If you get up on a weekday at 7am but aren’t fully functioning and at your best until 10, that’s three hours of stress and unproductivity while you battle to get to work, get kids to school, or fight lunchboxes, piles or washing and household chores, or other draining tasks.
That’s not to say these things don’t need to be done – of course they do.
But if your morning routine is stressful then it’s setting you up for a less happy and less productive day ahead.
And that’s not even discussing the negative implications of stress itself, where an excess of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can lead to poor sleep, poor blood sugar regulation (leading to diabetes) and high blood pressure!
Not everyone is a morning person and science shows that your circadian rhythm (where you’re a lark or night own) could be down to genetics.
But like all genes and factors about our health, this is flexible and even if you don’t even resemble human when your alarm goes off there are some healthy morning habits you can use to help you start your day off positively.
As a very morning person myself (often up by 5), I can tell you that even I have to put certain habits and behaviours in place to make the most of those early hours before the chaos of the day descends. So I feel I’m well placed to share these tips with you!
Here are 10 healthy habits to help revive your life
It all starts with the night before. Avoid blue light from computers, tablets and phones an hour before bed, as these can disrupt sleep. Instead, use this time to get as many of the next morning’s tasks out of the way. Get clothes out, get packed lunches ready, you could even lay the table for breakfast. And make sure your essentials are where you need them – car keys, train ticket, purse etc.
2) Go to bed earlier
Feeling sluggish in the mornings could be simply because you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for your body and brain to repair and function optimally, so count back 8 hours from when you need to get up, then add an extra 30 – 60 minutes onto this – this is when you need to get into bed.
Hardly anyone falls asleep as soon as they climb into bed, so this give you some extra time to drift off slowly and even read some light fiction in bed too if it helps you to switch off, while still getting 8 hours of quality sleep.
3) Get up earlier
You didn’t want to hear this one I know! But if being rushed in the morning stresses you out (and this is the case in most households, especially if you have school age kids like I do), then give yourself more time and keep those cortisol levels from elevating too much. You’ll need to refer back to point 2 as well – an earlier start means an earlier bedtime.
4) Experiment with caffeine
Contrary to what some believe, caffeine can actually be healthy in small doses (max 2-3 cups of quality coffee or tea a day), and has been shown to improve your brain’s ability to concentrate and think properly. Only in excess is it a problem, and everyone’s tolerance level is different. Figure out whether you like caffeine or not, and if you do whether first thing in the morning or later, mid-morning, works better for you. And try to avoid caffeine after early afternoon so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
I know many successful people who begin their day with some meditation – as little as 5 minutes can work. This clears your head, relaxes and destresses you while helping to clarify your thoughts. The app Headspace has some free guided meditations that I personally use (often the night before rather than the morning, but see what works for you), and are a great introduction to meditation if you’ve not done it before.
6) Avoid sugar
Many people wake up craving sugar in the morning, so pile teaspoons of sugar into tea and coffee, drink sugary fruit juice, and sugar laden cereals. Needing sugar first thing is a sign of low morning cortisol. Yes I know I said cortisol is bad, but only in excess, and our cortisol levels should naturally peak first thing in the morning, which is what wakes us up.
Not giving in to these sugar cravings will encourage your body to wake itself up without relying on sugar, though it will take a few days for your body to adjust to this.
7) Do some yoga
Like meditation, starting the day with a few yoga poses or even some basic stretching can be a great way to warm your muscles up, lubricate your joint and get blood flowing, which in turn is really energising.
8) Eat fat
Far from being unhealthy (connections to heart disease have been rebuked), fat is what your brain is made of, and not enough of it will hinder your ability to think clearly and feel mentally well. Whole eggs, oily fish and nuts all make great additions to your breakfast, or indeed any meal during the day!
9) Get some light
Our body and brain recognises when it’s time to be awake through light signalling, so opening the curtain as soon as you wake, stepping outside for a minute while the kettle boils for your morning cuppa, or even taking a morning walk if possible is a great way to tell your body to wake up naturally. During winter, alarm clocks with a sunrise function emulate the sun rising by emitting light at the time you set your alarm for, so you wake up more refreshed. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D in Winter if you’re not getting enough light (code FITMUMFORMULA gets you 10% off BetterYou Vitamin D, here)
10) Get some fresh air and exercise
More oxygen in your lungs, some natural light and getting your blood pumping are three reasons some morning fresh air and exercise can be a great start to the day. Can you walk to school or work or get there a little early so you can fit in a 10 minute walk around the block?
Are you a morning lark, night owl, or somewhere in between?
What healthy morning habits can you start including to make your mornings less stressful, more productive and lead to a better day?