We are all lucky enough to wake up in the morning, but most of us never truly feel “awake.” You may rely on the snooze button too often, or a too many cups of coffee to get you out the door only to need even more to get you through the day. You slug through your daily responsibilities only to collapse on the couch after a long day, even more exhausted.
We all have a morning routine, and routine is important—it’s what sets the pace for your day. So imagine how your life would change if your morning routine actually set you up for a motivated, driven and productive day. Imagine how much easier it would be to wake up ready to tackle whatever may get thrown your way instead of dreading what lies ahead.
Set the tone for the rest of the day by working a few of these 10 healthy habits into your morning exercises, all before you’ve even had breakfast.
1. Drink water
Keep a glass of water on your nightstand so the first thing you do each morning is hydrate. Our bodies are made up mostly of water, and staying hydrated is important for combating fatigue, flushing out toxins from the body, and getting all your body systems and hormones in check. You should aim to drink 64 ounces of water a day, but most of us fall short of that total. Make a habit of sipping water throughout the day; starting first thing in the morning will help build the habit.
2. Take five deep breaths
Instead of opting for a few more minutes of non-restful “sleep” by hitting the snooze button, simply take a few deep breaths when your alarm goes off. Deep breathing, where you inhale through your nose into your diaphragm to fill your tummy, and exhale through your mouth slowly, controling the rate at which you release your breath, can help you control stress, wake up your digestive system, get your circulatory system moving, and center your mind to expel any negative feelings.
3. Get focused
We have a lot of influence over how our day turns out: positive, negative, stressful or enjoyable, and it has nothing to do with outside forces or what the universe throws your way. Creating our own positive energy with our minds puts us in a greater mind frame to handle stressors and see obstacles as opportunities instead of roadblocks. Morning is the best time to do this type of visualization because we (hopefully) wake well rested, with our minds clear of any negativity from the day before or anxiety about anything still to come. You can do this a few different ways:
Set your intention for the day: where do you want your mind to be all day? Not what do you want to accomplish, don’t just rattle off your to-do list, but how do you want to feel? How do you feeling when you are most creative? Successful? Happy? By putting our brains in the state of mind we feel when we have these things, we create our reality.
Positive affirmations are another great way to set your brain in a positive place. Affirmations are simple short phrases that you repeat to yourself that resonate with a personal truth of yours, something you need to remind yourself of, or where you want to be emotionally: I am fulfilled. I am content. One of my personal favorites: I have enough, I do enough, I am enough. We have negative self talk all day long and don’t even realize it, but making deliberate time to have positive self talk can change your whole way of thinking. Sit in it. Feel it.
If you find it difficult to quiet your mind, even in the morning, try showing gratitude. Give gratitude for three different things each morning that you are thankful for to start your day with an open heart.
These exercises are good for your health, too. Neuroimaging has shown that positive visualization can reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure by eliminating stress.
4. Stretch in bed
Don’t just spring out of bed in the morning. Your muscles are cold, tight and still sleeping. Wake them gently, just like you like to be woken up, to get the blood moving gradually. Sit up tall in bed with your legs crossed. Interlace your fingers and reach your arms up tall overhead. Take a deep breath and slowly reach your arms to the right to feel a stretch down the left side of your body, then to the left to stretch the right. Repeat as many times as you’d like.
5. Do sun salutations
Alright, time to get up and greet the day! Reenergize the muscles of the body, get fresh, oxygenated blood into your muscles and brain and truly wake up every cell in your body with sun salutations. They’re the perfect morning exercises.
6. Break a sweat
Break a sweat first thing in the morning to ensure you have energy all day long instead of saving your workout for the last thing on your to-do list. Exercise releases feel-good, energizing chemicals that last all day. Researchers suggest that morning workouts set your sleep cycle, giving you energy all day and tiring you at bed time, while evening workouts may flip that schedule. It doesn’t need to be intense to get the benefits: go for a run or simply walk the dog around the block to wake up your metabolism and breathe in the fresh morning air. Bonus points if you can catch the sunrise during your sweat session. Just like plants, humans chemically respond to sunshine. Bright sun rays can boost seratonin and looking out onto a wide landscape instead of four walls encourages your brain to perceive expansiveness and growth, just what you need to get excited for your goals and to tackle the day.
7. Listen to uplifting music
Listen to music that speaks to you while you are stretching, doing your workout, or during the rest of your get-ready routine. Music has the amazing ability to resonate with your spirit and feed your soul. If music doesn’t do it for you, try an empowering audiobook or motivational podcast to learn some new tips and tricks to set yourself up for success. Adjust the content for whatever you may be facing that day. Have a big presentation? Listen to something that will make you feel powerful enough to command a room. Job interview? Listen to something that builds your confidence and calms your nerves. The mind is powerful and always hungry for new information, so nourish your mind the same way you would your body.
8. Take a cold shower
This one’s only for the brave. If you’re still sleepy, a cold shower will wake you up quickly. It’s not just for the shock factor, though: cold showers boost your immune system and metabolism and can speed muscle recovery after a tough workout, just like an ice bath for athletes. Cold showers can also stimulate noradrenaline secretion in the brain, which improves mood disorders like depression. It’s also a trick entrepreneurs and other successful individuals use for productivity: change happens outside of your comfort zone, so train yourself to embrace discomfort.
You don’t have to start your shower cold but to get the benefits, you have to finish it cold. Hot showers are a luxury, (one many people around the world don’t experience) but they also relax instead of energizing you. Stepping out of a hot shower into cooler air drops your body temperature suddenly, which leaves you in a relaxed, tranquil state. This is helpful at night for those who have trouble sleeping, but not what you need before a big day.
By now, maybe you’re glowing in blissful motivation, but if not, fake it until you make it. Just like positive thoughts can lead to positive moods, positive actions can, too. Take a moment to look in the mirror, and then smile at yourself. You’ll feel better all around. Fake smiles are easy to catch, as they usually use fewer facial muscles than real ones, especially the muscles around the eyes, so try to make it the real deal by recalling happy memories, visualizing your family or friends, or finding a reason to laugh.You’ll be surprised at the positive thoughts this exercise conjures up. Self love is the best love.
10. Plan your breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day—it not only wakes up your metabolism but it dictates how your body runs the rest of the day, so prep a meal that will set your hormones and energy levels off on the right foot. Those who skip breakfast have a significantly higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease compared to breakfast eaters, and numerous studies link eating breakfast with a healthier body weight. Even if it’s something small, you must eat something. Whatever you choose, make sure it includes complex carbohydrates give your brain energy for better concentration and to control energy, blood sugar and thus appetite well past that typical 10 a.m. vending machine break.