggers the release of endorphins.
A shared laugh also strengthens relationships. If you manage to get in some yuks along with a roll in the hay and a cuddle, your relationship has been well-nurtured—and your mood along with it—before you’ve even rolled out of bed.
They plan their good deeds.
If you want a happiness-producing twofer, make one of your goals an altruistic one. Studies published in the Journal of Happiness Studies illustrate that, when happy people help others, it increases their happiness, rather than being a burden. British researchers put this to the test by asking volunteers to rate their life satisfaction before sending them out in the world with instructions to do a good deed each day for ten days. When they completed the life satisfaction survey a second time, participants reported a marked increase in happiness and well-being. As thought precedes action, take a moment to think about an act of kindness you’d like to perform in the moment or later in the day. It’s a veritable win-win!
Meditative practices have a history stretching back into ancient times. More recently, cutting-edge science has proven what practitioners have known for centuries: that meditation can literally change the physical structure of the brains and rewire it for increased happiness. In his book, Achor writes that neuroscientists have found that monks who spent years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. While most of the research on meditation is done on mindfulness meditation, experts think that any meditation practice will help people become happier. Thankfully, many explanations of meditation practices are easy to find online. Try out a few and see which one works for you.
They practice positive self talk.
We’re often our own worst critics. Happy people know how to silence this negative thought pattern and start their day with a positive thoughts about themselves. Take a leaf out of their book and start your morning off with daily positive affirmations. This is not a quick fix over time, a little positive self-talk each morning can have a profound effect on your happiness. And if you’re looking for ideas on what to say, start with these 30 “Cheesy” Affirmations That Totally Work.
They set goals.
Goals give us purpose, meaning, a sense of enthusiasm, and a reason to get up in the morning. Add all that up and it sounds a lot like happiness! Well, there’s no better time to set goals than the beginning of your day; studies have shown that during the morning, our brains are more likely to fire on all cylinders.
In her book, The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky writes: “People who strive for something personally significant, whether it’s learning a new craft, changing careers or raising more children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. Find a happy person and you will find a project… Working towards a meaningful life goal is one of the most important strategies for becoming lastingly happier.” Your move? Imagine your perfect life and start charting a course for it.
They wake up early.
If the old saying is to be believed, health, wealth, and wisdom are in store for those who get up early. The person who penned the phrase—often erroneously attributed to Benjamin Franklin—had no way of knowing about 21st-century research that showed early risers can also expect to be happier than night owls. A 2012 study out of the University of Toronto demonstrated as much with researchers suggesting that one of the reasons early birds are happier is that society’s expectations are far more organized around a morning-type person’s schedule, and that night owls’ happiness is adversely impacted by what they call a “social jet lag.”
The good news is that, with a little dedication, you can make yourself a morning person—and reap the many benefits. The key to resetting your body clock is to go to bed earlier which could involve cutting out caffeine after a certain time, avoiding technology an hour or two before bed, and starting regular mindfulness practice. And for more ways to become an early riser, This Is the Best Way to Wake Up Earlier Every Day.
They eat a healthy breakfast.
Certain foods—namely fatty, greasy ones—have been linked with a host of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. The good news is that, by following a few simple dietary guidelines, you may find yourself experiencing significantly reduced stress compared to those who eat a diet largely composed of heavily-processed food. Go for a diet you can enjoy, one that strikes a balance between being healthy (with whole, unprocessed foods) and enjoyable (stuff you actually like).
They spend time with friends and family.
We’re social beings, and we feel best when we’re interacting with other people. It’s one of those fundamental truths you just know—and now, science has provided the evidence. Researchers took a sample of 222 college students, measured their happiness, and then focused on the happiest 10 percent—and why they were the happiest.
Leading researcher in the field, Martin Seligman, explains the results in his book Authentic Happiness: “These ‘very happy’ people differed markedly from average people and from unhappy people in one principal way: a rich and fulfilling social life. The very happy people spent the least time alone (and the most time socializing), and they were rated highest on good relationships by themselves and by their friends.” Each morning, take a moment to check in with a friend or family member or make plans to get together with someone for coffee, dinner or a movie. By doing so, you’ll be nurturing your social circle and giving your mood a big boost.
They practice being thankful.
If you’ve followed all of the steps above, the sun is barely peeking over the horizon and you are already having a banner day! So take a moment to be thankful for it and everything else that you have. It’s only going to add to the happiness you’re already feeling.
Recently, a number of studies have shown a link between gratitude and an increase in happiness. Making a daily habit of showing appreciation improves mental and physical health; allows room for more, and better, relationships; reduces aggressive behavior; and increases the likelihood that you will think positively about yourself, enabling you to experience positive emotions consistently.