Power up Your Mornings: 4 Things to Do Every Day to Wake Up Happy
We were having coffee in our customary coffee shop — iced coffee, to beat the Texas summer heat — when my client put her head in her hands and said,
“What do you do to wake up happy every morning?”
My client — let’s call her Ann — and I were talking about mood-boosting foods, but as so often happens in my coaching sessions, the topic led my client down a mental rabbit hole and uncovered a deeply rooted, and almost subconscious, issue she was having.
We had talked about her struggle with depression and anxiety before, but this was the first time she identified a very real, very concrete moment in every day when she faced this battle.
And it was a battle she wanted to win.
As a new mom, she had responsibilities to drive her from her bed every morning, but the joy was gone.
“I wake up and all I feel is dread,” she told me. “And that feeling hangs over my head the rest of the day. I want to be happy…but how can I be, when I can’t even feel happy at the start of a new day?”
It’s a struggle many people face.
Even for people not battling clinical depression, many still feel frustrated or discouraged with how their life is going — or how it isn’t going — and that can make it insanely hard to face the new day with eagerness and joy.
Ann and I spent some time talking about her experiences to try to come up with an action plan. I’m going to share some of these now, and the tricks and tactics we came up with for her to try.
1. “I don’t get very good sleep, not just because of the baby, but because of all the things on my mind. I just lay in bed and worry.”
This can be a huge challenge.
When fears, worries, frustrations, anger, or other negative emotions fill our thoughts, our mind — helpful as it is — wants to take care of the problem. So it obsesses over these thoughts looking for a solution, but most of the time, this quest is non-productive and can actually do more harm than good.
If this happens to you, try jotting down the things that are bothering you in a journal…then close the journal, put it in a drawer, and let it go. This ritual can help your mind relax because you’ve sort of made it a promise to focus on a solution another time.
Your mind carries forward the mood you went to sleep with. If you set aside negativity before bed and focus instead on things that give you joy, your morning mood will be much improved.
2. “I dread getting up because my morning routine sucks. I get up too late, then I’m rushing around trying to get everyone ready for the day, and I finally just grab some junk food because I don’t have time for a proper breakfast…”
If your morning routine sucks, figure out a routine that works for you! Identify activities that give you joy or calm, and weave them into your morning. Always prioritize time for a healthy breakfast, and try to get it in within an hour of waking up. This gets your metabolism going, provides your body and mind a burst of energy, and sets you up for the rest of the day.
But apart from that, your morning should be full of things that give you energy and positivity. If it’s getting up half an hour earlier (and going to bed half an hour earlier!) so you can have time to drink a cup of lemon water or some hot tea, light a scented candle, and read, do that! Or maybe for you, it’s taking the dog for a walk or doing some meditation. Whatever it is, make it something you can look forward to doing every day.
Planning your morning so you feel relaxed instead of rushed is a big way to avoid that feeling of impending doom when you wake up.
That said, I’m always amused by how many people want to change how they feel in the morning, but as soon as they realize they might have to change their morning routine, the resistance sets in.
Habits are hard to break, I get that.
But think about what’s at stake. This is cumulative mood-boosting stuff here. When you swap out old habits of negativity for a new habit of positivity in the morning, that adds up to incredible personal power for change in other areas of your life, too.
3. “My energy level crashes midmorning and I just want to go back to bed.”
Ann and I are both big coffee drinkers — one of the reasons we would have our weekly sessions in person at the coffee shop instead of via Zoom or phone call. But one thing we uncovered (and, incidentally, I had this exact same revelation in my own life not a year prior) was that she was starting off first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, as a desperate tactic to give herself some energy.
But the truth is, coffee on an empty stomach can do crazy things to your energy levels, and if you drink it with cream and sugar — without any food to go with it — it can also totally throw your blood sugar out of whack. Both of these can lead to that awful midmorning slump.
Coffee (or other caffeinated beverage) in the morning is fine, but like I said in the last point, prioritize a healthy breakfast first thing. Then enjoy the coffee after breakfast.
4. “Every day is the same. I just feel like I’m going through the motions. It’s hard to feel excited about that.”
No kidding! When you go to bed at night and all you can think about is the tedium of the day’s tasks that await you in the morning, it’s not surprising you might wake up fighting unhappiness and dread.
Instead, every evening think about one thing that you are looking forward to the next day. This is an exercise we call mental rehearsal. It’s not just useful for people getting ready for job interviews or competitions or sports events. It’s also extremely useful for day-to-day life.
Pick something (or come up with something!) that will happen the next day and imagine how awesome it is going to be. Place yourself in that moment and live into the experience you want to have. When you do this as you’re falling asleep, not only will it help you relax, but you may just find yourself waking up with joy and excitement.
In addition to this, try to start each morning with an attitude of gratitude. If you shift your mindset…even about tedious routines…it can shift your mood from blah to brilliant.
If you’re dreading chores, reframe to be grateful for having a roof over your head and the bodily health that lets you do those chores.
If you’re dreading the morning commute, remind yourself that you’re not just driving to work, you’re chasing down your dreams.
A habit of gratitude can fundamentally transform not just your mood, but your whole outlook on life.
I hope these four ideas will help you build your own battle-plan for how to power up your mornings — because when your mornings start right, you’ll feel happier, more productive, and more capable of tackling the other parts of your life you want to change.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, or whatever life hacks you try to implement, you still wake up feeling miserable. At that point, there is one thing left for you to try…
…and it is hard.
It is so hard.
You need to figure out why you’re waking up in dread. If it’s not bad lifestyle habits, what is going wrong in your life that is making you miserable? Is it your job? A toxic relationship? Are you suffering from true, full-blown clinical depression and need to talk to a medical professional for help? (If you are, please, please talk to someone.)
But clinical depression aside, there may be something in your life that is just really holding you back or holding you down, and you will continue to fight that feeling of dread, frustration, and unhappiness until it’s fixed.
…it won’t change, unless you change.
Whether it’s finding the courage to face your partner and tell them why things aren’t working out, or going to your boss because you are being bullied or harrassed by coworkers…you are the only one who can make that decision. You are the only one who can make that change.
And you have the power to do it.
Maybe to find that power you need to talk to someone — a friend, a family member, a counselor or a coach — but your life is worth it. Don’t settle for being miserable because you’re not sure what step to take to make it better.
There is always someone out there who can help you find the path.
On a lighter note, the bottom line is this.
If you feel miserable every day because of your morning mindset…
Because if you don’t change it, what will you have? More sucky mornings.
Don’t have more sucky mornings.
Love journaling? Can’t find a good health and wellness tracker/journal that works for you?
I’ve got a free, printable super-simple journal page that you can try. No unnecessary calorie counting, no rigid rules…just your daily wellness in a snapshot. Get it for free here!
And if you love it, let me know! If you hate it, tell me how it can be improved. I’m always keen to do better!