It’s long been used as an excuse, but waking up on the wrong side of the bed is a real thing. It seems that having a bad day is actually all our fault.
It’s about that time of day where we realise what kind of day it will be. If it’s bad, the lunching hour is one of commiseration. Fifty-five minutes of wondering how it got this bad, and how good it would be if we could just go back to bed.
On this lunchtime, I have some unfortunate news, the tired tradition of ‘getting up on the wrong side of the bed’ is a legitimate psychological thingo. According to a new study, those who wake up believing that today will screw them will invariably be screwed by today.
“Humans can think about and anticipate things before they happen, which can help us prepare for and even prevent certain events,” explains one of the researchers, cognitive psychologist Jinshil Hyun from Pennsylvania State University.
“But this study suggests that this ability can also be harmful to your daily memory function, independent of whether the stressful events actually happen or not.”
To test their theory, 240 people were recruited. Over a period of two weeks, the participants would be pinged by a smartphone app, asking them about their stress levels.
In the morning, the prompt would enquire whether they expected their day ahead to be a stressful one. From that point on, they’d have to rate their current stress levels. Finally, they’d respond on whether they thought the following day would be stressful.
In addition to gauging their current or anticipated stress, each member of the group also had to complete a number of working memory tests during the day, in which they were challenged to remember arrangements of dots on a grid.
Tl;dr, the researchers found that higher levels of stress anticipation in the morning were associated with poorer brain function later that day.
“Importantly, the effect of stress anticipation was over and above the effect of stressful events reported to have occurred,” the researchers write, “indicating that anticipatory processes can produce effects on functioning independently of the presence of an external stressor.”
So, clearly, you can scrape the assumption that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as it seems we should take a loving spoonful of that sweet sweet delusion.