What Psychologists Do in the Morning to Set Themselves Up for a Good Day
Yes, how you start your day does indeed influence 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 your day off on the right foot may actually be the key to keeping your mood and energy up all day. (But, no, for most of us, it probably doesn’t matter if you exit your bed from the right or left side.)
Research suggests that the mood that workers are in at the start of the workday indeed affects the rest of their days. One study, for example, found that a more positive prework mood was linked with higher performance quality and productivity throughout the day.
“Paying attention to your mood in the morning can have lasting impacts 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 look after yourself will make sure you’re set up for the day ahead in the best way possible.”
7 Ways Mental Health Experts Start Their Days Off Right
Here’s what Dr. Tennyson and other mental health experts do first thing in the morning to start their days off right.
1. Take a Moment to Think About What They’re Looking Forward to
“I set my alarm for slightly earlier than I want to be up and lie still for a minute or two,” says Kate Mason, DClinPsy, a clinical psychologist based in Worcester, England. “I take some deep breaths and think of three things I’m looking forward to today. It literally could be anything from a coffee and breakfast in peace to an episode of something I’m planning on watching on Netflix that evening.” It definitely doesn’t have to be anything major at all, she adds.
2. Keep Notifications Turned Off
Another nonnegotiable for her morning is keeping cell phone notifications turned off, Dr. Mason says. She takes this precaution to be sure to not check her messages or social media. “I have a bedtime mode on my phone where from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. I don’t get any 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, an associate professor of psychological and educational consultation at Fairfield University in Connecticut.
“They include reading the next chapter in my Bible, doing my physiotherapy exercises, and reviewing 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 set the tone,” Dr. Lopez says.
4. Hit the Pavement
Cardiovascular exercise has a lot of mental health benefits, so it’s no surprise it’s on this list of ways to start the day off right. Joshua Coleman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay area, starts each day with an outdoor run. “It’s the first thing I do in the morning,” he says. “I put on my running clothes and go for a 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 an a.m. exercise routine but doubt you’ll have the motivation: Just get started — it’s the hardest part. “I say I’m just going to go for a run for 10 minutes, and if I’m too tired, then I’ll turn around. It’s rare that I stop after 10 minutes, so this usually helps get me out the door,” he says.
5. Make Time for Yoga (a 15-Minute Practice Can Deliver Big Benefits)
Mason says a 15-minute morning yoga practice helps start her day off the right way. But she often finds it’s tough 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 my bed onto my mat.” She presses play on her favorite YouTube yoga routine, then she’s ready to go. “Doing yoga in the morning brings me peace and takes off some of the pressure the rest of the day,” she says.
6. Move in Meaningful Ways
For Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, getting moving first thing is important. “My morning routine these days includes a brief (10- to 25-minute) yoga practice, as well as a 45-minute walk at our nearby nature trail with my wife or a friend,” he says. “I find that the mind-body yoga practice helps me to connect with myself and to set my course for the day. And the social exercise in nature is also grounding.”
7. Check In
Tennyson says that too often people just start their days without doing a self check in. She starts her day by asking herself: How am I doing? How am I feeling? Am I trying to override certain feelings I am definitely feeling?
“Being able to recognize things like ‘I’m more irritable today’ rather than thinking ‘That person is really annoying today’ is going to impact our interactions,” she says. “It can be really difficult to recognize your own emotions,” she says, adding that it nearly always helps when we do.
How to Find the Right Morning Routine for You
Introducing a new routine is going to take time to get used to. If you want to change up your morning routine to start your day on a higher note, be patient, Mason says. “Start with something small and gradually build up.”
And choose something that you’ll look forward to. Remember, the point of a feel-good morning routine is to put you in a good mood, Mason adds. “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 might be sifting through a magazine or a book with tea, or writing in a journal. It’s about doing what brings you peace first thing and not putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to have the perfect routine lined up,” Mason says.
RELATED: 7 Good-Mood Spring and Summer Foods
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Rothbard NP, Wilk SL. Waking Up on the Right or Wrong Side of the Bed: Start-of-Workday Mood, Work Events, Employee Affect, and Performance. Academy of Management Journal. October 2011.