Woman stretching during sunrise

The choices we make first thing have a big impact on our day ahead. Here are seven easy ways to improve your mornings and help you make healthier decisions throughout the day. And none of them include getting up at 5am!

How many times have you rushed to work this week, or snoozed your alarm? “When we’re under stress, we run off adrenaline and release cortisol, our stress hormone. If you use up too much cortisol in the morning, your energy levels are likely to take a dive in the afternoon.”

By being a little more mindful in the morning, we can instantly set ourselves up for a happier, healthier day. For example, what we eat and drink in the morning tells our body and metabolism how to behave for the rest of the day. Similarly, morning exercise is proven to promote wakefulness and boost our concentration better than caffeine, according to researchers at the University of Georgia.

Ready for some morning inspiration? Here are seven healthy habits that’ll improve your mornings and get you off to a good start

1. Power down to rest up

First things first: if you want to wake up rested, you need a decent night’s sleep. With 37% of us feel sleep deprived, it’s no wonder we find it hard to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning.

Kick-start the habit

For a better night’s sleep, start with a proper bedtime routine. Turn off all electronic devices and smartphones an hour or so before bed. Read a book, take a bath, or meditate. Whatever it takes to make sure you’re powering down, not up, so you can wake up refreshed.

2. Focus on your breathing

Controlled breathing helps to massage our vagus nerve, which links the brainstem to the lungs, heart and gut and is proven to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system for a calming effect.

Kick-start the habit

Try a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing, as recommended by Linnea Dunne, author of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. Lying flat, place one hand on your stomach below the ribcage. As you breathe, notice your stomach rising and falling and try to slow down your breath to a steady pace. Your shoulders and ribcage should remain almost still, with most of the movement taking place where you can feel it with your hand: in the diaphragm.

3. Try morning meditation (the easy way)

According to a New York Times study on the morning routines of more than 300 successful people, the most important element of their day is an adaptable morning routine. Experts at Headspace advise daily wake-up meditation in a day full of often unpredictable situations.

Kick-start the habit

Don’t worry, you don’t need to spend hours sitting on a cushion in silence. Try introducing one of Headspace’s guided morning meditations – you could listen while you get ready or during your commute – with 1, 10 or 20-minute options.

4. Wake up with water

Feeling foggy? According to a survey by the Natural Hydration Council, one in 10 cases of fatigue is caused by dehydration. “Many of my patients don’t drink enough each day and only believe they’re dehydrated when they start to feel thirsty,” says Dr Roger Henderson, GP and adviser to the Natural Hydration Council.

Kick-start the habit

“After waking up, make drinking a glass of water one of the first things you do. This will rehydrate your body, instantly helping you feel more alert,” suggests Fitbug nutritionist Laura Tilt.

5. Focus on five-reps

Author of the The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris suggests fitting in just five reps of an exercise first thing. “This could be five push-ups, five squats or lunges. Five is an easy and obtainable number and it instils the habit of getting moving in the morning,” says Tim. “Also, research indicates that accomplishing something, no matter how small, early in the day sets the tone for accomplishment for the rest of the day.”

Kick-start the habit

Before you get ready, try just five reps of an exercise (even if you’re still in your pyjamas).

6. Max your shower time

The simple process of taking a shower automatically gives your mind a refresh. According to Shelley Carson, psychology lecturer at Harvard University, this is because you’re both relaxed and alert, the ideal mind-set for sparking intuition and creativity.

Kick-start the habit

Dial up the mood-boosting element by lowering the temperature, even if just a little, recommends author of 21 Rituals to Ignite Your Intuition Theresa Cheung. A study by Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine found that taking cold showers can have more of an effect on boosting mood than antidepressants.

7. Have a power breakfast

For maximum energy and minimal cravings, start your day with a protein-rich breakfast.

“Studies show a higher protein breakfast can help to maintain blood glucose levels more evenly, supplying your brain with a steady stream of glucose,” says Tilt.

Kick-start the habit

You don’t need to prep for hours. Try starting the day with oats, topped with Greek yogurt and blueberries (these can boost blood flow to the brain) or eggs or avocado with wholegrain toast, suggests Tilt.

 

Want to try morning meditation? Don’t forget that Vitality members can enjoy a 30% discount off the price of an annual subscription for Headspace.

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