Many of us can probably remember one not-so-great memory from our childhoods: our parents instructing us to make our beds in the morning! Many years later, some adults still have mixed feelings about this habit. In fact, making or not making the bed seems to be a controversial topic. In some ways, it even defines personalities; you may have heard the tongue-in-cheek expression that there’s two types of people in the world – those who make their beds and those who don’t.
Of course, making our bed is a personal choice, but, interestingly, it can have an impact on our mental well-being. So, which side of the bed making debate do you sit on? If you're rushing to get to work or take the kids to school, tidying your sleeping space might seem the last thing you want to do, but it turns out that taking a minute or two to do just that could make a positive impact on the rest of your day.
Retired US admiral William McRaven once said that “if you want to change the world, start by making your bed”, and he even wrote a book about it, the aptly entitled Make Your Bed. But McRaven isn’t the only well-known personality to extol the virtues of this orderly habit.
Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson also said something along those lines when he wrote that one of the key rules for life is cleaning your room, which, of course, also includes making your bed. When reading these statements, you might wonder what does making your bed have to do with bringing change to the world?
The short answer is that making your bed is a healthy habit that ensures you start your day with something accomplished. Even if that one task is a small thing, it can make a world of a difference to your mindset for the rest of the day.
Indeed, your internal dialogue can go from “today I didn’t accomplish much, I didn’t even make my bed!” to “even if nothing else goes well today, at least I did make my bed!”. In fact, good habits and the positive attitude they cause are the cornerstones of positive change, which can very well start in your own bedroom.
There are other benefits to making your bed every day, beyond the powerful impact on habits, daily structure and internal stability.
There’s something very visual about a made or an unmade bed. The first transmits the idea of order, whereas the second does exactly the opposite. Living in a messy environment has been linked to some mental health conditions, like depression, and it could also suggest that a person is struggling to cope with problems or feeling overwhelmed.
On the other hand, psychologists believe that organisation helps with stress reduction, and that disorganisation can impair our ability to focus. The opposite is also true: making your bed is a step towards getting your room or house organised.
Making your bed every day may seem trivial, but the action can serve as a reminder that you’re in control of at least one thing in your life. Like other habits, making your bed daily requires responsibility and commitment. Knowing that you can set your mind to something and persevere day after day can increase your personal satisfaction levels and improve your confidence in your own abilities.
“Making your bed every day may seem trivial, but the action can serve as a reminder that you’re in control of at least one thing. Like other habits, making your bed daily requires responsibility and commitment.”
This habit can be “practice” for other tasks that may lie ahead and make you feel more confident about your ability to tackle them. There’s some pride in saying “I did this today” or “I took care of my immediate environment first thing in the morning”.
Getting better sleep is essential to our mental and physical health, but there are lots of things that can interfere with restorative sleep. The brain controls part of the sleep cycle, so if it detects something uncomfortable, the quality of your sleep may be affected. That “something” can be invisible (like worrying about something before heading to bed) or visible, like the tidy bed you made in the morning. The sight of a made-up bed can send a signal to the brain to make sleep more appealing and less vulnerable to disruption.
RELATED: 14 sleep hacks to get a good night's rest
Make your bed and sleep better shutterstock/Prostock-studio
One of the reasons behind inaction or demotivation is that we sometimes try to skip steps when we set goals. For example, someone who wants to start exercising can frame the goal as “I want to work out every day”. But if they don’t start by exercising one or two days a week, the whole goal seems to difficult and unattainable.
The same applies to making your bed. By doing this, you’re setting up the basis for adopting bigger goals or routines. And if you’re the type of person who resists the idea of making the bed every morning, knowing you can push past the resistance can prepare you for bigger challenges.
A survey with 68,000 participants found that people who made their beds daily felt more satisfied with life and felt better physically than those who didn’t. And while we can’t establish a direct causal link between making your bed and being happier, it can be a roundabout way to higher well-being.
“When making your bed becomes a daily habit, expect to see improvements in your organization skills, self-confidence and even your sleep quality.”
This is mostly because sticking to a productive habit makes it easier to develop other good habits. And the more good habits in our life, the more we are investing in our physical and mental health.
If you have decided to be more consistent in making your bed every day, you may face the typical resistance that is felt when adopting new habits. This can materialise in the form of excuses, low motivation, procrastinating, etc. Here are some tips to help you with that:
Making your bed is a positive habit that takes very little effort once you push past the initial resistance. Indeed, when this becomes a daily habit, you can expect to see improvements in your organization skills, your self-confidence, your ability to create other good habits, and even your sleep quality – those are fantastic benefits for something that only takes a couple of minutes of your day! •
Main image: shutterstock/Crime Art
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A social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
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