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How does one of the world's leading experts on happiness start the day? Tal Ben-Shahar, a former Harvard professor who taught positive psychology, considered the most popular class in the university's history, is now an author and lecturer whose books include the New York Times bestseller
Ben-Shahar told TODAY about the best ways to wake up on a joyful note. Read on for his full routine, and find more TODAY Morning Routines here.
Do you consider yourself a morning person?
Yes — I wake up early and easily, and then go to sleep relatively early.
What time do you typically get up and what's your routine like?
I get up at around 6:30 a.m. and start my morning meditation, which takes about 15 minutes. It includes deep breathing, expressing gratitude and going over what I'm looking forward to that day. Then I put on my headphones and listen to a classical music piece. (Ben-Shahar likes Astor Piazzolla's Libertango, Pachelbel's Canon in D, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody.)
Next I brush my teeth, shower and wake up the rest of my family at 7:30 a.m. Until 8:30 a.m. it's getting organized for school, preparing food and driving the kids to school. At 8:45 a.m. I sit down to write for three to four hours.
Do you set an alarm (and if so, are you a snooze-button person)?
I have an alarm set for 7:30 a.m. just in case I oversleep, but I can't remember the last time it actually went off, as I almost always wake up before that.
Having to get kids ready can add extra stress to the morning. Any tips or shortcuts for making this process go more smoothly?
Wake up a little earlier yourself, and wake the kids up a little earlier. Getting those extra 10 minutes of sleep is not worth the stress that comes from cutting it close. By having more time, you can usually avoid rushing around.
Once you're back at your desk, do you get right into "work mode" or do you start with email?
On most days, I immediately start writing. Maybe about once a week (like today) I might turn to emails first.
What are some suggestions you can offer someone to get centered and start the day on a positive note?
In the mornings, start the day with things you love doing, and which fill you up. For me it's writing. I also recommend meditation, or listening to music, or both. Research over the past four decades has shown that regular meditation — as little as 10-15 minutes a day — can change the way our brain functions. We become happier and more resilient.
What's for breakfast? Are you a coffee person?
I'm not a coffee person, and I only eat fruit until 1 p.m. I read a book called Fit for Life years ago, and decided to follow this particular prescription. Now I'm used to it, and don't crave anything else. My favorites are bananas, grapes, kiwi and dates.