Obligatory. Mundane. Caffeinated. These are words you may use to describe how you think about or approach your day. But here is a gentle wake-up call: Your morning modus operandi is important. How you begin your day can greatly affect how your day goes. And this has a domino effect. Good mornings make good weeks. Good weeks make good months. Good months make good years. Good years make, you guessed it: longevity. When we study people who live in “blue zones” or who statistically live longer lives, we find that their morning routine plays a big role in their overall health. According to the Buddha, “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
So, how can you channel your inner Buddha and transform morning go time into morning glow time? Great question. Like Rome, it might not be built in a day but taking little steps enables you to take great leaps. Here are seven ways to make the most out of your mornings and establish an overall healthier lifestyle:
- Savor your morning ritual. Go all “Choose Your Own Adventure” and figure out what you most need in the morning to make your daily story a good one. The minutia matters, too. From self-inducing coffee breath with the perfect cup of morning brew to the flavor of your toothpaste to eliminate your coffee breath, what makes you happy in the morning? It may be the wag of your dog’s tale signaling to go outside. It may be the way your flooring feels on your feet when get out of bed. Know these things and make a conscious effort to notice and incorporate them into your morning routine. They make the other less fun things like making your bed a little better.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude equals a good attitude. Even during the toughest periods of our lives, there is always at least one or more things to be grateful for. This can be something as seemingly simple as being grateful for beach walks or your favorite goofy-named OPI nail polish. Or you can look inward and find a trait about yourself that you are grateful for, like maybe you are known as someone who is trustworthy. Or you can explore your relationships. Maybe there is a friend or family member that truly enriches your life. Or it could be something that happened the day before or will happen today, like a fun, romantic date. Note: For myself, as well as my wellness clients, I developed a concept I call HI5=GAINS. If you high five each day with gratitude, affirmation, intention, networking (as in texting someone you enjoy) and spreading kindness, you will make gains in life.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Starting your day in a rush can create anxiety, and who needs more anxiety in their life? If you are someone who hits the snooze button a lot or leaves things to chance, chances are you feel harried dashing through your morning hygiene routine, breakfast, or taking the kids to school. Take a hard look at making your life easier by factoring your antemeridian “must-dos” and “would-like-tos” and budget your time so that you can plan accordingly.
- Utilize natural light. Did you know that taking in some unfiltered sunlight in the morning can help your body wake up and establish better, more consistent sleep-wake cycles? Yep. You may want to rethink your blackout curtains or not totally shut your curtains and let the sun be your natural alarm clock. Waking up gradually as the sun rises can help with mood and sleep disorders and can be less jarring on your body.
- Play music. Music lights up your entire brain, often serving as a natural energy boost and stimulating creativity, positivity and productivity. Fun fact: The cerebellum is highly activated by your favorite songs, triggering increased blood flow to the legs. This means that tried and true tune can get you moving more efficiently. Another fun fact: Your go-to jam equal joy. Listening to your favorite song produces an “anticipatory effect” similar to a Pavlovian response of excitement. Singing and dancing even ups the feel good ante. Try this: For one week, ditch the morning news and instead have a DJ party in the morning. In the great concert hall of your home (which is also known as the kitchen), enlist Alexa or your laptop or tablet, and let each family member pick a song. Note: We have found on Mondays it is fun to play all songs relating to Monday like “Manic Monday” by the Bangles or “Monday, Monday” by The Mamas and the Papas.
- Exercise your body and your brain. Starting your day with even some light stretching or yoga and then reading the paper or doing a crossword puzzle gets every one of your cylinders firing so you can be a well-oiled machine. You might be thinking, “Who has time for all that?” Well, you do. You just have to make time. And here’s why: Both generating movement in your body and your mind will keep you young by decreasing your chances of memory loss disorders like dementia. In addition, both decrease mood disorders like SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and depression and will increase your ability to focus throughout your day.
- Pre-plan the night before. After dinner, when you’re winding down, take a few minutes to look at your tomorrow. Maybe you have a big meeting. Maybe you have plans to play tennis with a friend. Whatever it is, get your head around how the following day looks, and then set out clothes for that meeting or match. You will also want to pack any food or drinks, bags, or additional clothing you may need. Get that coffeemaker locked and loaded. If it is predicted to rain, have an umbrella by the front door. These little things are time savers.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of Female IQ (femaleIQ.com).