What the first 2 minutes after waking up can tell you about the day ahead?

I bet you’ve had a day or two, during which you’ve said to yourself “I wish I would have just stayed in bed all day”. At least I have.

Wake up Mood

Over the years I’ve started to pay more and more attention to and tune into my mood as an indicator of my well-being.  Anecdotally, I’ve also noticed that my mood is a two-to-four day leading indicator of almost any kind of sickness.  Of course, it is easy to confuse your inner signals if your brain is marinated with several shots of 5 hour energy or espressos throughout the day.

More than a year ago I started tracking my mood on a scale of 1 to 5 within two minutes of waking up – every morning. The scale is simple and subjective - unlike the more sophisticated mood states used by people in white coats -  and generally for me:

  • 1 equals to “I’m pretty sure I hate the world and the world hates me”
  • 5 equals to feeling “I’m ready to change the world and take on any physical or other challenge today. Bring it on!”

My hypothesis was that within 2 minutes of waking up, I would know what and what type of effort I would be ready for that day; whether to double down or take it easy, especially in physical efforts, such as exercise. (Note, though, there’s a meta study that tells a bit of an opposite story that athlete’s top performance could not be explained by the sophisticated mood state scale)

Now that I have almost 450 days worth of valid data about my wake-up mood and the same day workout performance (using a 1 to 5 scale, relative to my baseline fitness; 1 meaning “I wish I had not tried to exercise at all” and 5 “off the charts records”) I took a look at the results.

Interestingly, there was a pretty clear correlation between my immediate wake-up mood and physical performance. (R^2 = 25%) Furthermore, if I ran the analysis after eliminating the middle mood values (=3), there was a stronger connection between performance and mood (R^2 = 34%). Arguably, I have mornings when I don’t know or have time to really tune into what’s going on and mark it as “3” or maybe good, maybe bad, which seems to make the predictive power less effective.

What had no correlation was hours slept and my physical performance, or my wake up mood and hours slept the night before. Of course, several nights of bad sleep started to have impact on mood.

What’s the take-away?

Especially as an athlete, mood seems to be a quick and easy predictor of how rested and ready my body and mind is for training or other physical performance. And even more importantly, a leading indicator before things really get bad, such as injuries. That’s a very cheap and time efficient way to determine what kind of exercise or rest your body is ready for that day. In other words, if I’m at 1 or 2, I should just rest or skip any big challenges until I’m back on track. Ignore these signals and you’ll be making backwards progress before you know.

In the future, I’d like to test (or if someone knows good research on these, please send my way!) whether wake up mood also correlates well with things like:

  • brain performance
  • mood in the evening (i.e. how likely are you to bounce back during the day)
  • creativity and effectiveness during the day

My hypothesis is that “wake up mood” could be an effective (and cheap, easy, non-invasive and very low tech) indicator for optimizing one’s business performance. This should also help avoiding prescription drugs and doctor visits before it’s too late to slow down and take it easy for a day, or a week.

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