YOUR alarm goes off. You hit snooze, drift back to sleep for 10 minutes. You hit snooze again, start the day late and feel like you’re playing catch up… Repeat for 25 years. Sound familiar?
Only one in four people are natural early risers who wake up raring to go – the rest of us are on the back foot before we even reach the office.* But developing a good morning routine could be the key to a more productive, successful and healthier life.
From Jennifer Aniston to Kim Kardashian West, some of the world’s most successful people claim their secret is an early-morning schedule.
While yoga and green juices at 6am isn’t realistic for everybody, making small tweaks to your morning routine can have a big effect on the rest of your day.
Get Up and at ’em
Good news: waking up early may be less important than getting up at the same time every day.
“People who get up at a regular time with stable rhythms of being active in the daytime and inactive at night are less at risk of depression and have better general health than those with varied sleep patterns,” says Daniel Smith, professor of psychiatry at Glasgow University.
“Work out how much time you need to do all your morning tasks comfortably, set your alarm for a time that makes that achievable and get up at that time each day to establish a routine,” says Daniel.
Instead of a long lie-in, have 30-minute naps if you want to make up lost slumber.
Rise and shine before everyone else
Getting up before your snoring partner will allow you to have some important me-time[/caption]
It might sound like an impossible task if you’ve got a house full of early risers or bad sleepers who keep you awake, but getting up before your partner and kids will allow you crucial me-time. “There’s a reason artists seek solitude when they want to create something,” says Nicola Forshaw, director of Mind-fit.co.uk.
“Studies confirm that being alone can foster creativity and sky-rocket productivity. It can be as simple as five minutes to just stop and be silent. Plus, studies show that uninterrupted solo time will help you develop more compassion for other people and be more patient.”
Be Beyonce in the shower
Apparently, belting out a song really does make you feel better.
“We produce feel-good chemicals called endocannabinoids when we do certain activities like singing, dancing and exercising,” says vocal expert Carrie Grant.
These chemicals have a similar effect on the body as cannabis. “These are mini marvels for your health, improving everything from your immune system to your mood and sleep. When you sing, your body releases up to 42% more of these chemicals.”
So go on, hit those high notes during your morning scrub.
Delay the flat white
When your body wakes up it starts pumping the hormone cortisol, which acts in a similar way to caffeine.
“Most people’s cortisol levels peak sometime between 8am and 9am,” says neuroscientist Steven L Miller.
“Don’t start your day with a coffee as that’s when your body will naturally be its most alert. This could blunt the energy boost you get from cortisol.”
Instead, have a herbal or fruit tea with a slow energy-release breakfast such as porridge. “Save drinking caffeine for between 9.30am and 11.30am when your cortisol levels are dropping. It’ll keep you energised for longer.”
Exercise is the closest thing we have to a miracle drug. It’s as key for your head as it is for your heart as studies show an aerobic workout or even a fast walk will lift your mood and may even help slow the brain’s ageing process by protecting memory and thinking skills.**
“Exercising on an empty stomach in the morning is a good way to get the blood flowing through to the brain rather than the digestive system, and this can help super-charge your thought processes,” says Tim Blakey, founder of training app Pr1mebody.
“Whether it’s a weight training session in the gym or 20 minutes of sprint runs, exercise can also help regulate your appetite for the rest of the day.”
PM biscuit craving, begone.
See to believe
Being confident is about having belief in your own abilities to achieve goals and complete tasks. Nicola says that spending some time in the morning visualising yourself having positive experiences can have a huge impact.
“Research shows that mentally walking through experiences in your day, watching yourself complete tasks and imagining that feeling of accomplishment will help re-enforce your self-efficacy, making the day ahead feel less daunting. Use your journey to work to think through your day task by task. You’ll breeze through that to-do list.”
Meditation might feel like the last thing you’ve got time for on a hectic morning when you’re trying to rush the kids out the door. But neuroscientists have discovered it can physically change the parts of the brain associated with attention and sensory processing.
“Although there is no scientific research about the best time to meditate, the mind is quieter for most people when you first wake up in the morning, plus you are less likely to fall back asleep,” says psychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness.
Whether it’s two minutes or 30 minutes, meditation will help improve your concentration for the day.
Download Calm, a free app which has a range of guided meditations from as little as three minutes. And breathe.
Save the best till last
Doing something you dread first thing in the morning may sound horrific, but it could pay off.
“On a normal day, most of us have something annoying or painful to do, whether it’s paying a bill or giving the bathroom a deep clean,” says Nicola.
“You might also have something good, such as catching up on your favourite TV show. If you wait to pay the bills once you’re home, you brain will remember your day going from good to bad. Stack the pain in the morning before work and your brain will thank you for feeling like the day will only get better.”
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Activate your commute
“Active commuting” is the latest buzz phrase in upping the wellbeing factor of your waking hours. It means incorporating exercise outdoors during your journey to work, like getting off the bus or train one stop early and walking the rest.
“Not only does getting the heart pumping increase blood flow to the brain, but active commuting also exposes you to more natural daylight, which is important for programming your body to go to sleep at night time,” explains Daniel.
“Regular walking has been proven to help protect the brain against ageing and improve the functioning of the part of the brain crucial for memory.”
Sources: *Plos One Journal **University of British Columbia