Daily Life

Five scientifically-proven morning rituals to make you happier every day

Morning rituals do more than set the productivity tone for the day.

They also set the mood and are an easy way to inject joy into your routine.

It makes a difference to your mood: Savour your morning cuppa.
It makes a difference to your mood: Savour your morning cuppa.  

The sweetener is that an improved mood improves performance too, which improves mood which... you get the picture.

The other benefit is that none of these scientifically-proven rituals requires getting up at 4am, chanting or bootcamp. Although if that's your poison it's perfect because, based on science-writer, Eric Barker's list of rituals to make you happier, doing something that you're looking forward to comes in at number one. 

1.  Plan something to look forward to

If your answer is the snooze button, do not pass go, do not collect $200.


"Research shows anticipation is a powerful happiness booster," says Barker. "It's 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing."

It could be as simple as getting up to watch the sunrise, going for a pre-work swim in the sea, getting a good book or podcast ready to listen to on the way into the office, meeting a friend for lunch or savouring your brew from your favourite coffee shop.

"People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and to experience intense emotions," writes Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.

2. Manage your mood

Wake up on the right side of the bed by taking a moment to manage your mood.

"Researchers found that employees' moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day," Barker says.

Taking a moment to be mindful is one way to do it.

For skeptics or starters, new app called 10 percent Happier by American news anchor Dan Harris who "always assumed that meditation was bullshit" is excellent.

The app offers a 14 day introduction to mindfulness with daily guided meditations (on average about 10 minutes) to clear away a cloudy mind.

Mindfulness is scientifically proven to reduce stress hormones, feelings of anxiety or depression and boost the immune system. It also helps self-awareness and compassion or, as Harris puts it, makes him "less of a jerk".

It also shoots through a daily sms with quotes to put cranky feelings in perspective, like:

"When left unchecked, our thoughts exert enormous influence over our lives. But when we become aware of them, we realise that they are little more than nothing."

3. Eat breakfast

OK, this may be stating the obvious but:

- If you have a delicious breakfast and good coffee then there are already two things to look forward to each morning which give you a head start on ritual number one.

- Eating breakfast will improve your mood and your ability to focus. Consider this study, as described in renowned willpower researcher, Roy Baumeister's book, Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

"All the children in a class were told to skip breakfast one morning, and then, by random assignment, half of the children were given a good breakfast at school," Baumeister writes. 

"The others got nothing. During the first part of the morning, the children who got breakfast learned more and misbehaved less (as judged by monitors who didn't know which children had eaten). Then, after all the students were given a healthy snack in the middle of the morning, the differences disappeared as if by magic."

- Savouring something - anything - as Barker says - separates happy people from humdrum ones.

4. Do something you don't like

Deal with the dread by addressing it.  As soon as you get up as this is when willpower is at its peak.

"The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen," Baumeister told Barker. "Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight."

So send the email you've been avoiding, do the task you've been procrastinating on, go to the gym, Do whatever it is in the knowledge that you will feel relieved afterwards and therefore lighter for the rest of the day.

5. Give thanks

Send someone - a loved one, a colleague, whoever - a message of thanks - for anything. Every day.

"This is why I often ask managers to write an e-mail of praise or thanks to a friend, family member, or colleague each morning before they start their day's work - not just because it contributes to their own happiness, but because it very literally cements a relationship," says Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage.

You could also show appreciation by giving your partner morning kisses or them (or a friend or family member) a big hug. Or five.

"Men who kiss their wives before work live five years longer, make 20-30 per cent more money and are far less likely to get in a car accident," says Barker. 

"No romance in your life right now? Sorry to hear that. But there's a substitute: give five hugs today.

"People assigned to give or receive hugs five times a day ended up happier."