Yes, how you start your day really affects mood and energy for your subsequent waking hours. Learn from the pros how to start yours on the right foot.
If you’ve ever been accused of getting up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning, don’t be so quick to dismiss it. Starting the day off on the right foot can actually be the key to keeping your mood and energy up throughout the day. (But no, for most of us it probably doesn’t matter if you leave your bed from the right or left side.)
Research suggests that the mood workers are in at the start of the workday really affects the rest of their days. For example, one study found that a more positive prework mood was linked to higher performance quality and productivity throughout the day.
“Paying attention to your mood in the morning can have lasting effects on the rest of your day,” says Rebekah Tennyson, DClinPsy, a clinical psychologist for the National Health Service in Oxfordshire, England. “Giving yourself the time and space to check in with and take care of yourself will ensure you’re ready for the day ahead in the best possible way.”
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7 Ways Mental Health Experts Start Their Days Right
Here’s what Dr. Tennyson and other mental health experts do it first thing in the morning to start their days off right.
1. Take a moment to think about what they are looking forward to
“I set my alarm a little earlier than I want to be up and lay still for a minute or two,” says Kate Mason, DClinPsy, a clinical psychologist based in Worcester, England. “I take a few deep breaths and think of three things I’m looking forward to today. It could literally be anything from a leisurely coffee and breakfast to an episode of something I plan to watch on Netflix that night.” It definitely doesn’t have to be anything big at all, she adds.
2. Keep notifications off
Another non-negotiable for her morning is keeping cell phone notifications off, says Dr. Mason. She takes this precaution to be sure not to check her messages or social media. “I have a bedtime mode on my phone from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. I don’t get notifications,” she says.
3. Start the day in bed
“I’ve developed habits that I do before I even get out of bed in the morning,” adds Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, associate professor of psychological and educational consulting at Fairfield University in Connecticut.
“They include reading the next chapter in my Bible, doing my physical therapy exercises, and going through my calendar for the day. I also send a short uplifting text of gratitude or cheer to someone, and based on my day, I choose an affirmation or Bible verse to put the tone,” says Dr. Lopez.
4. Hit the pavement
Cardio exercise has many benefits for mental health, so it’s no surprise that it’s on this list of ways to start the day right. Joshua Coleman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, starts each day with a run outside. “It’s the first thing I do in the morning,” he says. “I put on my running clothes and run, rain or shine. It clears my head and puts the day in front of me in focus.”
A tip from Dr. Coleman, if you want to get into a morning exercise routine but doubt you have the motivation: Just get started—that’s the hardest part. “I say I’m just going to run for 10 minutes, and if I’m too tired, I turn around. I rarely stop after 10 minutes, so this usually helps me get out the door,” he says.
5. Make time for yoga (a 15-minute practice can bring great benefits)
Mason says a 15-minute yoga practice in the morning helps her start the day off right. But she often finds it difficult to get out of bed in time to fit it in. Her solution: “I put my yoga mat next to my bed [the night before], so all I have to do is roll out of bed onto my mat.” She presses play on her favorite yoga routine on YouTube and then she’s ready to go. “Doing yoga in the morning calms me down and takes some of the pressure off the rest of the day,” she says.
6. Move in a meaningful way
For Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, it’s important to start moving. “My morning routine these days includes a short (10- to 25-minute) yoga practice, as well as a 45-minute walk on our nearby nature trail with my wife or a friend,” he says. “I find that body-body yoga helps me connect with myself and set the course for the day. And the social training in nature is also grounded.”
7. Check in
Tennyson says that too often people just start their days without doing a self-check. She starts her day by asking herself: How am I? How do I feel? Am I trying to override certain feelings that I definitely feel?
“Being able to recognize things like ‘I’m more annoyed today’ rather than thinking ‘That person is really annoying today’ will affect our interactions,” she says. “It can be very difficult to recognize your own feelings,” she says, adding that it almost always helps when we do.
How To Find The Right Morning Routine For You
Introducing a new routine will take time to get used to. If you want to change your morning routine to start the day on a higher note, be patient, says Mason. “Start with something small and gradually build up.”
And choose something that you look forward to. Remember, the point of a feel-good morning routine is to get you in a good mood, adds Mason. “If yoga isn’t your thing, don’t do it! It has to be right for you.”
If something on this list doesn’t sound appealing, try something else. “It could be sifting through a magazine or a book with tea, or writing in a journal. It’s about doing what brings you peace first and foremost and not putting undue pressure on yourself to have the perfect routine lined up , says Mason.