For those who didn’t know this was an actual holiday, today is National Make Your Bed Day (not to be confused with National Bed Month in March). And while we’re not often down with vague celebrations, we’re totally down with folding down the sheets every morning.
Why? While we know that many people consider bedmaking to be an irritating, pesky chore, and that some scientists even recommend that you don’t make your bed, in order to fend off dust mites, to us it’s an important habit that greatly contributes to your mental and emotional well-being.
Take it from Susan Lambert, a therapist based in New York who said one of her patients started displaying more positive feelings once she got into the habit of making her bed. “She had been a person who felt very scattered, very reactive and influenced by the people around her,” Lambert told us. “And every morning, she started doing this thing for herself and it was giving her feelings of wellness.”
Rituals are healthy way of maintaining structure; Lambert says making your bed every day is an easy task to accomplish and helps you begin your day on a strong note.“It’s a ritual that says ‘I’m awake, this is the place that I rest, and I love it, and I’m going to take care of it. It really does have some charged psychological ramifications.”
A clean bedroom, in general, lays the foundation for better sleep and a healthier life — and making sure your bed isn’t an eyesore, with sheets falling off and pillows on the floor, is a great place to start. Dr. J. Ryan Fuller, a New York-based psychologist, even tells his depressed clients to start making their bed in order to build more structure in their lives.
“Research has shown that regular, simple activities can have a significant impact on depressive symptoms,” Fuller says. “It is critical that depressed clients, or those of us who want to be more satisfied with our lives, get up and begin engaging in behaviors that indicate we have control and can manage the day. I like making your bed because it can become a natural link in the chain of starting a productive day.”
When it comes to children — perhaps the most stubborn when it comes to bedmaking — psychotherapist Sean Grover recommends that parents help their kids associate the activity with positive incentives, such as going out for breakfast afterward. He says children should get into the habit of making their beds around age eight.
“They develop greater self-discipline, and something like making the bed spills over to cleaning your desk and cleaning your shelves,” Grover says. “Kids are able to manage themselves better.”
Bedmaking is even a ritual in many military institutions — Adm. Bill McRaven, a top Navy SEAL and head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, chose it at the focus of his commencement speech at the University of Texas graduation last year:
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that's Navy talk for bed.
It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed
It's something that many of us purposely ignore, but the reward is not just a tidier bedroom, but a tidier life. Just be sure washing your sheets is part of the ritual, too.