Few people call Monday their favorite day of the week. Surveys find it’s not even the most productive day. But if the growing pile of happiness research teaches us anything, it’s that contentment is at least partially the result of conscious choices. Here’s how to use that research to plan the best Monday ever.
Dragging yourself out of bed on Monday morning can be painful, so you need a jolt of happiness fast. Exercise is a known mood booster. A 2006 study in the International Journal of Stress Management found that exercising outdoors is more energizing than exercising indoors.
The good news is you don’t have to train for a marathon; one study found the major mood improvements occur after the first 10 minutes. That should leave you plenty of time to get ready for work. (Really having trouble getting up? Go to bed earlier. People who get enough sleep generally do better than those who don’t).
Music–and particularly music that “gives you chills” per one study–causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical involved in the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. I like the choral portion of of Beethoven’s Ninth, but if Katy Perry does it for you, by all means go for that.
One study of Texas women tracked their happiness through the day. The morning commute was, no shocker, a daily low point. But various forms of socializing and eating landed near the top of the happiness scale.
Why not combine the two and meet a friend for lunch? To up the happiness factor, offer to pay. A different study found that people asked to spend small amounts of money on other people derived more happiness from it than if they spent the same amount on themselves. The brain knows the friend will likely reciprocate, and you start looking forward to your free lunch in the future, when you’ll get to socialize with your friend again!
Decades ago, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized the term “flow” to describe the state in which he found human subjects were happiest: “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it,” he wrote in the 1990 book Flow.
Your average staff meeting won’t help you achieve this state, but hopefully some aspect of your job does. When are you happiest at work? What keeps you so absorbed you don’t look at the clock? Block in at least an hour or two on Monday for this sort of work, and do your best to seal yourself off from interruptions.
Anticipation accounts for a big chunk of the happiness derived from any event. One 2010 study of vacationers found that they were happier than people not taking vacations, a finding that is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that the boost didn’t occur during the vacations, or afterwards. It came before, as people imagined the fun to come. Plan a Monday dinner with friends, or get tickets to a sports event as far ahead as possible. That way you’ll be thinking all day (if not all weekend!) about the great things Monday is going to bring.