Stress management has been a hot topic in America for well over a decade and according to the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey, we were doing pretty good for a while there. Since 2007, reported stress levels were consistently declining. Then 2016 reared its ugly head. For the first time in the survey’s ten year history, the APA noted a significant spike in stress levels. With stress and tension back on the rise, how can you rise above it and live a happier life? The answer may lie in your morning habits. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Emotion indicates that an affinity for what researchers call “morningness” can vastly improve your overall well-being. Whether you’re a morning person who as always risen early to do stuff like answer work emails or a self-described night owl who only wakes early enough to stumble through your basic needs, it is never too late to adopt healthier morning habits. By adopting the following morning habits, you can vastly improve your overall sense of happiness.
For thousands of years, people have been participating in a daily yoga practice to enhance their overall quality of life. With the numerous mental and physical benefits of yoga, there is no secret as to why the practice is quickly growing in popularity. “Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration,” Dr. Natalie Nevins, DO, MSHPE, and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor told the American Osteopathic Association. A short yoga flow first thing in the morning is a great way to start every day on a healthy and positive note.
Photo: Cathryn Lavery
Journaling has long been used as a therapy tool. Why? Because it works. Journaling is thought to be effective because it provides a place where you can explore your innermost thoughts, ones that you might be hesitant to discuss even with a therapist. In a recent New York Times report on the topic, James Pennebacker, PhD, a leading expert in the field of expressive writing, notes: “The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go. I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.” Spending a few minutes each morning journaling things such as creative thoughts, what brings you joy, daily intentions, and self-reflection can help you pinpoint the things that add happiness to your life and cut out what doesn’t.
Gratitude and Affirmation
For the past twenty years, the Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley has been studying the art of gratitude and affirmation. Their research has consistently shown that people who regularly practice gratitude report more happiness, generosity, and mindfulness. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, writes: “I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” By taking just a few moments each morning to reflect on the things that you are grateful for and being mindful of the things that you value, you are more likely to manifest the kind of life you want to live.