In a perfect world, you’d wake up feeling refreshed and happy every day—but we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? Some days, you wake up feeling a little…off, and for no good reason. The good news is, it’s totally normal for moods to fluctuate. “We probably awake most often in a neutral mood, with some days in an upbeat mood and some days in a down mood,” says psychologist Jennifer Carter, PhD. Basically, don’t be hard on yourself if your morning mood happens to be less than cheerful on a given day.
While it’s indeed often the case that you wake up on the wrong side of the bed despite nothing being objectively wrong, there are a few explanations that highlight why you might be having a down day. For starters, poor sleep hygiene leading to lack of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep—which is important for both physical and mental health—doesn’t help, Dr. Carter says. “When you don’t get enough REM sleep, in particular, you may awake feeling grumpy,” she says. And an extra-happy happy hour the night before may also contribute. While alcohol can help you fall asleep quickly, it steeply compromises sleep quality, says David Klow, LMFT, author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist. Again, that can leave you feeling off in the a.m.
Ultimately, a slew of reasons could explain your slightly off morning mood, says clinical psychologist Lily Brown, PhD. Maybe you read an upsetting story before you went to bed, had a bad dream, or have been dealing with a constant current of stress for a while now. Whatever it is, pinpointing likely triggers is important so you can work to avoid future down mornings. “Taking a regular account of what feels good and what doesn’t might help with tracking the ups and downs,” Klow says.
1. Know that it’s okay to allow yourself to wallow a little
“Rather than just allowing for happiness or good feelings each day, it helps to expand your capacity to allow the experience of the entire spectrum of emotions,” Klow says. (If nothing else, you can feel good knowing that you’re helping yourself to grow emotionally.)
2. Once you’ve given yourself a beat, fight the urge to just lie in bed
“Waking up feeling down doesn’t have to dictate what you do that day,” Dr. Brown says. If you give in to the urge to lie in bed or avoid everyone, you might feel good for a moment, but you can actually end up feeling even more bummed out if you do it for too long, she says.
3. Try to get your blood flowing
“Sometimes we wait to take action until after we feel better,” Dr. Carter says, adding that fighting that urge by getting out of bed, taking a shower, and even going to the gym can pay off big. “Do anything to get the body moving, and you will likely feel better.”
4. Practice mindfulness
Ask yourself what you notice in your body and where you notice the down feeling taking hold. What are your thoughts or sensations about it, and how do you respond to these thoughts, feelings, and sensations? Are you self-critical or are you more self-compassionate? Being able to recognize the source of the morning mood can help you rid yourself of it faster, Klow says.
5. Connect with someone else
This can be as simple as shooting a friend a text to check in, or calling a loved one to talk about your feelings—really, anything may work. “We are all wired to connect,” Klow says. “Finding someone or something to connect to can help you to not feel as down.”
6. Go easy on yourself
Perhaps most importantly, remember that this experience is normal. “Recognize that feelings are temporary,” Dr. Carter says. And while it’s true that everyone has fluctuations in their mood, if you find that you’re really distressed by these bad mornings and they’re interfering with your ability to function at work, school, and in your relationships, Dr. Carter says it may be time to check in with a mental-health professional.
But, if it’s just on the odd morning that you find yourself feeling off, try to look at the bright side: “Sometimes there is a treasure in the low feelings,” Klow says. “You might learn something about yourself, or get a particular perspective on life if you allow yourself to investigate the sadness.”