You hear a lot about first impressions in meeting other people. Getting off “on the right foot” is also a popular concept. Everyone knows those first few seconds after a runner begins a race are great indicators of how the entire thing will go. In general, people tend to know that the way something begins can be a great driver of how it will end and yet, not everyone applies that understanding to how they treat their mornings. The morning is a beginning. Your morning is your first impression for that day. It’s powerful. You know this because if something difficult happens in the morning, it can cloud your entire day. So if a bad morning can cause a bad day, then it’s logical to believe a good morning can cause a good day. However, if you’re like many, you rush through your morning. Your morning is something to just get through and get over with so you can move onto the rest of your day. Few realize how precious it is.
While the jury is still out on whether or not breakfast is the most important meal of the day, whoever first said that was onto something – how you spend those first minutes when you’re up is critical. There are things you can do in the morning to increase the chances that you feel happy and energized for the rest of the day. Don’t overlook the AM. It almost certainly predicts how your PM will go. Here are morning rituals to help you feel happy all day.
You’ve likely heard by now that exercise releases endorphins, the happy chemical in your brain. The National Library of Medicine reports that it also helps release serotonin and dopamine – which also play a role in feelings of joy and pain control. The Journal of Health Psychology reports that exercise is as impactful in increasing feelings of joy as mindfulness exercises are. So, if you’re someone who waits to exercise until the end of the day, you’re really sleeping on those benefits. Even a short stroll or brief bout of cardio in the morning can get all of those feel-good hormones flowing. And if you go into your first meeting or task with those feelings, you’re probably going to set off a series of positive interactions and events.
No, not that kind of lighting up. We’re talking candles and incense. Fragrance is a powerful thing. A certain smell can bring back a memory, helping you see, hear and feel every detail from it. Sometimes a smell can upset you. So harness the power of smell to help you feel good in the morning. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that smelling citrus has been proven to elevate one’s mood. Anecdotally, other scents such as lavender, vanilla, jasmine and rosemary have also been said to improve your mood. While the effects might not last all day, the important thing is getting your day off on the right start and in the right headspace. So light a candle or incense with these scents first thing in the morning so you can enjoy the aroma while getting ready for your day.
Get Out In Nature
No matter where you live, try to make contact with nature in the morning. Even if it’s just for a short while, spending time in nature is great for your moods. Maybe if you live in a city, you can visit a park nearby. Perhaps your balcony overlooks some greenery, and you can enjoy your breakfast out there. Take your dog for a walk along grass-lined sidewalks. Research out of Yale University shows that contact with nature can reduce stress hormones, improve self-esteem, fight anxiety and even minimize nervous system arousal, making you less reactive to upsetting stimuli. Plus, it can improve your immunity, which is a bonus during cold and flu season.
A survey commissioned by Zumba and posted on Study Finds shows that as much as 80 percent of individuals feel better after dancing. So, instead of putting on the depressing news first thing in the morning or scrolling through social media posts that give you a range of negative emotions, blast a fun play list. Dance. Be the nutty neighbor who people see busting a move through the windows at 8am.
Make A Gratitude List
“Happiness is a direct result of how grateful we are for the things that we have.” A yoga instructor once said that and it was one of the most impactful things I ever heard. It’s so simple, yet so true. You see people with private jets and four homes who never smile. You see people packing a five-person family into a one-bedroom apartment who somehow exude joy. What’s the difference between these two? It’s not what they have: it’s the gratitude they feel for what they have. Without gratitude, all of the belongings in the world are useless. Start every day by making a gratitude list. At first it can feel difficult, but eventually you realize even small things belong on there, like a comfortable bed, the ability to walk, mental health (whatever degree of it you have), music and food.
Do something kind
It’s common to wake up and think, “How do I get what I want today?” We focus on personal goals and achievements. We think of what we don’t yet have and how we get it. It’s all about our personal storyline. It can be a recipe for dissatisfaction. How about, instead of starting the day thinking of how to improve your life, you start it by thinking of how to improve somebody else’s? Achieving your goals and getting what you want is no guarantee but what you can guarantee is making somebody else’s day better. That can mean giving supplies to an unhoused individual in your neighborhood. It can mean calling an elderly family member who you know is lonely. If you start your day by making someone else’s day better, you started it with a success.
Touch base with a friend
Friendship, like dancing, is something that can unfortunately be reserved for small corners and brief moments of our lives. We do full days of work and tasks and stress before maybe having a quick drink with a friend at the end of it. Some people don’t see or speak to friends all week long – friendship is for the weekends. Let’s change that. Friendships are these wonderful sources of joy. They affirm who you are. They make you laugh. Find a good friend who always makes you feel your best and see if they’d like to start mornings with a quick five-minute phone call or FaceTime. The most important people in your life deserve those first interactions of your day – not that annoying coworker.
Give yourself more time
If you only allow yourself exactly the amount of time you need in the mornings to get out the door, you will always feel rushed. If your morning routine takes 30 minutes and 30 minutes is just what you give yourself, you will wake up instantly feeling behind on your day. If one thing goes wrong – like the coffee machine malfunctioning – you are behind on your day. Feeling like you’re running late gives you a sense of failure, first thing in the morning. That’s no way to start the day. If you need 30 minutes in the morning, give yourself 45. The worst thing that happens if you arrive to work 15 minutes early and have a moment to meditate or take a quick walk to boost your mood.