Whether you love them or hate them, mornings set the tone for your entire day.
From the moment your alarm goes off and you first open your eyes, the first few things you do each day are indicative of how healthy, happy, and productive you’ll be for the next 15+ hours.
Want to be sure you’re starting off on the right foot? Here are 10 tried and true methods for getting the most out of your mornings so that you can set yourself up for success all day long.
1. Wake up the right way
The way you wake up each morning matters. If you’re hitting snooze on your alarm multiple times, you’re not practicing healthy sleeping habits, and that can take a toll.
As you sleep, your body goes through multiple stages of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and finally, REM sleep. Typically, REM sleep (which is the restorative, dreaming stage of sleep) happens toward the end of your night, so sleep experts say hitting snooze multiple times is disrupting what should be the most restful and restorative part of your night.
And while it might feel good in the moment to just get 5 or 10 more minutes in bed, the time between alarms is not enough for your body to fall into restorative sleep which will actually leave you feeling *more* tired than if you’d just gotten up the first time.
So what’s one of the best ways to start your day? Skip the snooze!
If you’re not a morning person, it can be really tough to do this if you have to wake up early or at a specific time for work.
Try some of these tools to help:
- Sleep Cycle app - This app is an alarm clock that allows you to set a time that you *must* be awake by, and then analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you up when you’re in the lightest possible stage of sleep that’s within 30 minutes of your target awake time to hopefully give you a more natural awakening each morning.
- A light alarm clock - Alarm clocks like this emit a soft, warm glow that gradually increases in brightness as time goes on. They’re meant to emulate the rising sun to help you wake up naturally by stimulating your circadian rhythm. This can be a much more gentle way to wake up than a normal alarm, which will make it easier to avoid that knee-jerk snooze button reaction.
Once you’re up (without snoozing!), make sure the first thing you’re doing isn’t reaching for your phone. The bright light of the screen can also disrupt your circadian rhythm. And plus, waking up to a deluge of social media posts or work-related emails will only cause you stress.
Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, try reaching for a glass of water!
Starting your day with a glass or two of water jumpstarts your metabolism and regulates your digestion. It will also help replenish your body — we become pretty dehydrated overnight while we’re sleeping, and drinking water helps to get you back on track first thing in the morning.
The benefits of drinking enough water throughout the day are so numerous, it’s tough to list them all. Water helps keep your brain energized and focused, it can help with endurance and staving off hunger, and it can help keep your skin clean and clear, just to name a few.
One of my personal goals for 2019 has been to stay hydrated throughout the day. I’ve found this water bottle, the Hidrate Spark, to be super helpful in achieving that. It tracks your water consumption and sends you reminders if you’re behind your target. It can also sync with your Fitbit or Apple Watch and will also adjust to account for the weather and your physical activity.
Whether you’re using a special water bottle, or just keeping a glass next to your bed, starting your day hydrated will only make you feel better!
3. Start with easy wins
There’s nothing better than checking something off your to-do list and feeling accomplished. And if you can get that feeling first thing in the morning? Then you’re setting yourself up for productivity and success all day long!
Identify some easy wins that you can accomplish each morning. Maybe it’s making your bed, watering a plant, or taking your dog for a walk. Give yourself a mental high five once you check them off your to-do list first thing in the morning. Look at you, already making progress so early in the day!
If you’re really looking to add to your wins, start thinking about things you can do or prep the night before to make things even easier for yourself each morning. Maybe that’s laying out your kids’ outfits, or prepping your breakfast and lunches in advance (more on that here). Anything you can do to help yourself feel efficient and positive about your progress in the morning is only going to help your attitude throughout the day.
4. Move your body
Exercising in the morning has countless benefits. Research has shown that people who exercise early in the day consume fewer unnecessary calories, are more active all day long, burn more fat, and build muscle more efficiently. Plus, your body releases powerful endorphins after you exercise, which leads to a boost in your mood.
You don’t have to run a 10k each morning (although if that’s your thing, then more power to you!). Go for a short run or walk, or do a quick yoga routine in your bedroom. Even just stretching can help!
Elevating your heart rate, even just for 20 minutes, will have long-lasting positive effects that will help you tackle the day with energy and strength.
Meditating is one of the oldest and most effective ways to center yourself. Starting your day with a meditation — even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes — can have long lasting positive effects.
If you’re unsure about how to get started, there are lots of great apps out there that can guide you through a meditation like Headspace or Calm. If you prefer the DIY method, here’s a simple breathing exercise you can use:
- Sit upright in a comfortable position — either in a chair, or cross legged on the floor — and close your eyes.
- Begin by paying attention to your breath. How does it feel? Notice it coming in through your nose, traveling through your chest, and expanding your chest and belly. Then pay attention to how it travels back out of your body.
- Now pick one spot, maybe your nose or your chest, to focus on for the next 5 minutes. Put all of your attention on how it feels as your breath travels in and out of that spot.
- If your mind starts to wander, that’s totally natural. Just notice that it’s happening and gently bring your mind back to your intended focus.
- Keep this up for 5 minutes (or more!) and then gently open your eyes.
6. Soak up some rays
Your circadian rhythm is the system that dictates a number of your body's functions like appetite, body temperature, and energy level. If you're feeling sluggish and generally not your best self, chances are your circadian rhythm is off.
Humans’ circadian rhythms mimic the patterns of the sun, so the best, most natural way to jump start your circadian rhythm each morning is by being out in the sun! Take a walk outside, if you can, even if it's cloudy. If that's not an option, just open the shades and let the light in!
If it’s dark in the morning when you wake up, you could also consider purchasing a light alarm clock or a sun lamp. Sun lamps are special lights that mimic natural light. They're frequently used to treat seasonal affective disorder and depression. Users turn on the light for a short period of time to help their bodies with melatonin and serotonin production — both benefits of natural sunlight.
7. Eat breakfast
Eating breakfast is a proven way to improve your mornings with effects that will last all day long. Research shows that people who eat breakfast have higher levels of productivity and focus throughout the day than people who skip the meal. It can also help foster a healthy weight as it reduces your likelihood of overeating throughout the day.
One of my favorite quick and easy breakfasts is a healthy smoothie. It seriously takes me 6 minutes to make and clean up, and then I’m out the door. Here are two of my top-secret recipes:
Strawberry Banana Smoothie:
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ cup steel cut oats
- 8 frozen strawberries
- 1 banana
- Combine in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth
Banana and Almond Butter Smoothie:
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 scoop of almond butter
- Combine in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth
If you feel like you’re just too rushed in the mornings, consider preparing your meals the night before! (We have some great tips on getting started with breakfast meal prep — including recipes — here.)
Starting your day journaling can help clear and focus your mind and jumpstart your creativity. (Check out this post for more about how journaling can help you be more productive!)
Set aside 10 minutes of your morning to sit down at your desk, kitchen table, or wherever you’re most comfortable, open up an inspiring notebook (I love these gorgeous notebooks!) and start writing. I’m a big fan of free-writing, just dumping whatever comes into my brain on the page, but if you’re feeling stuck you could always try using some writing prompts like these, or focusing on one of these topics:
- How do you feel this morning?
- What are your hopes or goals for today?
- What are you feeling grateful for today?
- Where are you sitting right now? What do you see, hear, or smell around you?
If you’re still feeling stuck, we have even more prompts here!
9. Practice gratitude
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude a proven way to measurably improve your happiness. Those who practice gratitude and thankfulness have lower rates of depression, experience positive moods, optimism about the future, sleep better and experience other positive physical benefits, and that these benefits last over time. What better way to start your day than with an activity that will have such positive benefits?
Reserve a few minutes to sit and think about what you’re grateful for. This can be a purely mental exercise, or you can jot your thoughts down in a gratitude journal. (One of the many benefits of keeping a gratitude journal is that you can revisit your thoughts from the past, which can help you get through trying times.)
Here are some prompts to help kickoff your gratitude practice:
- Who are you grateful for in your life?
- What experiences or memories are you grateful you get to have today?
- What are some characteristics or traits about yourself that you're grateful you have?
For even more tips about practicing gratitude, check out this blog post!
10. Make a list of priorities
Once you’re ready to turn your attention to your work for the day, take a few minutes before diving in to set your intentions for the day and focus your energy. I use my Ink+Volt Planner to set my yearly, monthly, and weekly goals and then use my Daily Task Pad to set 3-5 realistic goals for each day. I’d also recommend breaking larger tasks down into the specific steps that you’ll need to take so you have a more accurate picture of exactly what is going into all of your work.
For example, if one of my to-dos is to publish a blog post, I would break that down into the following steps:
- Write first draft
- Revise draft
- Source images
- Create header image
- Copy edit
Be sure to identify the priority order that you’re going to tackle your tasks so you’re not wasting time later on in the day hemming and hawing over what you should do next.
Whether you start by adding a walk to your mornings or resisting the snooze button, by implementing any one of these 10 tips into your morning routine, you will be well on your way to getting the most out of your mornings and setting yourself up for success for the rest of the day.