So much positive psychology research is coming out to help us tap into an unending stream of happiness, creativity, and productivity--both at home and work--that only a fool would ignore its benefits.
For example, there's the fascinating research on how experiencing more "awe" in life boosts happiness and eliminates depression. And what about the science behind what really drives performance? Yes, empathy. Who knew?
Research by the likes of Shawn Achor, Martin Seligman, Tal Ben-Shahar, and Barbara Fredrickson are saying that we can literally reset our brains to a positive and happy state.
And it all starts with how you begin your day. Here are 5 things you can do in the morning (in under 40 minutes) that will get you dancing out the front door in a blissful state.
1. Fuel your brain with the good stuff.
Whatever you do, don't skip a healthy breakfast. Trade your bowl of sugary cereal for something healthy--like oatmeal or a protein berry smoothie (have all the parts cut up the night before and ready to be blended).
You'll avoid being tired and hungry later when the sugar jolt wears off. Try fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and lean protein options that will keep you going until lunch time. The Beachbody Blog offers these excellent meal choices to fuel your morning.
I also wrote this article with plenty of food and vitamin options that science says will slow down memory loss by up to 19 years!
Total running time: 10 minutes.
2. Have a quick exercise session.
If you fear a grueling work out, don't worry, this won't require you to push play on the P90X video. Positive psychologist Shawn Achor says that a short burst of fun cardio activity (think hula hoops, jumping on the trampoline, a laser Zumba dance session, or a brisk walk with the dog) works wonders. All it takes is 15 minutes per day.
The reason why even a short and intense burst of exercise is key to your morning routine is that it literally trains your brain to become positive by believing "my behavior matters," which then carries (positively) into other activities throughout the day. Achor says the brain at this state can increase your productivity by 31 percent.
Total running time: 25 minutes.
OK, now that your heart is pumping a bit, it's time to switch it up. Sit in a comfortable spot (your "happy place"), and breathe. No, we're not talking breathing normally but "conscious breathing," a focused form of yoga-based, breathing meditation. Let me explain.
Psychologist Emma Seppala investigated the effects of conscious-breathing as an intervention on combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. Learning conscious breathing helped significantly reduce their stress and anxiety levels--sometimes in minutes.
Since we get up in the morning already worried and anxious about the day's events, and how we're going to pull off that presentation, task, interview, or project, Seppala says this type of breathing will help you to relax and restore yourself, which drops your stress levels.
For 5 minutes, take deep breaths and longer exhales than your inhales. Focus on your breathing, watching your breath go in and out. This helps your brain to focus on one thing at a time.
For adrenaline junkies during the day, Seppala says this breathing exercise helps you to manage your energy without crashing--ultimately leading you to become a happier person.
Total running time: 30 minutes.
4. Set three goals for the day.
I'm not talking about writing daily tasks on your work to-do list. You'll have that to deal with when you walk in the office later. The most successful people start the day by putting their mental focus on something that will make them better.
Here's what to do: Before noise from the outside world or your smart phone (or the kids waking up) distract you and you're off to the races, find a quiet space, take out your journal or a notepad, and write these questions down:
- What will grow you personally or professionally, and improve you as a human being today?
- What will excite you and give you more energy today?
- What will set the stage for an epic-productive day?
Make sure you write down your answers before leaving, and more importantly, have them visible as reminders during the day. Staying on track to accomplishing these energizing goals will keep your mind elevated to a positive state throughout the day. Spend no more than 5 minutes on this exercise.
Total running time: 35 minutes.
5. Reflect on three things you are grateful for in life.
Move to another quiet and sacred space, preferably outdoors (a swing bench, a dock, or under a tree). Close your eyes, breathe through your stomach and center yourself.
Meditate on the good things of life for 60 seconds--your family, job, good health, community, religion, etc. Now open your eyes and for the next 2 minutes write on your notepad or journal 3 things that you are grateful for the previous day.
Setting aside this little ritual makes the rest of your day seem manageable. You'll notice a difference and a weight off your shoulders.
Scientifically, it has been proven that doing this ritual for 21 straight days will train your brain to scan for positives instead of threats. This has been shown to be the the fastest way of teaching yourself optimism--resetting your brain to a permanent positive state.
Total running time: 38 minutes.