6 Things You Should Do At Night If You Want To Be Happier In The Morning

A short evening walk can help quiet a busy mind.

Setting yourself up for a good day doesn’t just mean having a solid morning routine in place (though that’s important too). How you spend your evenings is a key part of the equation, yet one that’s sometimes overlooked.

You might be surprised at how a few small tweaks to your nighttime habits can make a considerable difference in your happiness come morning.

We asked experts to share what evening practices will have the most positive effect on your mood the following day. Here’s what we learned:

Take an evening walk.

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A short evening walk can help quiet a busy mind.

Maybe it’s a post-dinner stroll around the block or one last potty walk with your dog before you turn in for the night. But just a few minutes gentle movement outdoors can reduce blood sugar levels after a meal and help you wind down.

“I go for a walk every evening, which allows me to process the day’s information as my blood flow increases to my brain,” U.K. psychologist and well-being specialist Lee Chambers told HuffPost. “This mental tidying up gives my busy mind a level of peace, meaning I go to bed with a quiet environment and a quiet internal dialogue.”

If you’re going to be walking outside when it’s dark, be sure to take some basic safety precautions: wear reflective gear or bright-colored clothes, choose a well-lit and familiar route, ask someone else to tag along or bring your phone just in case you need it (but avoid texting, putting in your headphones or other distractions).

Put your phone down, ideally in another room.

You’ve no doubt noticed that a good night’s sleep has a significant effect on your mental state the next morning — and there’s “tons of evidence” supporting that, said Laurie Santos, a Yale University psychology professor and host of “The Happiness Lab” podcast.

To get better-quality rest, focus on improving your “sleep hygiene,” which refers to the lifestyle habits and environmental factors that affect our sleep. And how we use our devices at night is a big part of that.

“Turn off your screens about 30 minutes before bed, and consider keeping your devices away from your bed so you’re not tempted to check them out at night,” Santos told HuffPost. “I also recommend getting one of those old-school alarm clocks that don’t talk to social media or your email.”

We live in a hyperstimulating world that can put our senses on overdrive, Chambers said. Avoiding screens is one way to remedy that, but there are other things we can do to soothe our senses.

“Consider stacking sensory wind-down rituals, including relaxing scents, calming sounds and soothing warm drinks, allowing our senses to disconnect and connect back with more strength the following morning,” he said.

Take a warm bath (or shower).

Justine Grosso, a mind-body psychologist licensed in New York and North Carolina, is a proponent of an evening bath for its physical and mental health benefits, she told HuffPost.

“Totally immersing yourself in water, as opposed to showering, has been shown to lift mood in people with depression, improve sleep for people with insomnia and have positive effects on the cardiovascular system,” she explained.

That being said, if you don’t have a tub or if baths just aren’t your thing, a pre-bed shower ritual has benefits, too. As sleep adviser Robert Oexman previously told HuffPost, “showering at night can enhance sleep by augmenting the decrease in core body temperature that is necessary to initiate sleep and maintain proper sleep at night.”

A warm bath or shower can prime your body for rest.

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A warm bath or shower can prime your body for rest.

Do a body scan.

According to Cortland Dahl, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, a mindful body scan is a powerful way to ease chronic stress and mental rumination. You can do this simple mindfulness exercise while lying in bed.

“Bring attention to each part of your body, starting with your head and moving slowly down until you reach your toes,” he told HuffPost. “Pay attention to the sensations you notice in your body with a sense of warmth and non-judgmental curiosity. This activates the brain network critical for self-regulation and inner balance. It’s also a great way to de-stress and let go of all the tension that builds up in our busy lives.”

Grosso also suggests practices like yoga nidra (a meditative technique in which you “cycle your awareness around your body,” she said) or gentle stretching. Either will activate your parasympathetic nervous system — the one responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response.

This method “helps you feel more calm and drift off to a night of restorative sleep,” she said. “Over time these practices can help your body more reliably and quickly return to a sense of ease and emotional regulation after a stressful event.”

Reflect on the day.

Many of us are more likely to fret about all the things we haven’t checked off our to-do list on a given day than we are to stop and appreciate the progress we made.

“Whether written or reflected upon, note the steps taken towards a goal, the challenges overcome or tasks completed, no matter how small,” Chambers said. “And that feeling of progression will create the groundwork for some forward momentum on the following day.”

Dahl also called self-reflection “a great practice to end a busy day.” He suggests taking a moment to think about what you learned and how you grew that day.

“See if you can reframe stressful events as opportunities for self-discovery or to align with your most cherished values or guiding principles,” he said. “This simple practice strengthens our capacity for insight and can help us to approach the next day with an open mind that is ready to learn.”

End your day with gratitude.

Before you go to sleep, write down three to five things you’re thankful for. Santos pointed to the research of psychologist Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis. He and his colleagues “found that the simple act of listing your blessings in life can lead to significant improvements in your well-being,” she said. “So make your night-time gratitude list a daily habit.”

Dahl also recommends closing out the day with a short gratitude practice.

“If you spend a few minutes reflecting on people you appreciate and things you’re grateful for as part of your bedtime routine, you’ll naturally feel less stressed and more connected as you drift off to sleep,” he said.

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