Can making the bed change your life?
Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestselling book The Happiness Project, considers making one’s bed each morning significant progress toward happiness:
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.
And yes, last week we found that Hunch users who like their jobs make their bed each morning…or they pay someone else to.
We know there’s a difference between correlation and causation. Straightening up the sheets and covers alone does not make someone happy. But people conscientious enough to make the bed are starting the day with a routine of organization. They’re attending to a small task that makes a big difference. And once they do, they’re probably not getting back in bed for a while.
Out of more than 68,000 Hunch users, a mere 39% start the day with a made bed. For the purposes of this report, we’re only going to focus on the 27% who make their own beds and the 60% who don’t. If you’ve got someone cleaning up after you, we’ll assume your life is going pretty well.
There are a lot of messy-bedded Hunch users, so we know that not making the bed isn’t exactly the mark of a loser. Hunch users are a well-educated, politically active bunch. They have friends and jobs and dreams. If you tire them, do they not yawn?
Hunch users are made up of an even male/female split. Unfortunately, many people would still associate keeping a nice, neat bed with being a woman. There’s a reason for that, you know.
Female Hunch users are more likely than their male counterparts to make their own beds. But they’re less likely to have someone else, like a spouse or housekeeper, do it. So females are slightly more likely to leave the house each morning with an unmade bed. How do you like them apples, Mom?
So are people who make their own beds really that different from the lazy wrinkled sheet variety? Let’s see:
|MAKE THE BED
|DON’T MAKE THE BED
|At work||Like their job
|Don’t like their job
|Organization||Make a grocery list and plan a trip
|Have unreturned library books
|Keeping up appearances||Exercise more
|Personality||Friends complain they plan everything
|Friends complain they’re too disorganized
|Morning routine||Feel well-rested in the morning
|Wake up tired
Making your bed is one of those examples of how a little effort makes a big difference. Who isn’t pleased to retire to a nice, neat bed at night? It’s also common sense that a small success at the start of a day can have a positive impact for the rest of it.
And it’s not that making the bed really puts anyone out, either. People who don’t make their beds every morning usually say they don’t have time. It’s not that making their beds is taxing or a matter of personal taste. (You show me the man who prefers getting in a mess of tangled sheets at night, and I’ll show you a liar).
Hunch users who make their beds do tend to care more about appearances, but they’re not necessarily fastidious. More importantly, they consider themselves happy.
They’re also more likely to say that they’re proud of where they are in life.
But again, we have to remember that causation and correlation are not the same thing.
Hunch users who make their beds are happier, and it might not be from that alone. They tend to do other little things that contribute to happiness, like exercise, support charities, and make time to read.
Older Hunch users are more likely to make their beds, and age accounts for a lot. Older people have advanced in their careers and make more money. They tend to like their jobs, which has a significant impact on happiness. They often have families of their own. Interestingly, research has also found that older people tend to be happier. Now that’s something to look forward to.
Last year, the three-part PBS series This Emotional Life explored mental health and emotional well-being. The third episode focused entirely on happiness. The producers didn’t explore making the bed, per se, but they did find that 40% of our happiness level is affected by our choices and actions. Genetics and temperament make up the baseline at 50%. Life circumstances beyond our control account for a mere 10% of our happiness level.
So you do have quite a bit of control over your happiness. And once you’ve made your bed — or not — you don’t have to lie in it.
Is it important for you to take steps to increase your happiness? How would you start?