I’ve written about the resolution to make your bed before, and I’m bringing it up again. Why? To my astonishment, when I’ve asked people what happiness-project resolution has made a big difference in their happiness, many people cite the modest “Make your bed.”
Happiness is a lofty aim, and making your bed is such a prosaic activity. Why does it boost happiness so effectively?
From my own experience, and what people have told me, I think there are two reasons.
First, making your bed is a step that’s quick and easy, yet makes a big difference. Everything looks neater. It’s easier to find your shoes. Your bedroom is a more peaceful environment. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.
Second, 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.
(Now, some people say that, to the contrary, they revel in not making their beds. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “The opposite of a great truth is also true,” and for some people, a useful resolution might be “Don’t make your bed.” One person wrote to me, “My mother was so rigid about keeping the house tidy when I was a child that now I get a huge satisfaction from not making my bed, not hanging up my coat, etc. It makes me feel free.” Some people thrive on a little chaos. Everyone is different.)
True, making your bed is a small gesture—but that’s one reason that it’s a good resolution. Sometimes the steps toward happiness seem insurmountable. Getting a job in a brutal work market, dealing with a troubled child, living with chronic pain—there are no easy solutions to these happiness challenges.
Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery. Making your bed is a good place to start, and tackling one easy daily step is a good way to energize yourself for tougher situations.
What about you? Does making your bed—or not making your bed—contribute in a small way to your happiness? Or have you found other manageable resolutions that have brought more happiness than you would’ve expected?
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.