“This is a wonderful day. And I have never seen this one ever before.” – Maya Angelou
What type of attitude do you bring to the dawn of each new day? The way that you choose to look at the world around you has a significant impact on your overall mood. Imagine the difference between waking up to the alarm clock on a Monday morning and thinking to yourself, “Ugh… another Monday morning,” versus, “Ah… another fresh start!” Which automatic thought do you think will build more optimistic momentum? While many circumstances in life are outside of your direct control, the attitude and mindset that you bring to those circumstances are entirely up to you.
Life is happening all around you – in this very moment – whether you choose to be present or not. Make the decision to mindfully connect with the present moment this morning… open yourself up to the manifestation of personal growth and renewal through subtle shifts in your morning routine. Not every morning is going to go as smoothly as you would like. When things don’t go your way, you have the freedom to choose your response.
Research published in the journal Mindfulness indicates that acceptance of negative thoughts and feelings leads to a “decentered metacognitive state… characterized by the ability to distinguish the self from the content of negative thoughts and emotions and to recognize that thoughts and emotions are passing events rather than permanent reality” (Troy et al., 2012, p. 2). Notice how your mood shifts when you realize the transitory nature of thoughts and feelings, no matter how unpleasant they may be in the moment.
Simple Ways to Boost Your Morning Mood
Consider how your typical morning routine could benefit from small adjustments in your behaviors, thoughts, or attitudes. Starting the morning off on the right foot doesn’t necessarily mean a complete overhaul to the way you already do things. Minor changes to your morning routine that are practiced consistently can lead to lasting positive changes in the outlook you take toward the rest of the day.
In my last post, “Start the Morning Right: 10 Mood Boosters – Part One,” we explored strategies for building an alert, optimistic, and positive mood in the morning. Hopefully you found success in integrating one or more of those mood boosting tips into your morning routine. Are you ready for five more simple ways to boost your morning mood?
(6) Have a Little Hot Cocoa
This morning mood booster is based on research that has found drinking beverages with cocoa flavonols significantly improved participants’ levels of alertness and overall mood (even under stress situations). In fact, evidence supporting the neuroprotective benefits of flavonoids indicates significant benefits in various areas of executive function/working memory. There is still room for further research on the mechanisms by which these benefits arise and how they are assessed, but initial findings are encouraging. See if integrating a cocoa-infused beverage into your daily breakfast positively impacts your alertness and mood as you begin the day.
(7) Do a Quick Mindful Self-Assessment
Before you even get out of bed in the morning, take a moment to check in with your overall well-being. Practice mindfulness by directing calm, alert, and nonjudgmental attention to your physical state. Move your awareness from the tips of your toes all the way up to the top of your head, briefly checking in with each area of your body and listening to what it’s telling you. Pause to notice any thoughts that pop into conscious awareness and gently let them go. Notice your physical, mental, and emotional states as you lie in bed. Use this quick mindful self-assessment as a tool to establish a baseline for your overall well-being before getting out of bed. Now that you are conscious of the state in which your mind and body naturally awakened, you can choose to engage in behaviors or direct your attention toward thoughts that will set a positive tone for the rest of the day.
(8) Cultivate Gratitude by Imagining Alternatives
It’s easy to “forget” to be grateful if you’re having a morning that feels rushed, hectic, or generally unpleasant. Perhaps you get into the shower only to realize that you’re out of soap, make your morning coffee only to find out that someone used up your favorite milk, or engage in a conversation with a loved one only to be met with complaints about their busy day ahead. Pause for a moment to imagine the alternatives to these scenarios.
What if you didn’t have a shower with hot running water? Forget the luxury of soap for a minute. What if you didn’t have a coffee maker or a kitchen within which to make your morning coffee? Forget the luxury of your favorite milk. How about if you didn’t have your loved one there with you in the mornings? Forget your expectation that they should respond to you exactly as you would like. When you stop for a moment to imagine the alternatives to scenarios that cause irritation or frustration in the moment, you will begin to cultivate gratitude for all that you do have.
(9) Boost Your Mood with Peppermint & Gum
Breathing in the scent of peppermint has been found to boost mood, enhance attention, and ward off fatigue. Try keeping a small bottle of peppermint essential oil by your bedside and take a moment to deeply inhale its scent as you start off your day. Notice the potentially invigorating and mood boosting effects of this quick and easy action. Another way to boost your happiness level in the morning is chewing gum. A separate study found that participants who chewed gum showed elevations in mood, attention span, and alertness. WebMD points out a simple way to combine the benefits of these two studies… peppermint gum!
(10) Remember to Smile
It can be tough to smile when you don’t feel like it. Well, guess what? You won’t always feel like smiling in life, but research suggests that if you do it anyway, your mood will genuinely improve. Not only does smiling positively impact your own mood, it also affects the mood of those around you. Research indicates that the general idea of “acting as if” can lead to measurable changes in your life. This doesn’t mean being inauthentic or denying your true feelings. It is important to apply mindful awareness to your emotional state in the present moment, attend to the information within your emotions, and then use your emotions productively. These are all components of building emotional intelligence.
Choosing to smile when you don’t necessarily feel “in the mood” to smile can be a wise response in many situations. Try applying opposite action during a situation when you feel overwhelmed by your emotions or when it’s in your best interest to transform your emotional experience. Notice the freedom you have to shift your mood through making the conscious choice to smile. Can’t muster up a big grin? Dr. Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), encourages a “half smile.”
How willing are you to practice one of these simple morning mood boosters this week? Think about the energy that it takes to engage in negative thoughts and emotions… the result is often feeling drained. You can choose to redirect that energy toward reappraising situations in a more positive light. When you start looking for something – be it positive or negative – you are likely to find it. You can develop the core beliefs of high achievers by looking for the opportunities hidden in challenging situations. This morning offers yet another chance to get it “right.”
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Rodriguez, T. (2013). “10 Morning Mood Boosters.” Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/morning-mood-boosters
Troy, A. S., Shallcross, A. J., Davis, T., & Mauss, I. B. (2012). History of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is associated with increased cognitive reappraisal ability. Mindfulness. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s12671-012-0114-5
Featured image: sunday morning by limaoscarjuliet / CC BY 2.0