Weekly roundup: How your mood affects your work (and 3 ways to start the day happy)

We all know it feels better to go to work when you’re in a good mood. But your mood can actually make a bigger difference to your work life. Your productivity and effectiveness can both be improved by starting your work day happy.

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Your mood affects the quality of your work and how many breaks you take

One study of customer service reps found that a bad mood made employees perform worse than those in a good mood, and made them likely to take more breaks throughout the day, lowering their total time working.

Reps who were in a bad mood were also less likely to feel good after dealing with a happy customer (though for some reason dealing with unhappy customers often improved their mood). And those who were in a good mood tended to produce better work and be about 10% more productive overall, as well as taking fewer breaks than those who weren’t happy.

Perhaps most interesting was that this study found the reps’ moods when they first arrived at work generally stayed the same throughout the day. Despite what happened during their workday, morning moods were a very strong indicator of what the reps’ moods would be like by the end of the day.

Which means starting the day in a good mood is paramount for doing your best work.

How to start your day happy

Before you leave for work, try one (or more) of these interventions to boost your mood. It’s unlikely your mood will improve much after you start work, so those last few minutes before you leave the house are your best chance to start—and end—the day happy.

1. Talk to your barista

A very simple way to get your day started well is to add a little socialising to your morning. Whether you stop to grab a coffee on the way to work, sit down for a hot café breakfast, or just pop by the reception desk on the way to your desk, chatting and making eye contact can improve your mood.

One study found participants buying coffee who “smiled, made eye contact, and briefly conversed with the cashier subsequently reported greater satisfaction with the visit and were in better moods” than those who aimed for efficiency and avoided small talk.

The researchers suggest the benefits of this sort of interaction come from fostering a sense of belonging through short interactions with others.

It might make your commute take a few minutes more, but stopping for a quick chat with a friendly barista could improve your entire day.

2. Write about what’s worrying you

Another intervention you can try before leaving the house is to start your day with expressive writing. Writing about your struggles can help you look at them more clearly, understand how you’re feeling, and learn from your experiences.

Studies have shown this simple exercise can boost mood as well as general happiness and motivation. It can even improve your health, help your body recover more quickly from illness or injury, and increase your motivation.

It doesn’t matter what you do with your writing—you can even throw it away if you want—the exercise is simply to write about what you’re struggling with, as a way to process your feelings and improve your outlook.

3. Start your day with fruit and vegetables

Another simple option for boosting your morning mood is to change what you eat for breakfast. A study of 12,000 Australians found that participants were happier for each serving of fruit and vegetables they added to their diet, up to the recommended eight serves per day.

So even if you have a healthier serving of fruit and vegetables at lunch and dinner, another serve for breakfast could help you start your day with a smile.


What’s your best mood-boosting trick? Let us know in the comments.

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Belle B. Cooper

Belle is an iOS developer, writer, and co-founder of Melbourne-based software company Hello Code. She writes about productivity, lifehacks, and finding ways to do more meaningful work.

2 comments

  1. On mornings where I actually stop to play with my dog for a few minutes, I’m usually a lot happier. Sometimes it backfires (like when I take him for a walk when I’m running late and he turns into a monster), but more often than not I end up in a good mood after hanging out with him.

    1. That’s a great one! Not hard to work that into your routine, either, so long as you have enough time in the mornings.

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