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Getting out of bed on the wrong side can really spoil the day

Woman reluctant to get out of bed

Getting out of bed on the wrong side can really spoil the day

Dr. Anthony Warren
| 2018-06-29 | 2 min read

Research at Penn State University suggests that waking up worrying about the day ahead can be linked to poor decision making and lack of focus even if the day works out fine. The ancient Romans considered it bad luck to get out of bed on the left side and if you did so, you would have a lousy day. The Penn State research shows there might be some truth to the saying “getting up on the wrong side of the bed.”

The researchers recruited 240 racially and economically diverse adults to take part in the study. For two weeks, the participants responded seven times a day to questions prompted from a smartphone app: once in the morning about whether they expected their day to be stressful, five times throughout the day about current stress levels, and once at night about whether they expected the following day to be stressful. The participants also completed a working memory task five times a day to test their decision making skills and how well they could concentrate. The researchers found that more stress anticipation in the morning was associated with poorer working memory later in the day whereas stress anticipation from the previous evening was not associated with poorer working memory.

According to team-member Jinshil Hyun, “humans can imagine things before they happen, an inherited behavior from our ancestors to prepare for possible unpleasant events and threats.” But the study suggests there is a downside as this ability can also be harmful to daily short-term memory function, independent of whether the stressful events actually happen or not. Martin Sliwinski, director of Penn State’s Center for Healthy Aging said the findings — recently published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences — show the importance of a person’s mindset first thing in the morning, before anything stressful has happened yet. “If you wake up and feel like the day is going to be stressful, maybe your phone can remind you to do some deep breathing relaxation before you start your day.”


"Back to the Future: Examining Age Differences in Processes Before Stressor Exposure",  Shevaun D Neupert, PhD., et. al.,The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, July, 2018 

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