9 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings

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Everyone approaches their morning differently. Some people wake up excited to start their day. Others like to ease into their day more gradually. No matter how you like to start your morning, there are things you can do to ensure every day gets off to a great start.

A good morning routine will help you feel relaxed, alert and energized. Starting your morning on the right foot means creating a feeling of happiness that you can carry with you all day long. Your morning routine should include not only getting ready, but also making space for feeling joy and feeling mentally and physically prepared to take on whatever the world has in store for you.

Start your day off the right way with these 9 habits that happy people use to get their morning going. (Hint: It’s not about gulping coffee and running out the door.)

1. Get enough sleep.

An exhausted person isn’t a happy person. Nothing will kill your happiness faster than waking up tired and grumpy. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re probably starting your day drained and irritated. It’s hard to have a positive outlook when all you want to do is crawl back into bed.

A good night’s sleep is like a magical elixir for your physical health, and is key to your overall sense of happiness and well-being. Research has shown that sleep is one of the most effective ways to improve concentration, strengthen the immune system and improve a person’s mood and feeling of well-being.

However, not getting enough sleep impairs memory and increases levels of stress hormones. So, the first step to creating a happy, cheerful morning is ensuring you get enough quality sleep the night before. Set a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it — your happiness may depend on it.

2. A new day, a new start.

Happy people begin each day anew. They wake up with the mindset that each day is a new beginning — a chance to move forward and not let past failures weigh them down. Yesterday may have been a rotten day, but that doesn’t mean today has to be.

Happy people start their day with an affirmation. They declare from the outset how they want their day to go. A positive morning affirmation can be a powerful way to start your day feeling confident and ready for success. Examples include:

  • I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself.
  • I am, and always will be, enough.
  • I let go of any negative feelings about myself or my life and accept all that is good.
  • I am courageous. I am willing to act and face my fears.

3. Wake up grateful.

Waking up with a feeling of gratitude ensures you start your day in good spirits. A thankful heart is a happy heart. Gratitude is powerful because it’s both a feeling and an action. Actively thinking about things you’re grateful for, in turn, makes you feel grateful. It’s a positive thought loop that’s easy to practice and has beneficial effects on your physical and mental health.

You can wake up feeling grateful by simply taking a moment when you first open your eyes to look about and feel a swell of appreciation for everything around you. Recognize how wonderful this moment is, and how good it feels to be here. Today is a gift, and you can do with it what you will. You can choose to make the most of it. You can choose happiness. Take a moment to acknowledge all you have and see the possibilities of the day before you.

4. Keep a manageable morning routine.

Happy people don’t frantically tear around trying to get ready at breakneck speed and then rush out the door, already late for their first meeting or appointment of the day. Doing this will set you up for feeling stressed out and harried all day long. Starting the day with a contented and peaceful attitude requires you to have time to wake up properly and to get ready at a calm and measured pace.

Happy people tend to keep their routine simple and manageable. A complex routine is hard to stick to and can leave you feeling anxious and exasperated first thing in the morning. Cut out multitasking and reject unneeded distractions, like checking and returning email while trying to get ready. Do one thing at a time. Keep your morning uncomplicated and as stress-free as possible so you’ll set yourself up to be in a good mood all day long.

5. Meditate

Daily meditation, whether it’s a quick five-minute practice or a lengthier session, can help create a contented and happy mind. Spending time meditating each morning improves focus, increases self-esteem and confidence, and quiets the cacophony of mental angst and turbulence we are constantly contending with. You can meditate at any time of day, but it’s best to do it in the morning so you’re sure to get it in, and so you can benefit from its effects throughout the day.

To begin the practice of meditation, start by sitting quietly in a comfortable position or in a chair for two minutes every morning. This is a chance for you to check in with how you’re feeling, both in your mind and body. Be focused on the moment. Turn your attention to your breaths or do a body scan, focusing on one body part at a time. Recognize your thoughts and feelings, and maintain a loving attitude toward yourself. Meditation is a chance to get to know yourself and be aware of each moment you are in.

6. Start your day with exercise.

Before you dive into a long day of work, make sure you take time to get some exercise in. Some people find that fresh air first thing in the morning brightens their mood all day. Try a brisk walk, a run around the block or a trip to the gym. Other people may prefer to start their day with a home workout, such as stretching or yoga.

Morning exercise gets your blood flowing and gives you a boost of energy for the day. Exercise also releases feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These may buffer feelings of stress and anxiety, and help relieve symptoms of depression. Research has shown that working out improves how we feel about our bodies and gives us a sense of well-being.

7. Make your bed.

It may sound silly, but beginning your day by making your bed can set you up for feeling ready to take on the world. According to one survey of 2,000 Americans, bed makers tend to be adventurous, confident and sociable. People who don’t make their beds tend to be shy, moody and sarcastic.

Many successful people recommend making your bed as a simple way to start the day off on the right foot. For example, Tim Ferriss has said that the simple act of bed making teaches us that it’s the little things in life that matter.

US Navy SEAL commander Admiral William H. McRaven gave a now-famous commencement speech at the University of Texas in which he said that making your bed is so powerful because it gives you a feeling of accomplishment first thing in the morning. It encourages you to take on even more tasks and motivates you to get more done in life.

8. Nourish your body.

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and gets your body and mind prepped for a busy day. Research has found that breakfast eaters have better diets and consume more fruit and vegetables than those who don’t eat breakfast.

But just as important, a nourished body leads to an improved mood. Eating breakfast also sends a positive message to yourself that you are taking care of your health and well-being. You’ll find you can concentrate better if you start the day with a healthy meal. You’ll be less likely to feel fatigued and get that “hangry” feeling mid-morning, which leads to overeating at lunch. The best breakfasts pair carbs with proteins to get your body fueled and ready to go.

9. Set goals for the day.

Happy people often have a sense of purpose. They aren’t wandering aimlessly through life; they work each day to make progress and accomplish their tasks. It feels satisfying to have set priorities for yourself and strive to meet milestones. Happy people make sure they begin their day by setting goals for themselves. What do you want to accomplish today? What is the most efficient and effective use of your time?

Make it a point to spend a few minutes each morning determining what you want to do that day. Be sure to think through your to-do list carefully — often we spend too much time on things that aren’t really important. Focus on what matters and make sure you’re scheduling downtime. After all, the secret to lasting happiness is finding ways to enjoy each day in its entirety.

Science Says Night Owls Who Wake Up Late Are More Intelligent Than Early Birds

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(Image credit: Simone Becchetti/Stocksy)

Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous phrase, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His viewpoint sounds nice, and his own personal success gives his advice some strong support. However, now night owls and researchers alike would beg to differ.

During the last few decades, there’s a growing body of fascinating research on the relationship between sleep patterns and intelligence. While there is still more to learn, scientists have made great progress into what it means when your head hits the pillow. One study of U.S. Air Force recruits aimed to systematically explore the relationship between intelligence and sleep scheduling. After assessing the 420 participants, they discovered that night owls are more likely to have higher intelligence scores. They’re not saying that sleeping late makes you smarter, but a higher IQ leads to night owl tendencies.

Satoshi Kanazawa and Kaja Perinawas supplied more proof with their definitive study, “Why night owls are more intelligent,” in 2009. He and his team concluded, “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.” They analyzed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and considered to explain why that’s the case.

Since then, other researchers have delved deeper and looked into different populations to learn more. One team of scientists from The University of Chicago and Northwestern University analyzed GMAT scores from MBA students in 2014. They discovered that GMAT scores were significantly higher among night owls than among early-morning types for both men and women. Yet more support for smarty-pants night owls.

People, unlike other mammals, have the unique power to override their genetic predisposition and circadian rhythm. With the help of electric lights, caffeine, alarm clocks, and more, they can train or force themselves into morning lark or night owl schedules, which Kanazawa and Perinawas’s study suggests is a sign of intelligence as well.

If you need more proof, simply look to some of the most famous night owls who happen to be well known for their intellect, among many other accomplishments. The list includes President Obama, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and many more. Generally, being a morning person is heralded, but identifying as a night owl is not without its perks or good company.

As for morning people, the early bird still gets the worm, at least as far as we know. However, night owls everywhere rejoice late into the night, then smugly hit the snooze button the next day.

Why ‘Night Owls’ Struggle With Working 9 To 5

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“Night owls”, aka people who are late to bed and late to rise, may be at a disadvantage in jobs with typical working hours of 9am to 5pm, a study has found.

As anyone who has ever struggled to drag themselves out of bed will know, some of us just aren’t morning people.

In fact, around half of us (between 40% and 50%) are “night owls”, who prefer going to sleep later and getting up after 8:20, while others are “morning larks” who prefer early bedtimes and earlier wake-ups.

Morning larks constantly outperformed night owls in tests throughout the day. Photo: Getty Images

And while there is a proven genetic basis for the night owl/morning lark theory, many traditional workplaces still insist on working hours of roughly 9am to 5pm – which makes life especially difficult for night owls, according to the latest research.

The researchers took 38 people who identified as either morning larks or night owls and assessed them between the hours of 8am to 8pm, asking them to do various tasks and report on their tiredness levels.

Morning larks reported as least sleepy and had their quickest reaction times during the morning tests.

Meanwhile, while night owls performed better in the evening (8pm) compared to in the morning – but they did not perform significantly better than the larks even at this later time.

What’s more, at all time points throughout the day, the morning larks outperformed the evening owls in tests – suggesting the latter group continue to be at a disadvantage throughout the day.

What does this mean for night owls?

The findings “could be partly driven by the fact that night owls tend to be compromised throughout their lives”, according to lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs, of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health.

“Night owls during school have to get up earlier, then they go into work and they have to get up earlier, so they’re constantly having to fight against their preferences and their innate rhythms.”

Dr Facer-Childs added: “A typical day might last from 09:00 to 17:00, but for a night owl this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness, and increased daytime sleepiness.”

She suggested more flexible working hours could benefit society as a whole.

“If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time, we could go a long way towards maximising productivity and minimising health risks.”

And it seems as if some schools may be catching on to the benefit of later start times, with British MPs debating calls for the school day to start at 10am to help tired teenagers.

Morning people don’t just have an easier time of it at school and at work – they also benefit from a health perspective.

Those who peak in the early hours of the day are less at risk of breast cancer compared to their ‘evening’ counterparts, according to a study published last year.

Is Waking Up Early Good or Bad?

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By Bryan Lufkin

Being successful means waking up early – or so we’re constantly told.

It makes you more productive. Celebrities and CEOs do it. You’ll be healthier and happier. You’ll feel in control of your life.

But despite the deluge of such stories, waking up at an ungodly hour isn’t some sort of magic productivity hack that will solve your time-management problems. For some, it can even be counterproductive.

The trick is finding a routine that fits your situation. Here are some timeless tips that can help you cut through the noise and figure out a wake-up strategy that’s right for you.

What are the benefits of getting up early?

There can be lots – at least, according to all the people who get up at daybreak.

(Credit: Getty Images)

US actor Mark Wahlberg made headlines last year when he said he wakes up at 2:30 am (Credit: Getty Images)

Many people cite fewer distractions during the early hours: kids or anyone else in your home are probably still asleep, for example, and you’ll probably be receiving fewer texts or emails at that time.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he rises at 03:45 to start checking email in California before his East Coast colleagues can (which, at 06:45, is still quite early in its own right). Oprah Winfrey says she gets up at 06:02 every day for reflection, meditation and exercise before starting work at 09:00. The most extreme case might be Mark Wahlberg, who wakes up at 02:30 to exercise, play golf, pray and recover in a -100C cryochamber.

You might be more alert and have better cognitive ability in the afternoon

Studies have also suggested early rising and success might be linked. People who wake up early are more in sync with the traditional corporate schedule and tend to have more proactive personalities, which might lead to better grades in school or higher wages on the job.

If getting up early doesn’t come naturally, there are some strategies you can try. Early exercise and exposing yourself to light as soon as possible can help stimulate metabolism and body temperature, which gets you going more quickly.

Yet the early alarm clock may not work for everyone – it turns out there are plenty of caveats around trying to become a morning person if it’s not an easy fit.

Is getting up early for everyone?

No. Whether or not waking up early actually makes you more productive could be in your genes.

There’s been lots of research about how some people are biologically more likely to feel more alert in the morning, while others are at their best at night. You might be more alert and have better cognitive ability in the afternoon, for instance.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications provided further evidence that this is the case. Looking at data from over 700,000 people, researchers found over 350 genetic factors that could influence whether people feel more naturally energised either in the morning or in the evening. The large sample size makes the study the biggest of its kind so far, though further research is needed to confirm the results.

So, if you don’t naturally feel alert in the morning but decide to wake up early anyway, you might be sabotaging your actual peak performance times.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Humans aren’t built to go to sleep with glowing distractions, which can cause sleep problems (Credit: Getty Images)

Of course, people may have personal reasons for making an early start. “There may be other factors at play, such as enthusiasm and high job satisfaction, which facilitate eagerness to get up earlier and get to work,” says Marilyn Davidson, professor emerita of work psychology at the University of Manchester.

Parents with young children or workers with non-traditional hours may also have no choice about what time they start the day.

Getting up early doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success at the office

The main point: the mere fact of getting up early doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success at the office. In fact, depending on the person, it could end up having a negative effect.

Can getting up early ever be counterproductive?

Yes. Especially if you don’t normally wake up super early and are trying to hop on some kind of productivity bandwagon.

“People say: ‘Oh, this CEO is doing his 05:00 regimen, I’m going to hop on and do this on Mondays and Fridays,’” says Rachel Salas, an associate professor of neurology who specialises in sleep medicine and sleep disorders at Johns Hopkins University in the US. “But that’s not consistent [sleep]. You’re messing with your system.”

Salas says that getting a full night’s sleep and getting the same amount of sleep at the same time each night are both important. An even worse scenario? If you’re actually reducing sleep to become an early riser.

Sacrificing sleep means you may be hit by the many negative effects of sleep deprivation, including moodiness, poor concentration, potential weight gain, anxiety, increased risk of heart disease and higher blood pressure.

So if early rising means cutting sleep, don’t do it. Salas says she’s had patients come into her clinic who got by on reduced sleep in their 20s and 30s, but struggled as they got older, their lifestyles changed and they had kids.

“If you start early, you will need to stop work earlier too, so there may be no real benefits,” points out Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, England. She thinks that high-profile businesspeople who follow up an early start with long hours in the office or a late-night presence on email have a damaging effect.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Famous CEOs and celebrities frequently brag about early rising – but is it really right for everyone? (Credit: Getty Images)

There’s something particularly pernicious about the bragging of a CEO chronicling their early starts. The New York Times recently coined the term ‘performative workaholism’, referring to workaholics flaunting early wake-ups and long hours as a badge of honour, which can end up setting a bad example.

“CEOs are important role models for staff,” Kinman says. “And seeing this behaviour as desirable is just irresponsible.”

What should you do?

Experts say to experiment. Don’t listen to vocal thought-leaders or LinkedIn influencers – figure out what works best for you. And, hey, maybe that does mean waking up super early after all.

Pay attention to when you feel most tired and most awake. When on holiday, make a note of the times you fall asleep and wake up naturally. Try to sync your schedule to those times, as that’s how you’ll tap into most of your natural energy for the day ahead.

When it comes to the workplace, experts suggest an approach that accommodates everyone’s habits to bring out the best in them. Susan Stehlik, director of New York University’s management communications programme, suggests offices and teams use a technique called “appreciative inquiry”.

Pay attention to when you feel most tired and most awake.

This means that the team sits down at the very initial stages of a project and brings up their individual needs, schedules and preferences right out of the gate to the group – ideally, so that the group can adjust accordingly.

“That way you bring up things [like]: ‘I have kids, I have to be up at 05:00 every day and have to get them to day-care and can’t stay late’,” Stehlik says. “‘Here are my vulnerabilities right now, and here are my strengths right now.’ It’s mostly teamwork.”

If team leaders are flexible, you could agree to have an early riser start checking email or working earlier, and then allow them to knock off earlier in the afternoon. That way, workers can enjoy the benefits of early rising, but avoid burnout.

You’re also applying the practices of early rising to those to whom it’s applicable or useful, instead of arbitrarily getting everyone up early to chase the illusion of increased productivity.

In the end, though, it’s all about taking sleep advice from non-experts with a grain of salt. It’s about knowing your unique sleep preferences and the times of the day (or night) that you feel at your peak. And above all, it’s getting adequate – and consistent – amounts of sleep.

For some people, forcing yourself to wake up before the chickens because that’s what your business idol does may not be the smartest or healthiest way to start the day.

“Don’t do it,” Kinman says. “Unless you are a true morning person.”

Bryan Lufkin is BBC Capital’s features writer. Follow him on Twitter @bryan_lufkin.

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