Start the day off on the right foot with these science-proven habits to help you have a happier, less stressed, and more productive day ahead.
1. Meditate in the morning.
If you haven’t started meditating yet, chances are, you probably know someone who is doing this mindful, focused breathing practice. One of the biggest benefits of meditating daily? It can calm that anxious monkey brain that starts stressing out about the day before you’ve even finished your morning coffee.
Meditating in the morning is a great way to start the day off on the right foot. It can help you be more patient, give you skills to help you manage stress when it crops up during the day, and help you stay in the present moment.
You might want to download a meditation app’s free trial (like Inscape, Headspace, Calm) to get started with guided meditations. You could also watch some how-to videos on YouTube, or learn mindfulness practices that help you stay present while you’re walking or eating. Once you start learning this technique, you’ll find plenty of places to practice it throughout the day.
No matter what type of meditation you choose, practicing regularly will help you be way more chill in any high-stress situation, like when your boss tosses a project on your desk Friday afternoon and wants it completed by end of day. Ugh! We mean, Om.
2. Start an exercise routine.
Anyone who’s tried to start a morning exercise habit before (um, like in January) knows how challenging it can be to stick with for the long haul. But you probably also remember how good it felt to get your workout out of the way early and felt energized the rest of the day.
Working out in the morning can help you feel more awake, can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, levels for hours, and it can boost cognitive activity—like memory and executive function—for the rest of the day. What’s even better is that you can reap these benefits simply by walking in the morning! You might also want to join a friend for a jog or gym sesh, or, sign up for a morning workout class at your fitness center.
If you struggle with getting out of bed in the morning, get your workout clothes and sneakers together the night before, set your alarm to wake up earlier so you have time for exercise and getting ready for the workday, and most importantly, go to bed early so it’s easier to get moving in the morning.
3. Drink water.
Sure, it sounds simple enough, but how many of you would say the first beverage to hit your lips in the morning is a caffeinated one? That’s what we thought.
You're dehydrated after sleeping so chugging a glass of water soon after you wake up will help you feel more awake and set you up for getting the fluids your body needs each day. Remember, your body is 60 percent water and needs these fluids to function optimally. (Yes, you can get them through foods and other beverages, too.) When you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to be in a sour mood and might not perform as well on complex tasks that require significant attention, according to research. Put a water bottle on your nightstand or next to the coffeemaker so you remember to drink it as you get the day started.
4. Get fresh air.
You don’t want to leave your home until you absolutely have to, but you might be surprised to find that getting out in the morning can help you feel more awake and give you energy. Exposing yourself to green space in particular can reduce high blood pressure, stress, and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Commit to spending time outdoors a few mornings a week, whether that’s tending to your garden, reading outside if the temperature allows (preferably in the sun for vitamin D), or exercising outdoors in a natural setting. You’ll return home feeling energized, calmer, and ready to tackle your daily tasks.
5. Do a brain-training exercise.
Before you groan and ditch this idea because it sounds like more work before you go to work, give this morning habit a shot. Some studies have found brain-training games can help with memory and processing speed. Think about it: If your brain is working more efficiently throughout the day, you can get your work done faster and leave on time (or early) for a win-win situation! Download a brain game on your smartphone or on your desktop (like Lumosity or Elevate) and play it on your commute if you don't drive or before you leave the house. You could also tackle a Sudoku puzzle in the morning paper or play Words with Friends or Candy Crush to stimulate your brain. Think of this practice as daily strength training for your brain.
Although these daily morning habits are good practices, trying to adopt them all at once might be too much of a disruption in your routine. Try one this week, two the next, and work up to doing all five within a month or two.
Which one are you going to try first? Tell us in the comments below!