The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Find It Hard To Wake Up in the Morning? Try Stretching

I pay particular attention to my neck...

Every morning, first thing, to help myself wake up (it is 6:00 a.m., after all), I spend a minute or so stretching. This isn’t a rigorous or carefully designed set of stretches—more the kind of desultory stretches that we did in my seventh-grade P.E. class before running laps around the gym.

I touch my toes, I do some straddle stretches, I twist left and right, etc. I do this not for any scientifically based reason (in fact, from what I read, it seems that this kind of stretching may not always be a good idea), but because it helps me feel awake and energetic. This easy, simple habit makes me feel much more alert and comfortable in my body.

I pay particular attention to my neck, because I have a history of pulled muscles in my neck. I actually think to myself, “Wake up, neck!” as I turn my head from one side to the other, then move my head forward and back. Again, for very unscientific reasons. A friend told me that he’d heard (note: high probability of urban legend) that many people pull muscles as a result of suddenly reaching for their alarm clocks—that the abrupt movement, right out of sleep, was hard on muscles.

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I thought about this, and I realized that when I’d pulled a muscle in my neck, it had always happened in the morning. For instance, my worst episode came when I pulled my neck first thing, as I was filling my electric kettle at breakfast. I looked down at the faucet, and I could feel the muscle riiiiiiiiiiiip. Of course, I realized, my seeing this morning pattern might just be an example of confirmation bias, but waking up my neck seemed like an easy idea that couldn’t hurt.

I stretch my whole body, though, just to feel more energetic and ready for my day. When I skip the stretching, I really notice the difference in my physical experience.

How about you? Do you have any strategies to help you feel awake and energetic in the morning? Or to avoid neck strain.

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Also ...

  • I always find a lot to read and ponder on Seth Godin's blog.

  • I'll be traveling to many cities for the book tour for Happier at Home. Check the schedule, come to an event if you can! And spread the word! Every writer has nightmares of no one showing up for a book event—and lest you think this is a vain worry, it has happened to two of my friends.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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