I can't lie — some days I wake up in such a cloud of grumpy gloominess that the act of getting out of bed seems nearly impossible. I slowly wake up silently cursing everything around me (and less silently, cursing my poor boyfriend) and dreading the day ahead.
We all have days we don't feel as positive and at ease as we'd like. More often than not, there isn't anything actually wrong in our lives, but somehow our thoughts are creating all sorts of problems for us.
When I wake up in a funk, I employ this five-step routine to switch up my mindset and turn my day (and my frown) around:
1. Bust a tune.
Singing has incredible mood-boosting benefits. The positive benefits of singing are most powerful when we sing in a group, but if you don't have a tuneful buddy on hand, solo singing is nearly as good.
Starting your morning with a song puts your focus on the tune and helps distract your mind from its perceived troubles. The act of singing forces you to take deep, calming breaths, which promote a sense of well-being. My favorite upbeat sing-along? "Smiling Faces" by Gnarls Barkley.
2. Relive happy times.
A recent psychological study found that simply looking at snapshots of happy times has the power to boost positive emotions by 11 percent. The study found that participants' "relaxation, brightness, calmness and alertness and even their sense of being valued and popular" increased due to looking at the photos.
On those mornings when you're feeling blue, hop on to Facebook or open up the family album and peruse pictures of your most cherished memories. I recently felt loads better looking at pictures of my best friend's wedding; as I remembered the fun we had, I couldn't help but feel more positive.
3. Say "cheese."
Smiling tends to be an automatic response to feel-good moments, but you don't actually have to be happy to do it. Pasting a fake smile on your face has its benefits too.
Facial expressions may actually be able to dictate some of our emotions. Research shows that when we smile we create a positive feedback loop that tells the brain we're feeling good. Not to mention, smiling is totally free and can be done at almost any time during your morning routine. (But maybe don't do this on the train ride to work — your grin may scare the other passengers.)
4. Do something kind.
Have you ever gotten a warming feeling while watching someone help another person with his or her bags at the supermarket? Or noticed how good it feels to give someone your receipt for a parking space when there's time left on it and you don't need it?
Then it should come as no surprise to you that random acts of kindness have been found to benefit the giver, the receiver, and even the onlookers. Acts of kindness need only take a few seconds, and they could include buying food for someone in need on your way to work, donating some money online, or writing a thank you note to your partner or housemate for them to find later.
5. Celebrate three good things.
Finally, this step, adapted from the Action for Happiness Three Good Things exercise, is a surefire way to feel more positive fast, and you can even do it while you're still lying in bed.
Get a notebook and jot down the following:
- Three things that went well yesterday and why they went well: You got some praise at work because you worked hard, you made a delicious dinner because you're an awesome cook, or you reached a fitness goal because you stuck at it and didn't quit.
- Three things you like about yourself: Can you pull off short shorts? Are you a talented Scrabble player?
- Three things you're looking forward to: maybe it's time with your family, or just the new season of Game of Thrones.
When we focus on good things, we feel better in the moment and train our brains to automatically look for the positive aspects of our surroundings in the future.
Have any mood-boosting tips that work wonders for you? I'd love to hear about them!