“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Each morning offers the opportunity to start the day with an attitude of hopefulness, gratitude, and mindfulness. The way that you choose to greet the morning and move through your routine can set the tone for the rest of the day. When you effortlessly glide through your morning routine in a manner that is calm, alert, and positive, the day is likely to start off on the right foot. A mindful attitude infused with a dose of realistic optimism about the new day that lies ahead means you’re prepared for whatever life throws your way. Even though your thoughts and behaviors are within your control, we all know that life can throw unexpected curve balls. The trick is to be prepared without living in a chronic state of anxiety or fear.
Not all mornings go smoothly… this is to be expected in life. If you find yourself flooded with anxiety-provoking thoughts the moment the alarm clock goes off, cursing over spilled coffee on your fresh shirt, or grumbling as you fumble around for your keys… pause. Simply observing that your mood and behaviors are causing you unnecessary stress is the first step in the right direction. Congratulate yourself for pausing to notice if you’re feeling grumpy, rushed, or frazzled in the morning. This is being mindful.
You may be wondering how simply noticing that you’re having a bad morning or starting off the day in a foul mood will do much good. Well, if all you do is notice that you’re in a bad mood and then continue to go about your day without doing anything differently, your bad mood may persist. If you find yourself excessively focusing on anxiety-provoking thoughts, catastrophizing, or ruminating, this is a red flag to slow down and assess how your thoughts and actions are impacting your mood. Even if you’re habituated to waking up to worrisome thoughts or a pessimistic attitude, you can make positive changes.
Simple Ways to Boost Your Morning Mood
If you believe you could benefit from starting the morning off with a more positive outlook, take a few minutes to read through these 5 simple mood boosters. (Five more strategies for boosting your morning mood will be coming in my next post!) Even if you have developed a morning routine that works for you like a well-oiled machine, consider how slight adjustments to your ways of thinking and behaving could make the rest of your day even better.
(1) Choose One Nice Thing to Do for Yourself
Think of one small act of kindness or compassion that you can do for yourself each morning. Consider a brief activity that you can integrate into your regular morning routine that will perk up your mood and start your day off on the right foot. This might be something as simple as spending a few extra minutes reading your favorite section of the newspaper, making yourself a special breakfast treat, or laying out some comfortable slippers or a robe for the end of the day. The idea is to direct the same kindness, love, and compassion toward yourself that you would give to a loved one. You deserve it too.
(2) Eat a Well-Balanced & Nutritious Breakfast
How important do you think it is to eat breakfast every day? Do your behaviors align with the value you place on having breakfast? According to a 2009 Food and Health Survey, 93% of Americans believe it’s important to each breakfast each day, although only 44% actually do it. This discrepancy can result in a unpleasant state of psychological tension called cognitive dissonance. The Mayo Clinic reports that adults who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to eat more vitamins and minerals, control their weight, have better concentration and productivity levels, have lower cholesterol, and eat less fat and cholesterol than adults who don’t regularly eat a healthy breakfast. The Mayo Clinic describes the four core groups of a healthy breakfast as low-fat protein, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Does your typical breakfast meet your nutritional needs and boost your mood in the morning?
(3) Get a Bit of Fresh Air
Make the decision to get outside for some sunlight or a burst of fresh air in the morning, even if it’s only for a few minutes. WebMD reports that various researchers have found that as little as five minutes of “green exercise” (talking a walk/run, gardening, etc.) can significantly boost overall mood and self-esteem. Research indicated that these effects were even stronger when the exercise took place nearby a source of water. How willing are you to carve out five minutes during the morning to step outside and reap the benefits of outdoor exercise/movement?
(4) Listen to the Sounds of the Outdoors
Even if you’re unable to get outside to engage in exercise as part of your morning routine, there are benefits associated with simply listening to the sounds of nature. For instance, a recent study found that participants recovered more quickly from a stressful situation when they listened to an audio recording of bird sounds and running water. If you happen to live someplace where soothing or enjoyable sounds are just outside your window, consider opening that window and listening while you go about your regular morning routine. Another easy alternative is to invest in a sound soother device.
(5) Actively Focus on Feeling Good
Dr. Robyn McKay, psychologist, encourages taking five deep breaths in the morning and consciously making the decision to feel good throughout the day. Consider the meaning of “good” in your life and how it fits into your personal value system. Perhaps feeling good means focusing on positive encounters with other people, choosing healthy lifestyle behaviors over unhealthy ones, or giving a bit of extra time, energy, or love to people in your life. See what difference it makes throughout your day when you start the morning off with a deliberate choice to engage in positive thoughts and behaviors.
Which one of these five morning mood boosters are you willing to integrate into your typical morning routine? If you want to begin the process of starting your morning with a more positive attitude, make the commitment to do things differently. You can always start small and focus on doing just one small thing differently. When you begin to form a new habit and make healthy lifestyle changes, practice is key. The more consistent you are in performing the new behavior, the easier it will become. Before you know it, you won’t have to “remember” to open up the window, get your body moving outdoors, or focus your attention on feeling good in the morning… it will just come naturally. See how your mornings begin to feel different and how adjusting your attitude and behaviors in small ways sets the tone for a more positive day.
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In my next post, “Start the Morning Right: 10 Mood Boosters – Part Two,” we’ll explore five more strategies for improving your morning mood.
Rodriguez, T. (2013). “10 Morning Mood Boosters.” Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/morning-mood-boosters
Featured image: Its gonna be a beautiful day.. by ‘Ajnagraphy’ / CC BY-ND 2.0