You may have seen research that shows - pretty convincingly - that people who make their bed every day are significantly more likely to report being happy than people who don’t make the bed in the morning. See, for example, this post by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.
Of course correlation isn’t causation, and the question of why bed-makers are generally happier has given rise to numerous theories, and in the case of Naval Admiral William McRaven, an entire book.
- It’s a small, actionable goal that sets you up to tackle larger, more complex goals - You start your day with a win and can bring that success to your more daunting challenges.
- Tidy rooms evoke calm and peace - Making your bed is a quick and impactful way to tidy your space, which for many people contributes to a sense of inner calm.
These are worthy theories and likely to support joy in their own right. But I suspect that there’s something else happening here. When you commit to making your bed in the morning, you’re not just being disciplined or taking care of your belongings, you’re making an investment in your future self. You’re taking care by creating a serene and clean space to return to, essentially investing in your own future joy.
This is consistent with what we know about prospection, i.e. our ability to look into the future. Setting up a positive belief about the future - in this case that we will return to a comfortable and peaceful space to rest - gives us a psychological boost that carries forward into our other daily tasks and orients us toward joy.
Similarly, our other small tasks can often be more than just the sum of their parts. Consciously tying your daily tasks to your values and personal commitments creates a foundation of positive reinforcement that helps us navigate the truly thorny experiences we encounter.
It's a simple step and worth the effort - make your damn bed!