While researching her book on happiness, best-selling author Gretchen Rubin found that making the bed was the number one most impactful change people mentioned. The two reasons cited were that it creates a more peaceful environment and provides satisfaction, given it’s such an easy habit to stick to.
Creating order in your physical environment will help to set off a chain of equally positive habits throughout the day, not to mention it feels much nicer walking past a tidy bedroom than a disheveled mess.
There are myriad studies linking regular exercise to a boost in mood and productivity.
“Long days of Zoom calls and working in one spot without moving around much are mentally and physically draining,” says Dr Libby Sander, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Bond Business School, Bond University.
“Implementing some simple steps to keep active during the day are important for our mental and physical wellbeing.”
Allowing 15 minutes each morning for gentle movement such as stretching or yoga will wake the muscles and help you limber up for the day. Follow this with a brisk walk or cardio session, which releases mood-boosting hormones.
“While some people love the freedom of working in their pyjamas, others find that having a clear routine that is similar to their days when working in the office can be helpful,” says Sander. “For example, studies have shown that getting dressed in work attire helps people assume their professional identity.”
One study found that dress can influence key work-related factors, from the way people approach decision-making to their amount of focus on a specific task. The definition of work attire is different for everyone, but the aim is to feel like you’re in “work mode” rather than simply lounging around the house.
Enjoying a nutritious meal before you start work will give you the energy needed to stay focused, with many studies linking a healthy breakfast with better memory and concentration throughout the day.
It’s not only what you eat but how you eat that counts, so rather than scoffing down your oats while you check emails, take the time to mindfully chew your food, paying attention to the tastes and textures. A wholesome breakfast can also help to curb sugar cravings later in the day.
“Spending time in nature has proven benefits for our mental and physical health,” says Sander. “Sitting outside with your coffee or taking a walk in the park before work can be very beneficial.”
A 2015 study found participants experienced increased focus and positivity and lowered stress levels following just 40 seconds of exposure to the natural world.
If you’re unable to leave the house, you can still trigger your brain into a more attentive state by tending to indoor plants, taking in some fresh air and sunlight, or even looking at an image of natural scenery.
Sander says that starting the day feeling organised is always a good thing, her own research showing that physical work environments can play a large role in influencing employee performance and wellbeing.
“Our brains dislike clutter and disorganisation,” says Sander, “so starting your day rummaging through old coffee cups and piles of paper on your desk while trying to figure out what you have on that day is not going to be a great start.”
She suggests setting clear goals and priorities, so start with a quick tidy up of your workspace and write a to-do list for the day ahead.