How you start the day determines how you end the day.
If you start the day with stress and anxiety weighing down on you, chances are, you’ll end the day feeling the effects of that stress and anxiety. If you start the day putting the wrong thoughts in your brain, chances are, those thoughts will poison your outlook by the end of the day.
For this reason, I make sure I never miss out on my morning ritual. My three-and-a-half hour morning ritual sets me up for a day of joy by getting me in the right headspace to make the right decisions in the day.
If you struggle with negative thoughts squandering your joy each day, it’s possible your morning ritual is filled with the wrong actions.
Oftentimes, our thoughts determine our feelings, which then determine our actions, which gives us results. This is a cycle. Our results will end up putting thoughts in our brain, which then provide feelings that deliver more actions and results.
But with a formalized morning ritual, we can perform automatic actions that place the right thoughts in our brain. And with the right thoughts in our brain, our results give us joy.
The problem with a formalized morning ritual is that people oftentimes forego their ritual to meet the demands of their schedule. This is how we end up with joyless days.
It’s okay to not have a perfect morning ritual every time. But whatever you do, avoid these 5 actions in your morning. By avoiding these 5 actions before 8AM, you can salvage your day and reclaim your joy.
1. Not getting enough sleep.
The first, and most critical mistake, we make with our mornings is waking up before our bodies are ready. Oftentimes, we let our schedules dictate when we wake up instead of our bodies.
A recent panel of experts that scanned through the date of over 320 studies made new guidelines for how much sleep we should have each night. For most adults, that amount is 7–9 hours. The magic number is often said to be 8 hours.
Adults today typically shortchange that amount thinking they can catch up on sleep during the weekends. Problem is, you can’t catch up on sleep by binge-sleeping during the weekends.
Studies show that consistently missing out on 8 hours of sleep will add to your sleep debt. The only way to repay this debt is to consistently sleep 8 hours.
When you have a sleep debt, you are sleep deprived, which has catastrophic results on our joy.
A study in 2012 found that sleep deprived individuals are more susceptible to little stressors. If you are sleep deprived, you’re more likely to be ruffled by the little things that wouldn’t normally give you stress.
If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: the first step for cultivating joy in your day is to get the rest you need. This action alone will increase your chances for joy.
2. Checking your phone as soon as you wake up.
A recent study found that 79% of people ages 18–44 check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up.
It’s a shocking, but not surprising statistic. Many people have their alarms on their phone, so they’re naturally inclined to check their phone as soon as they wake up.
The problem with this is two-fold. First, our brains work best after waking. By checking our phones, we’re using our best brain power to consume instead of contribute.
The second problem is that checking our phones immediately throws us in the frenzy of the day. We’re more prone to then rush to meet our demands instead of cultivating a moment to just breathe.
Instead of seeing our schedule and immediately rushing to work, we should use our mornings to meditate. Not only does this slow us down, but it also reduces our stress and anxiety.
3. Approaching the day from a place of lack.
Again, your thoughts at the beginning of the day matter. Many of us begin our days thinking about how much sleep we didn’t get or how much time we don’t have. All of these thoughts stem from a place of lack.
We hardly start our days from a place of gratitude. But science shows, meditating on what we’re thankful for can produce a plethora of positive emotions.
The hedonic treadmill theory states that people often return to a stable level of happiness no matter what happens to them. It assumes that chasing greater happiness is a vain effort because you’ll adapt and drop back down to the stable level you’ve always known.
But a recent study found empirical evidence to suggest that the positive emotions produced from meditating on gratitudes can actually outpace the hedonic treadmill.
Starting your day from a place of gratitude can add to your happiness and life satisfaction over time. It’s not a wasted effort.
If you want your day to result in more joy, spend time meditating on your gratitudes. I do this during my journaling time, but it could be as simple as thinking through these on your own.
4. Thinking about the stress of the day ahead.
I don’t know if I’ve said this enough, but … your thoughts at the beginning of the day matter. This is another reason why you need to be careful about what you consume at the beginning of the day.
A study by Penn State found that fearing the stress of the day right when you wake up will cause you to be more stressed and less productive. How? Because fearing the day ahead worsens your working memory, which then hurts your ability to focus on key tasks.
Conventional thinking would assume that anxiety before bed would result in more stress the day ahead. While this might hurt your sleep, this study proves that anxiety at the start of the day matters more. Why? Because when you wake up and your brain has had a chance to empty itself, you typically feel more optimistic.
You must control your thoughts at the beginning of the day. If you check your phone and are reminded of the stressful day ahead, this could actually make your day more stressful.
5. Turning on the news.
If your thoughts at the beginning of the day matter, then one of the worst ways to feed your thoughts is to turn on the news.
A study of 2,500 Americans found that listening to bad news contributes to daily stress.
In another study done by Shawn Achor and Arianna Huffington, it was found that consuming only three minutes of negative news in the morning makes you 27% more likely to report having a bad day six to eight hours later.
We must understand that the news cycle gets our attention by focusing on the negative. We can’t blame journalists and reporters for this. Instead, we must control how we consume the media and when we consume it. It does not need to be consumed at the beginning of the day.
Instead of listening to the news, or even turning on the television, focus on creating a still place with meditation.
How you start matters
If you have had a endless string of bad days, take a look at the choices you’ve made each morning.
- Did you not get enough sleep?
- Did you turn on the television too close to waking?
- Did you check your phone and get reminded of your stressful day?
Any of these actions can result in a joyless day.
Your joy doesn’t have to be squandered by the choices you make at the beginning of the day. Change the actions at the start of the day and you’ll change your results for joy.