7 Science-Backed Tips for a Happier Morning

Woman waking up in bed and kissing her dog.
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Not a morning person? Here's your well-being wake-up call.

Not all of us are born with the urge to wake up and carpe diem. Some of us would rather seize the covers and pull them right back over our heads where they belong.

As daylight saving time ends and we are given back the hour that was snatched away from us in March, it seems like the perfect time to look at new ways to bring joy to your morning. After all, we get a whole extra hour—we might as well make the most of it, right?

Mornings matter

For better or worse, our mornings can set the tone for the entire day.  If you drag yourself out of bed feeling tired, stressed or harried, chances are good you’ll feel that way for at least the next few hours. Once that ship starts sailing, it’s hard to turn it around, so consciously deciding to start your mornings differently is a huge step toward creating a better day.

Planning to start your day on a positive note can make the difference between a so-so morning and a super one. Here are seven scientifically proven ways to bring more happiness to your morning.

1. Forget the alarm

Do you bolt out of bed to the sound of an alarm that sends your cortisol levels skyrocketing? While it may be effective in waking you up, it’s not necessarily the best way; Japanese researchers are even investigating the correlation between heart attacks and alarm clocks. Instead, try waking up to a favorite song programmed into your phone. No need to have it blaring, either; the idea here is not to jolt you awake, but rather to invite you to start the day. Listening to an uplifting song first thing in the morning can not only put a positive message in your mind, but also can help lower your stress and anxiety levels.

2. Get centered

One of the big stressors of the morning is simply trying to get everything done and get everyone out the door on time. Getting up a few minutes earlier and investing that time in yourself can help you feel calm and centered for the day. Creating a morning practice, whether that means meditating, writing in a journal or doing yoga, is a way to put yourself first every morning. Even five or 10 minutes of mindfully centering yourself can better prepare you for what’s to come.

3. Practice gratitude

Gratitude is one of the best ways to shift your attitude. On those days when getting up and going to work feels like the last thing you want to do, write down five things you appreciate about your job. (Even if the best you can come up with is “the coffee in the break room is always hot.”) Practicing gratitude has many benefits, including flooding your brain with positive emotions—and who doesn’t want that first thing in the morning?  (It can even help you sleep better, which makes waking up easier.)

4. Stay unplugged

It has become a habit for many of us to reach for our phones first thing to check email, texts or catch up on social media. Or we may switch on the TV to find out the latest news. Well, here’s a news flash for you: None of those things are going to add joy to your morning. Take this time to be mindful of your morning and make time for yourself. Seeing what you’ve missed (or what you need to do) creates instant stress, so ignore it for as long as you possibly can.

5. Make a run for it

Going for a morning run (or walk) to start your day has dual benefits. First, there’s the benefit of the exercise itself, which releases feel-good endorphins in your brain for an instant boost. But just taking your movement outside is good for you, too. Research into biophilia, that emotional connection we have with nature, shows that getting outside for even a few minutes can reduce cortisol and enhance our overall mental health.

6. Question your existence

Our brains are processing machines that are constantly asking questions. The problem comes when we are inundated with a line of negative questions: “Why didn’t I get up earlier?” “How am I going to get everything done today?”…you know the drill. Redirect the inner interrogation to more intentional, positive questions—things like, “What am I most excited about today?” and “How can I make today awesome?” You’ll reset your thinking (and your mood), and your brain will automatically start looking for answers.

7. Just breathe

Finally, take a breath. A deep, slow breath that starts in your belly and eventually fills your lungs. You’ll instantly trigger your parasympathetic nervous system—which controls our fight or flight response—and create a feeling of calm. You’re also sending more oxygen throughout your body, which instantly creates more energy. Load up, it’s free!


Paula Felps is the Science Editor for Live Happy magazine.