Each morning, you have an opportunity to start the day fresh and set a healthy, positive tone for the rest of the day. The first few hours of your day could easily be described as the most important, as they can make or break the hours that follow.
In fact, one thing that most successful, happy people have in common is a morning routine. It varies from person to person, but figuring out a few morning habits that work for you, and then sticking to them each day, can be invaluable for your health and well being.
You might, for instance, spend 15 minutes reading a book or meditating. Or you might start your day with a morning walk or by catching up with your spouse. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but there are some habits you should generally avoid.1
Are You Making These Morning Mistakes?
1. Getting Right into Your Daily Grind
It may be tempting to sleep in as late as possible, then throw on your clothes and sprint off to work. A better idea is to get up a little earlier so you can have some “me time” first thing in the morning.
Research shows that people who start off their workday with a positive mindset experience greater boosts from positive events that occur later in the day, and also are less impacted by negative interactions with colleagues.2
So take time to do something just for you – exercise, a phone call to a friend, a few minutes working on crafts, etc. – before starting your day.
2. Keeping Your Bedroom Dark
A pitch-black bedroom is essential for high-quality sleep, but come morning, it’s time to let the sun shine in. Morning light contains more wavelengths of blue light, which are known to have the strongest effect on your circadian rhythm.
In essence, exposure to bright morning light helps to reset your internal clock for the day. So open up your shades or blinds, or step outside for a few minutes, to get your morning light. It may even help you lose weight.
Obese women exposed to bright light for at least 45 minutes early in the morning had reductions in body weight and appetite, leading researchers to conclude that morning bright light treatment may be included in weight-control programs.3
3. Hitting the Snooze Button
Rather than staying in bed for another seven or 10 minutes after your alarm goes off, get up on time. Those few minutes spent in bed will only lure your body back to sleep just when you’re trying to wake up.
The end result is you’ll probably feel groggier and you may even throw your internal clock off schedule. Getting up at the same time every day (preferably an early time) is deceptively simple.
Doing so will help regulate your circadian rhythm so you’ll have an easier time waking and likely feel more energized in the long run. Plus, the habit of rising early every day is one shared by many successful people, as it enhances your productivity and focus.
4. Jumping Out of Bed Too Quickly
It’s admirable to leap out of bed, ready to face the day. But, your back muscles may be stiff from a night of inactivity.
So while you’ve got the right idea in getting up quickly (see number 3 above), it’s a good idea to do some light stretching before actually getting out of bed. Then get up slowly to avoid feeling lightheaded as blood rushes to your legs.
5. Ruining Your Coffee
If your morning routine includes a cup of coffee, this is fine and may even be beneficial for your health. However, if you’re dousing your coffee with creamer, non-dairy creamer, sugar, and other sweeteners and flavorings, you are missing out on the therapeutic benefits.
You may also be potentially harming your health. The natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants is part of what makes coffee so healthy. However, some research suggests adding dairy to your coffee may interfere with your body's absorption of beneficial chlorogenic acids.4
Meanwhile, if you add sugar to your coffee you'll spike your insulin levels, which contributes to insulin resistance. If you're interested in the health benefits, drink your coffee black, without sugar, non-dairy creamer or cream, or flavorings, and be sure it’s organic.
If you’re not a fan of coffee, you may feel better in the morning just by taking a sniff of your spouse’s or colleague’s cup; research shows sleep-deprived rats felt less stressed after inhaling the aroma of coffee beans.5
Breakfast: Should You Eat It or Not?
Should your morning routine include a healthy breakfast? Conventional nutritional dogma states that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you’re not a fan there’s no harm in skipping it.
In fact, skipping breakfast extends the natural time of your overnight fasting period, and this type of intermittent fasting has numerous benefits for your health. There may even be benefits to exercising in the morning while fasting(i.e. before eating breakfast).
That being said, if you enjoy breakfast and feel better when you eat it, it can certainly be part of a healthy morning routine. Examples of healthy breakfast foods include organic pastured eggs (soft boiled, poached, or raw) and veggies, a whey protein smoothie, or leftovers from a healthy dinner.
The key to remember is that your body probably only needs two meals a day, and eating this way allows you to restrict your eating to a window of six to eight consecutive hours each day, and avoid food for at least three hours before bedtime.
As long as you restrict your eating to a six- to eight-hour window, and avoid eating for at least three hours before bed, you can choose between having breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, but avoid having both breakfast anddinner.
Which two meals you prefer are up to you; let your body, and your lifestyle, be your guide.
Morning Routines of Highly Successful People
What do highly successful, happy people do in the morning? Lifehack shared habits from the likes of Steve Jobs, Michelle Obama, Tony Robbins, and others.6 You may want to try some of these out for yourself.
Get Up Early
Getting up early, around 5 a.m., is a common thread among many successful people. It ensures you have time to complete your necessary tasks for the day while taking time for yourself as well.
Meditation helps to lower levels of anxiety and depression, improve symptoms of stress-related disorders, and reduce substance abuse while also having benefits for creativity, memory, academic performance, and IQ.7
While it's not unusual for the most experienced meditators to have spent decades, even a lifetime, perfecting this art, you can gain benefits just from meditating in your home for 20 minutes a day first thing in the morning.
If you can’t spare 20 minutes, even five minutes is better than nothing.
Once a week in the morning, such as on Mondays, set aside 15 minutes (or more) to read personal development books, watch inspirational videos or listen to motivational speakers. This motivation will set up your day and week for success.
Physical activity will energize your mind and body in the morning, and you don’t need to head off to the gym to do it. In 20 minutes, you can perform an effective high-intensity workout right in your own home. Lifehack suggested the following workout, which targets multiple body areas at once:8
20-Minute AMRAP (as many round as possible) Workout
Set your timer for 20 minutes and take about a 30-second break between each exercise.
- 10 Burpees
- 10 Pushups
- 10 Jumps Squats
- 10 Chair Dips
- 10 Lateral Jumps
- 10 Wide push ups
Meet Face to Face
There is a significant increase in neural synchronization between the brains of two partners during face-to-face, but not virtual, conversation. Face-to-face brainstorming sessions also produced significantly more creative ideas than virtual sessions. So if you have business meetings to attend, try to meet up in person. This also applies to social meetings.
While people are increasingly turning to social media as a way to connect with friends and family, be sure you are also taking time to have those irreplaceable face-to-face visits with those you care about, such as a morning meeting for coffee and a chat.
Avoid Getting Overwhelmed by E-mail
Tend to e-mails first thing in the morning can be productive or counterproductive, depending on how you do it. The first rule is to allocate a set amount of time for it, such as 15 minutes. Next, only tend to urgent e-mails. You can set up filters in your inbox so you only see the most important messages, tend to those, and then move on to your next item of business.