Your first waking moments can have a major impact on how your day looks and feels. Does your morning start off with you chucking your alarm clock across the room or hitting snooze repeatedly? Do you do some light stretching and meditate, or do you struggle to get out the door on time?
Regardless of how you got out of bed, whatever happened when you woke up will carry over into your day. Being intentional about your mornings enables you to take control of your experience.
Habits can make or break your day: 7 tips for developing a healthy morning routine
1. Stop hitting snooze
Snoozing your alarm may feel like a great idea, but this habit starts your day off on the wrong foot. It means that your first decision was to give up and go back to bed. The sleep that you get after you hit snooze isn't too beneficial for you anyway. Your alarm has already interrupted your sleep cycle, so unless you have a lot of time on your hands, you're going make yourself feel more sluggish by prolonging the process of waking up.
Instead, set your alarm for the actual time you want to get out of bed. If you find that you're tired when your alarm goes off, you may need to consider going to bed earlier. I know that doesn't sound like fun, but if the alarm fills you with a combination of dread and blind rage, it might mean that your body and brain need to catch a few more Zs.
2. Have something for breakfast
Lots of people skip breakfast, but this habit is tough on your body. The word breakfast literally means "to break the fast." If you eat a few hours before bed and get a full night of rest, your body may go 10-12 hours without food. Before you try to do any high-level mental processing, you need to give yourself some fuel.
Eating may not be the very first thing in your morning routine. In fact, if you plan on practicing yoga, heading to the gym, or meditating, you'll want to hold off on chowing down until after you've done those things. You should definitely have something to eat before lunch, though.
If you're one of those people who just doesn't feel hungry in the morning, you don't need to sit down to a breakfast buffet. Try making a delicious smoothie or grab something light. You may be hungrier than you realize. A light meal can awaken your appetite, but more importantly, it can help your body feel more energized to start the day.
3. Skip the sweets
Starting your day with lots of carbs and caffeine is a cultural norm here in the US. We love our bagels, muffins, and fancy coffee drinks. Biologically speaking, we reach for these things to get the rush that comes from the combination of sugar and carbohydrates. The problem is, a crash always follows the rush.
Consume mindfully. Try eating a healthy breakfast consisting of whole foods, such as a bowl of fruits, nuts, and chia seeds. Sometimes the temptation to try that sweet treat is overwhelming, but it definitely shouldn't be the first thing you eat.
4. Go for something besides coffee
When we first roll out of bed, our bodies start kicking things into high gear to help us wake up. Your circadian clock triggers certain biological processes to get you on your feet. In particular, you'll get a jolt of cortisol, which pushes you to a state of wakefulness.
Many people reach for a cup of coffee as soon as they get up. This habit can have a negative impact on your health for two reasons. First, you'll train your body to need caffeine to wake up. You'll be prone to headaches and general grumpiness without that cup o' joe. The caffeine also isn't going to be as effective when you first get up because it's competing with that influx of cortisol.
For most people, cortisol levels naturally peak between 8 and 9 AM, 12 PM and 1 PM, and 5:30 and 6:30 PM. Avoiding caffeine during that time will allow your body to wake you up naturally. Wait at least an hour after waking up before you grab your favorite caffeinated beverage. Instead of using coffee or caffeinated tea as your wake-up drink, hydrate with a glass of water or lemon water.
5. Start with a plan
Flying by the seat of your pants is great for adding a little spontaneity to your life, but it may not be the best way to wake up. Going into decision-making mode straight out of the gate may leave you tired and overwhelmed before the day even starts.
Make your plan before you go to bed. Write down your most important goal for the day. I recommend having one overarching personal and professional goal every day. For example, you might name the most important thing from your to-do list and highlight mindset that you're developing. If you don't have a personal growth goal in mind, I recommend taking a look at the yamas and niyamas or focusing on gratitude.
6. Check your phone later
It's so tempting to roll over and start reading your email or checking social media first thing in the morning. You might be hoping to get a jump on your work by seeing what's in your inbox. This seems like a reasonable rationale, but giving yourself some boundaries (such as not checking your email in bed) is healthy.
All the scrolling and social media interaction gives the brain hits of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. The constant drive for more dopamine leads to addictive behaviors. If you're feeling a tad bit guilty as you read this, know that you aren't alone. A study by Deloitte suggests that on average, people check their phones about 47 times per day, and an astounding 89% of us are on our phones within an hour of waking up.
Let the phone wait for at least an hour. Start your day with a morning yoga sequence or spend a few minutes in meditation. Take a walk in nature while the rest of the world is still asleep. If you have a dog, a friend, or a significant other, you can take them with you for some bonding time.
We are beings, not doings. Your work may be part of you, but it is not all of you. Taking a little time to get some fresh air, walking in quiet contemplation, or enjoying a sunrise with someone you love sets the tone for a beautiful day.
7. Wake up at the same time every day
The idea of sleeping in on the weekends has its appeal, but it may not be worth the cost to you for the rest of the week. Establishing a regular rhythm in your day helps your body work more efficiently. You'll experience improved digestion and immune function. You may even be able to wake up without having to listen to an alarm, which is always a plus.
Sometimes work and family cause us to keep some odd hours, but just trying to keep it consistent may give you some benefit. Just know that you can't necessarily make up for sleep deprivation by sleeping in two days per week. If you find that you're consistently tired, are there places in your day where you could schedule a power nap? Is it feasible to go to bed earlier?
Kick off a healthier morning routine
There's no single morning routine that's going to work for everybody, but if you follow these general guidelines, you may be able to approach your day in a different way. What you do, what you think about, and what you consume can be the difference between having a great day and wishing you could hit the reset button.
Changing habits and mindsets isn't something that happens overnight, but with some dedication, you'd be amazed at the way you can transform your days. If you struggle with several unhealthy morning habits, choose one thing that you want to change tomorrow morning. It'll probably feel like work when you first make a change, but over time, that "work" will become second nature to you.
Of course, if you need a little extra support discovering the ideal morning routine, a retreat is the perfect place to figure it out. The structure of retreats makes it easier to start making healthy choices first thing in the morning. After all, it's harder to hit snooze when there's a gorgeous landscape waiting to be seen, a yoga class outside your door, and a fresh organic breakfast on the table.
Need the perfect getaway to get your mornings on track? Jumpstart a better morning routine with us in Nicaragua this December!