5 immediately doable habits to start your day

We all do it. We scroll through our social media feeds filled with the “perfect” lives of others while also making sure we only post the seeming perfection of our own. At work and at home, we strive to be the best in everything we do. But trying to keep up with the demands of work and social life often lead to discouragement before we even get out of bed.  If we choose instead to focus on the small areas in our lives that lead to personal joy and fulfillment, we can change this disposition.

Here are some immediately doable habits to start your day in ways that can refresh your outlook and increase joy.

01. Intentionally raise the blinds.

After my husband deployed to Iraq in 2011, there were many days when I struggled with depressed and sad feelings. So much of my days were built around his presence, even when he was at work. I knew I needed to do something to lift myself out of the negative emotions. So, each morning, I focused on being intentional about opening the blinds. As I raised each one, the morning sun began to flood our little home. The darkness was pushed back further until there was only brightness filling the house.

Raise the blinds and focus on the sun filling your living space. Studies show that basking in sunshine raises our serotonin levels, which correlate with happier moods and increased feelings of calmness. While you’re at it, open the window, even if just for a moment, for a breath of fresh air.

02. Keep fresh flowers.

Here’s another tip that immediately improves one’s mood that also relates to welcoming nature indoors. Researchers from the Netherlands found that people in restaurants with fresh flowers on their tables seemed to be in better moods and that having flowers in your office can improve cognitive function. Surely, the same can be said for the presence of fresh flowers in your home.

Whether you cut flowers from the yard or pick some up at the florist, taking the effort to add a bouquet in your home will make you feel more happy, peaceful, and creative.

03. Practice thankfulness.

As children, our parents likely pestered us to “remember to say thank you.” As adults, psychologists remind us how being consciously grateful can improve our feelings of joyfulness. As author and psychotherapist Amy Morin explained in Psychology Today, practicing thankfulness can improve physical and psychological health by increasing happiness and empathy and decreasing sadness and aggression.

Start a gratitude journal, where you write down several things during that day that make you grateful. If journaling isn’t for you, simply take the time to say them out loud; even speaking your gratitude out loud allows you to hear it and increases your positive feelings.

04. Make your bed.

Spend ten minutes each day tidying a space in your home where you spend a lot of time. Clearing clutter and mess reduces stress levels, increases happiness, and helps you sleep better. A good start is making your bed.

Admiral William McRaven popularized this tip with a commencement speech he gave at the University of Texas in 2014. He stressed the importance of making one’s bed in the morning, and it’s  a good point. Doing that simple task sets you up for success in completing further tasks during the day. And, when you get home, walking into a room with a made bed makes you feel accomplished.

05. Play that happy music.

I have four young children, and when any of us are in a funk, I’ve found one of the most productive things to do is to turn up the tunes. My children love dance parties, and their playfulness has reintroduced me to this invigorating activity.

Not surprisingly, uplifting music is incredibly beneficial for your mood and overall well-being. Composer and researcher on the vibrational effects of music Barry Goldstein explains why: When we listen to happy music, our brains release oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” along with dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that aids us in feeling pleasure and connection. For these reasons, listening and dancing to music, especially with those we love, makes us physically and emotionally happier.

Little actions in our daily lives can increase our joy and peace, especially if we are intentional about feeling those emotions. Choosing to experience joy when raising the blinds, vocalizing gratitude throughout the day, or turning up our favorite tunes are consistent actions we can take to improve our moods. Oh, and stop surfing social media. When I am overwhelmed by the comparisons in my newsfeed, I cull back and choose to only follow those accounts that will lift me up, rather than pull me down.

Be intentional about creating and finding happiness and joy in your daily life, and your mood will see a huge lift.