Happiness Tip: Make Your Bed

Why making your bed can lead to a more productive life.

happiness-tip-make-your-bed-christine-carter

A confession: I have only reliably made my bed for the last three or so years; for the first 21 years of my adulthood, I left it a mess, occasionally making it at night right before I climbed right back into it.

Then I read that people who make their bed every morning tend to be more productive in general, and I started to see truth in the adage that “the state of your bed is the state of your head.”  The small act of making your bed probably won’t cause you to be more clear-thinking or productive or even happier, but it is a meaningful habit.

Making the bed contributes to happiness because it is a “small win” in the willpower department. Loads of research shows that when we focus on one small area of improvement–standing up straighter, or watching a bit less TV, or meditating a few minutes a day–the improvement spills over. We then find ourselves exercising a bit more, too, or procrastinating a bit less.  Our good habits, large and small, can make life easier, happier, and more meaningful.

Take Action: Tomorrow morning, make your bed. If you already do this habitually, pick another small win, e.g., wash your dishes right after eating, or floss, or do some stretches when you wake up.

Join the Discussion: What “small win” will you go for this week? Comment below.

 

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  • AMJ

    Thanks for sharing this simple concept. Small wins add up to big wins and before you know it you’re living a disciplined life filled with possibilities! I’ve realized for a long time now that that’s what’s holding me back. I’m trying to learn the art of consistency in every aspect of my life. It’s a long and tedious process, to be sure. But  I’m seeing a difference!

    • I think the key is to start small and consistent. Better to exercise everyday for 15 minutes than twice a week for an hour — the twice a week thing is always a moving target…

  • Allison Lane

    Carter, thanks so much for sharing this tidbit.  It’s funny, but I always hate leaving our room without the bed made… but I do it almost every day.  Ugh.  One of those OWN shows had a therapist who related the state of your master bedroom to the state of your relationship… That is, if your master bedroom is not a place to relax, lounge, be comfortable and connect… then who’s going to want to spend time there?!  Your room should be an oasis!  I’m still working on this, but I think about spending as much time designing our master bedroom as we do our living room. 

    • I love the insight about the state of your bed being symbolic of the state of your relationship…I have to say that really rings true for me!

  • Heatherwhite

    Great little article, thanks!  This week my small win will be packing my lunch each day!

  • Dimple Tahilramani

    Stretching as soon I wake up sounds like a Great idea 🙂

  • kapkap

    I’ve read this before, but without an explanation.  I didn’t understand why and now I do.  It makes such good sense!  My “win” will be making the bed!

  • Deborah

    I know that will make a big difference for me — especially since I don’t do it nOw and am always complaining about the disaster area my room becomes almost immediately after I’ve cleaned it up (doesn’t help that my daughter shares my bed and therefore believes it’s appropriate to stock my room with all her c^@p)! I would love to feel the clarity of a made bed and model making one’s bed for her, so that will be my little win this week. Thanks!

    • Another idea for you: at the end of the day, collect all of her things, put them in a laundry basket or box, and then place the bin in her room for her to put those things away. 5 minutes to greater peace and order!

      • Emilie

        Oh, I like that one!  I’m going to use it.  My house also gets to be a disaster soon after I clean up, and when I went to clean up a couple of days ago again, I said, “most of this is not my stuff.”  So it’s the end of the day.  Here I come with a clothes basket! 

  • Sue

    Walking into a messy room makes me feel disorganized.  Making the bed in the morning does help. Another thing I try to do before going to bed is straightening up the kitchen so I don’t awake to a chore that needs addressing before my cup of coffee.

    • Such a small thing, but so important, I’ve found, to not start the day feeling overwhelmed.

  • Sarah Kennedy

    My husband makes the bed every day – and I love it!  My win will be to make my lunch the night before.  This is one small step towards being able to participate in bike to work month in May.  The next small step is figuring out drop of of the kiddos at daycare/preschool…Thanks for the inspiration to make a small change!

    • Love that you are starting small. Better to make slow steady progress than none at all.

  • Judi VanErden

    Being in bed by 10:30.Scratch that. Being in bed–after I turn down the covers–by 10:30.

  • Christen

    My small win for the week would be a huge win for my life. I would really love to stop being so late and rushed all the time. I look at people who are early to events, work, etc. and think- how do they do it? I am going to do whatever it takes to change this “unhappiness habit.” 

    • That is a big win. Can you pick something smaller — like one small thing you do to feel less rushed or late? Maybe wake up 10 minutes earlier?

  • Stephanie

    Walk every day just for the sake of walking, even if it is around my work parking lot.  It seems I am so rushed going every way that I could use a pause in my day.

    • Love this. I also try to go for a 10 minute walk outside everyday. Sometimes it is broken up into two 5 minute walks.

  • Artimadsen

    Dear Ms Carter, I’ve been getting your emails for some time. I’ll admit that sometimes I just delete them without reading. I guess I was just meant to read your above message. Your message really struck a note of inspiration in me. Sometimes I make my bed first thing in the morning, and sometimes I didn’t. I’ve come to realize that making my bed immediately, sets the tone of my day. I’ve read and reread your message over and over in the past week. I’ve become energized by it. Want you to know that I am a 70 year old mother of 3 and grandmother of 2, and still your message is relavent to me. Thank you for your inspiration. Have a wonderful day. I am

  • Jenepen

    Our bed is made as soon as the LAST person gets out of it, either him or me. It has been a ‘rule’ for a long, long time now. I feel more ‘on top of things’ just to have that small chore accomplished ASAP. I find that it also works with many other ‘little’ chores that need to be done daily, I just do them, get them out of the way and then I am left with more time to do the things I LOVE to do and ENJOY doinging.

    PS…I just love Raising Happiness!!!

  • liz

    I can really appreciate this tip and its getting one off to a good start of the day – I read once that the reason we open our curtains is to let our light out – to share it with the world…not only to let the light in….I don’t really care for the other tip – washing the dishes – i do care for stretching – doing something that is house work related, like washing the dishes – is not challenging nor creataive – too sexist —   not helpful to get women reaching their potential….

    • How is washing the dishes right after you eat a sexist suggestion? Only if you are female and you have a male around to wash the dishes, too, I guess…

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  • Meg

    Argh. Can’t unsee it, now. Too late. I am one who sees making the bed as one of those meaningless tasks people mistake for virtue. My objection? It entails effort that stands merely to be undone, with no net gain in the meantime. It’s busywork. Work done just for the sake of doing it, with no other consequence or benefit. Very sorry to see it somehow dovetails with happiness, because then I might start feeling guilty about not valuing it.

    • Christine Carter

      It only has value if you feel a sense of calm (or other positive feeling, however subtle) when you see a made bed.

  • idagatwood

    I just saw you on Dr.Oz. Your were wonderful. I’m going to start making my bed:)

    • Christine Carter

      Awesome!

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