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Science Has It: 10 Tricks To Have Happier Mornings You Should Try Now

Science Has It: 10 Tricks To Have Happier Mornings You Should Try Now

So you finally decided to start waking up earlier after hearing early birds are happier than night owls, but you’re still not loving that morning alarm? These 10 tips backed by science will keep the beginning of your day bright and ensure you never wake up on the wrong side of the bed again.

Before Bed

1. Set a Bed Time

Adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep a night to be considered well rested. Getting the proper amount of sleep has numerous benefits such as lowering the risk of obesity and diseases, as well as increasing your learning and memory abilities. The takeaway? Set a bedtime that allows you to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and stick to it.

2. Sleep on your right side

When you get in bed, aim to sleep on your right side. In a Turkish study, those who slept on their left side tended to suffer from a high rate of nightmares. Right side sleepers, on the other hand, gravitated towards feelings of security and safety.

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3. Workout

Numerous studies have found that exercise improves sleep quality and helps people fall asleep faster. This plus the numerous other benefits, makes working out a key part of any healthy lifestyle.

4. Keep a Journal

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    Keeping a journal is one of the greatest things you can do for your health. Not only have journal users been found to be much happier, the action of getting your thoughts onto paper can help clear your head before a night of sleep. This alone can make those late nights spent in bed worrying disappear.

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    5. Sleep in the Dark

    A study in Molecular Psychology found that chronic exposure to artificial light can make you less happy. By decreasing exposure to artificial light you can keep your sleep quality and mood up high.

    6. Turn Off Electronics 30 Minutes Before Bed

    Staying up late on electronics like cell phones, tablets, and TVs delay the release of the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin. This can impact both your ability to fall asleep as well as your the overall quality of your sleep. Researchers advise shutting down all electronics about 30 minutes before bed in order to avoid such negative effects.

    In the Morning

    1. Eat Greek Yogurt

    Yogurt is good for you – especially greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is loaded with more calcium, which causes the brain to release nuerotransmitters associated with happiness. Plus, greek yogurt has lots of protein to keep you happy and satisfied all the way until lunch.

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    2. Take a Cold Shower

    Cold showers have been shown to have some awesome benefits. For example, faster fat loss, quicker recovery, better circulation, clearer skin, and increased mood are all boons of turning the temperature down. Start the day off right and brave out the cold. It will be worth it.

    3. Set Daily Goals

    Setting your goals in the morning will help keep you motivated and in the right direction throughout your day – and it only takes 1 minute. Simply ask yourself, “What would make today great?” Then, write down 5 things on a piece of paper and keep it with you throughout the day. This tip alone can boost the achievement of your goals exponentially. If you want more tips on setting goals, check out this post on the science of setting goals.

    4. Log gratefulness

    Practicing gratefulness has shown time and time again to boost happiness. Even thinking about things you’re grateful for in the morning can have a positive effect on your mood. Make it a habit to write and think about things you appreciate – you’ll smile more as a result.

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    Keep these tips in mind and you will be on your way to happier mornings!

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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