The expression waking up on the wrong foot or on the wrong side of the bed, to me as a writer, tends to rule my writing day. Right up to and including the infamous “block”. If my morning starts off well, I’m relaxed and can keep writing as if it’s tea and scones guaranteed not to offer me a single ounce to the waistline. But when things start off screwed – such as being unable to find the right dress for that lecture to sociology students – I might spend the rest of the day in the doldrums. Of course there are those hassles I can’t skirt around. So I grab some pick-me-ups I’ve learnt from life and the experts. I list them below. One or all of them can turn your day into a sunny one, despite work and weather.
1. Do something that totally spoils you.
Take 30 seconds when you wake up, and think of at least one lovely thing you can do for yourself that day…and then do it. Mine is usually going to the stables to fondle my favourite horse, or walking to the deer park to have those big doe eyes stare back at me while I silly-talk to them. I know we don’t all have private deer park or stables full of horses. But the point is to think of some “spoil-me” thing to do instead of fretting.
2. The ever-touted well-balanced meal.
Even if you’re on some precious diet, you should always start your day with a nutritious mix of complex carbohydrates and proteins that will last you until lunch. Mine is fruit & nuts muesli covered with yogurt and then sprinkled with cinnamon. Apparently cinnamon improves mood and keeps you alert. A cup or two of coffee with moderate caffeine also elevates mood and mental sharpness. Or I substitute black tea with a dash of milk.
3. Fresh air does wonders.
This is where I kill two birds with one stone when I take that morning brisk walk to the park or paddocks. I get my “green exercise”—physical activity performed in an outdoor setting—even if all I have is a few minutes. The morning air seems to smell and feel fresh too, which enhances my mood. Some research say five minutes of green exercise also gives you higher self-esteem, including walking and gardening. And, apparently, exercising near water amplifies the effects, so if you live near a lake, river or waterfall, head off there in the morning.
4. Listen to the sounds of nature.
If you live in the middle of the city in blocks of flats/apartments, you can usher in “nature” by listening to recorded nature sounds. Find recorded combinations of running water and bird sounds. Or open the window in the morning so you can hear Mother Nature’s music as you get ready. Another sensible investment is an alarm clock that eases you awake with nature sounds.
5. You might have been up half the night for the baby; focus on the positive in that.
Which is that you were there for your precious child when they needed that, and helped assist a future healthy member of the family. This is another way of repeating the clichéd Think positive. Try taking five deep breaths and making the decision to feel good for the day. “Imagine that, even when you encounter frustrations and surprises, you will remember to breathe and respond mindfully—rather than react mindlessly—to your circumstances,” says Dr. McKay, a positive coach and writer. She also suggests that, throughout the day, you “take five deep, intentional breaths and remind yourself of your decision to feel good.”
6. I grew up believing in hot chocolate as part of goodnight stories.
Now I know that this scientifically proven to be true. Drinks containing cocoa flavonols improves moods and levels of alertness. You should savour some hot cocoa made with lowfat or skim milk and dark chocolate. The protein and carbs in the milk will help keep your blood sugar levels stable until lunch, which will help you hold on to your mood momentum.
7. Where am I, how do I feel this morning?
When you wake up in the morning, avoid jumping out of bed. Instead take in your environment consciously. Push aside the thousand and one things waiting for you to tackle. Give yourself five minutes (even if jarred awake by the alarm clock) to pay attention to your body and notice if you feel any stiffness, then do some light stretching while breathing deeply This will make you become more ‘present’ and better equipped to deal with the busyness of the day ahead.
8. The clichéd Think positive reverted.
Being grateful doesn’t always elevate you. Think about a positive event from your life – how you met your ideal partner, or the birth of your child – and then imagine what your life would be like if the event hadn’t happened. Though it seems like this would have the opposite effect, it actually improves the mood in many instances, more than simply thinking of the positive event itself.
9. Smelling salts for the swooning lady.
Researchers found that sniffing peppermint enhanced mood and attention while also fighting fatigue. Weird as it may sound, try keeping a bottle of peppermint essential oil or bag of peppermint tea on your bedside table so you can inhale the positive scents the minute you wake up. Another rather unlikely happiness helper is chewing gum, which elevates the moods, alertness and attention spans of one study’s participants. So pop a piece of peppermint gum after breakfast for a perk-up.
There’s one thing you can do just about anywhere: Smile. “Remember,” says Dr. McKay, “smiling is a simple way to change your mood—and the mood of those around you, too.” So spread your good-mood wealth by baring those pearly whites as often as possible in the morning as well as throughout the day.