Monday mornings are rough. People tend to spend more than 30 minutes every Monday complaining — particularly in the morning — and they start worrying the night before. One survey found a whopping 80% of people feel more anxious on Sunday nights, because Mondays can be so ... ugh.
“Monday mornings follow two days of rest and rejuvenation,” said Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and Columbia University professor. “The weekends are a time when people can relax and take part in activities they truly enjoy. So, when Monday comes, it is essentially a wake-up call that sends people back to reality.”
But Monday mornings do not have to be the pits. Here are five simple, expert-backed morning habits that will help boost your sense of well-being throughout the day and beyond. (They might even help make you a Monday a.m. convert.)
1. Stay off email for a set period of time
Avoiding email might seem impossible on Monday mornings, but you should try really hard not to reach for your phone first thing when you wake up, Hafeez advised.
“Searching through emails, text messages and social media can waste time in the morning that can be spent doing more productive activities,” Hafeez said. “Social media has also been shown to harm mental health and may make you feel more stressed than need be.”
So, make a promise to yourself that you’re not going to pick up your devices as soon as your alarm goes off and allow outside forces (the news, your Instagram feed, emails, etc.) to dictate how you feel first thing. Eventually, you’ll have to let the world in, but try to at least hold off until you’ve had time to focus on yourself for a few minutes or do one or two things to prep for the day ahead, Hafeez said. It might be helpful to set a designated period of time (like 15 minutes) when you tell yourself you’re simply not going to reach for your phone or look at any other screens.
2. Move your body
“If you move your body for 30 minutes a day, it gets all of the feel-good chemicals in the brain moving, and gets you seeing things in a positive light,” said Kim Strobel, a happiness coach and founder of Strobel Education, a company that teaches happiness strategies.
Of course, whenever you move your body is great, but there are particular benefits to working out in the morning. Research suggests that getting physical in the morning can help shift your body clock so that you’re more alert when you wake up. Research also shows that morning exercise can help with memory and executive function throughout the day. And there’s also evidence that people are motivated to work out on Mondays in particular.
It doesn’t need to be anything too hardcore or too long, either. Consider a gentle warmup, a few yoga poses or some squats, for example. (Here are a few simple exercises that can make a big difference.) About 30 minutes a day is Strobel’s goal, but it doesn’t have to be yours. There’s plenty of evidence that just 10 minutes can make a big difference, so do what fits into your life and your routine.
3. Write down three things you’re grateful for
“Our brains are wired toward negativity,” Strobel said. “What we have to do is intentionally get control of our thoughts ... and try and guide those in the right direction.”
Giving thanks really can have a big impact on overall happiness and well-being, which is why experts so often recommend starting a gratitude practice of some kind. It may be particularly beneficial on Mondays, when you’re anxious about getting things done and getting out the door. Research shows that gratitude can be a big-time stress buster.
Strobel suggested simply jotting down three things you’re grateful for, no matter how small. If journaling isn’t your preferred means of expressing gratitude, that’s totally OK. Find a method that works for you.
4. Make your bed
Both Hafeez and Strobel agreed that making your bed is a surprisingly effective way to start your week.
“Making your bed is a quick and easy way to start your Monday morning off in a productive fashion,” Hafeez said. “Treat it as your first ‘to-do’ of the day and feel how satisfied you are after accomplishing something so early in the morning.”
That sense of accomplishment and forward momentum is just what you need to start your Monday off strong.
5. Cue yourself
Technically this is a Sunday evening habit, but planning ahead is one of the most powerful things you can do to make Monday mornings less painful. Specifically, set up cues that will help you stick with whatever habit (or habits) you’re trying to develop.
For example, if you know you want to move your body for 30 minutes on a Monday morning, set your workout clothes out on Sunday night, Strobel said. Or put your gratitude journal out somewhere where you’ll see it. (She personally puts her journal on the table and her workout clothes in the bathroom.)
Think of cueing as another layer of protection to make sure you’re actually following through with the habits you want to build.
“When people are just starting out, they have to have these cues so their brain says, ‘Hey, this is what I do when I wake up on Monday morning,’” Strobel said.
You’ll still have plenty of Mondays that feel chaotic or stressful or just generally meh, because morning routines can only change so much. So, take it easy on yourself and go one step at a time. Check in after a few weeks and notice how you’re feeling.
“Pick one thing you’re going to do,” Strobel said. “Pick one habit, and you’re going to set yourself physical cues so that your brain gets cues that say this is who you are, and this is how you show up for yourself.”