May 2017: “Making your Bed”

Title: Making your Bed

Activity: Make your bed every morning

Science: This simple task has been shown to have positive effects in three important aspects of well-being: happiness, sleep, and productivity.

According to a survey of 68,000 people by Hunch.com, only 27% of people make their beds in the morning (59% of people don’t make their beds and 12% pay for a housekeeper to do it for them). What’s surprising is that 71% of the people who make their beds consider themselves happy, while 62% of the people who do not make their beds claim to be unhappy. This data is correlational and not causal, meaning it does not definitively prove bed making results in increased happiness, though the high correlations demonstrate that the two concepts are heavily related.

Additionally, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey from 2010, people who make their beds every day or almost every day are more likely to experience a good night’s sleep every day or almost every day (44%) compared to those who make their bed less often or not at all (37%), representing a 19% difference in sleep experience.

There are many influential happiness and productivity authors who back up these claims and offer additional anecdotes. Below you will find a curated selection of quotes from Gretchen Rubin, Charles Duhigg, and Navy Seal William H. McCraven.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, explains “sticking to any resolution — no matter what it is — brings satisfaction. You’ve decided to make some change, and you’ve stuck to it. Because making my bed is one of the first things I do in the morning, I start the day feeling efficient, productive, and disciplined.”
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit whom we met in an earlier post, explains “making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” Duhigg goes on to explain that bed-making is a keystone habit, a baseline habit that encourages additional habit making and positive behavior.
Navy Seal William H. McCraven, author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, comments “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”

Results: This was, without a doubt, the easiest task I have ever set out to accomplish on a daily basis. I had no issues making my bed every day, regardless of how I was feeling in the morning and whether or not I was traveling (yes, I made my beds every morning in hotels and guest houses as well). I anecdotally noticed an increase in positive emotions in the morning after making my bed — starting off my day on a positive note each morning seemed to get the ball rolling for other positive thoughts and behaviors.

Thoughts:

  1. Small actions can result in significant positive emotions: I did not truly believe that making my bed every morning would be something I would be proud of, but it somehow resulted in exactly that. It’s difficult to do follow through on a commitment to do anything on a daily basis, and accomplishing something even as small as making your bed every morning can result in a true feeling of accomplishment.
  2. Making my bed led to a cleaner room and more peaceful environment: Potentially a small side effect of having a neatly made bed was a wanting to keep the rest of my room equally clean and presentable. As a whole, this made my bedroom a more peaceful and calming environment throughout the day and at night before going to bed.
  3. This should be everyone’s first habit forming activity: As someone who has spent a lot of time researching habits and implementing them into my life, I would now recommend that anyone interested in increasing their productivity and/or happiness should consider starting with making their bed every morning. It takes very little time, it is easy to form the habit, and it results in increased positive affect.

Next Steps: I plan to make my bed every day for the rest of my life, while encouraging those around me to do the same. The clear benefits of such a simple task are too significant to ignore.

For more behavioral psychology and economic activities like this, visit www.behavioralpositivity.com — one activity posted every month.

Research:

Duhigg, Charles. The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.

McRaven, William H. Make Your Bed Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World. New York: Grand Central, 2017. Print.

The Happiness Project with Gretchen Rubin: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2009/08/make-your-bed/

National Sleep Foundation (PDF): https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/bedroompoll/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-candy/201208/make-your-bed-change-your-life