After more than a decade of reading every personal development book under the sun, there’s one big thing I’ve learned about happiness: it doesn’t just happen. Happiness is something we must consciously cultivate in our lives again and again and again. It’s a daily practice. We must regularly do things that encourage us to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And one of the keys is figuring out ways to wake up happier, which often boils down to going to bed happier.
So, how exactly do we set ourselves up for a happy morning the night before? Below, experts share their fave happiness-boosting bedtime rituals.
7 simple things to do to wake up happier tomorrow
1. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is a popular happiness-promoting practice and with good reason. According to research-backed evidence, gratitude works, which is why psychotherapist Dawn Delgado, LMFT, suggests reviewing 10 things you’re grateful for in your life before bed, either in your mind or by writing them down. “Putting our conscious attention on gratitude impacts our brain’s neurochemistry, specifically, releasing dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that plays an important role in happiness,” Delgado says. And if you find it challenging to get into a flow with a pre-sleep gratitude practice, look to gratitude journals filled with prompts and thought-provoking questions.
2. Make fun plans
Sometimes, half the joy of doing something fun is the planning and anticipation leading up to it. To capitalize on this happiness-inducing hack, Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, a board-certified psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health, suggests using your pre-bed winddown time to schedule plans or activities for the next day giving yourself something to look forward to in the morning. “Whether it’s going to a movie, meeting a friend for coffee or dinner, or even just planning a walk in your favorite park, having something fun to anticipate can help you wake up feeling happier,” she says.
“The space around us influences the mental and emotional space inside of us,” Delgado says, hence why waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes and piles of laundry may make you feel overwhelmed first thing in the morning. To remedy this, she encourages taking a few minutes before bedtime to clean up your home so you can wake up feeling fresh and ready to tackle whatever the day may bring. It doesn’t have to be a long cleaning sesh either. You’d be surprised what a difference a 10-minute speed clean can make.
Like tidying up your physical space, mapping out your day and writing your to-do list can also help set the tone for a happy morning. “This doesn’t mean creating an anxiety-producing list of everything,” Delgado says. “Just organize and prioritize to get your mind clear on how it will go. When we do this in advance, we can wake up feeling confident and clear because our roadmap is already established. This could even mean preparing food or healthy snacks for the next day.”
If traditional, clear-your-mind-of-all-thoughts meditation isn’t your jam, you may enjoy a nighttime visualization meditation instead, which will help set your mind up for a happier morning. To do it, Delgado recommends setting your intentions by mentally running through your upcoming day. “Think about it going well from start to finish,” she says. “What are the great things that will happen? What challenges will you face, and how will you respond positively?” She also suggests envisioning how you’ll implement self-care breaks throughout the day.
Another way to brighten up your morning: Pen yourself a positive memo the night before. “Give yourself a message of encouragement like you would to a good friend or a child in your life,” Delgado says. This may feel silly at first, but waking up to a note from you to you that says things like, “You’re doing a great job” or “This is going to be an amazing day for you,” will surely add some pep to your step. As for how you deliver the said message, Delgado says it is totally up to you. You can use a sticky note and put it on your computer, write it in lipstick on your bathroom mirror or even hide the note with your lunch or coffee cup.
While social media can often be a wonderful place full of memes that make you LOL because they’re so relatable and endless streams of cute puppy photos, it can also at times be a not-so-happy space. “Social media can cause stress and feelings of anxiety and depression among some people, as falling into the comparison trap is easy,” Dr. Patel-Dunn says. So, she recommends giving yourself a social media break before bed to help reduce anxiety, making you feel more relaxed and happier the next day.