You’ve probably been in this familiar situation: waking up dazed, your body aching for more sleep until you look at your clock and you realize you have less than ten minutes to get ready. For many, this is an everyday situation, and though it can be argued that whizzing through your morning routine in ten minutes is much less time-consuming, there are many healthier ways to start your day whether it be at school, work, or anywhere else, than by looking and feeling like you just rolled out of bed.
- Wake up between 4 – 6 am
While this recommendation is probably daunting to most, it is supported by numerous scientific studies that waking up early and sleeping early is linked to better productivity and overall health. People who go to bed early and wake up early have more time in the morning to complete tasks that other people who may be up at ten can’t do. And because they have more time – to exercise, to eat a proper breakfast, to get ready, to commute – they avoid waking up and immediately feeling stressed. A study found that early risers tend to have higher levels of positive affect and better mental health. According to the research, people who wake up early have better brain function, and critical thinking and problem-solving skills. However, going to sleep at midnight and waking up at 5 a.m isn’t going to give you any benefits; people who get less than five hours of sleep are reported to have much higher cortisol levels, the hormone that creates stress. The bottom line is that sleeping early and waking up early improves brain function, so people will tend to perform better at their tasks when they’ve had a good night’s sleep and wake up early ready to start the day.
- Drink water
Drinking water right after you wake up is a great way to wake yourself up and rehydrate after not drinking anything during your hours of sleep. When you’re sleeping, your body will continue using—and losing—fluids throughout the night without receiving a refill. Other than just rehydrating your body, drinking water first thing in the morning flushes out the stomach and balances the lymphatic system. A stable lymphatic system will help build a strong immune system, which will prevent us from getting sick often. Drinking water is also vital for healthy digestion. For example, staying hydrated is helpful for easing constipation, a common side effect of dehydration, and drinking water first thing in the morning will help flush out and cleanse your bowels and stimulate movement.
- Brush your teeth
This may seem obvious but brushing your teeth in the morning is still an important part of your morning routine that shouldn’t be overlooked. While you sleep, the bacteria in your mouth tend to multiply, which is why you wake up with “morning breath”. Brushing first thing in the morning gets rid of the bacteria and coats your enamel with a protective barrier that will help protect against acids in your morning meal. Many people may be tempted to brush their teeth after breakfast rather than before which could actually be harmful to your enamel as the acidic remnants of your food cover your teeth, weakening the protective barrier around it.
Another great way to kick start your day is by getting in some physical activity. Exercise increases focus and concentration, regardless of when you do it. But a morning workout would be beneficial if you have trouble focusing during the day. In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019, participants completed a round of 8-hour days of prolonged sitting with and without a 30-minute morning walk on the treadmill. On some days, they also took 3-minute walking breaks every 30 minutes. The results showed that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning, and decision-making as participants showed higher levels of productivity on the days they exercised in the morning. Exercising in the morning also improves your metabolism,allowing you to lose more calories throughout the day. Vigorous exercise specifically can help lose calories for hours after you complete your workout.
This may come as a bit of a surprise but excreting first thing in the morning helps get rid of all the waste that builds up over your sleep. When you are asleep, the small intestine and colon work to process all the food left over from the previous day. When we wake up in the morning, our body signals to our colon that it’s time to go. It starts contracting three times as strong as it does while we’re sleeping. These contractions move your waste along through your intestines so that it can make its way out. This urge to excrete sets in about 30 minutes after waking up; morning routines like stretching, drinking water, and coffee also help to move digestion along.
You may have heard this suggestion quite a few times before but the benefits of meditation in the morning are practically endless. Benefits of morning meditation can include a mood boost, improved focus, productivity, and lower levels of stress and anxiety later in the day. Meditation activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the network of nerves that relaxes your body after periods of stress or danger), which triggers a deep state of relaxation. Meditation is like an antidote to stress, with the primary side effects being increased happiness, better sleep, and more creativity. So even if you wake up from sleep tired and drowsy, a short meditation session of around 20 minutes will give you energy-boosting endorphins that’ll spring you back to life.
- Eat a nutritious breakfast
Emerging studies suggest that eating a nutritious breakfast of whole-grain foods may help the body better regulate insulin levels. Research also shows that popular breakfast foods such as whole-grain cereals, bread, milk products, and fruits help reduce the risk of low metabolism, which in turn also promotes weight loss as calories burn faster. Adults, teens, and kids who eat breakfast regularly consume more nutrients each day so people who start the day with a balanced and nutritious breakfast also get a lot more calcium, promoting stronger bones. A healthy, wholesome breakfast gives your body enough nutrients to function efficiently as well as develop your body by giving it the nutrients it needs to maintain itself.
Starting the day off with a yoga session or stretching exercises can help muscles and joints loosen up, remove stiffness, and allow the proper flow of blood in the body. When we sleep, our muscles rest, and layers of connective tissue and bodily fluids can build up causing tension to build. Allowing yourself some time, whether it be fifteen minutes or an hour in the mornings to spend some time on yoga and stretching will allow your entire body’s cycle to get back on track. This will also help you to start your day in a relaxed state and let go of the stress of your previous day. Reducing the stress hormones and relaxing in the morning can help us improve the health of the body and mind immeasurably as well as strengthen the immune system as well.
- Step outside for sunlight
One amazing benefit of morning sunlight is better mental health as it increases your body’s serotonin and melatonin production. When you get a healthy dose of sun, your body produces more serotonin. Serotonin, known as the “feel-good” hormone, is a hormone that transmits signals between various parts of the brain, regulating your mental health and mood. Most medications given for depression are designed to assist serotonin production. Getting serotonin from the sun and the vitamin D created from it is a natural way without the use of prescription drugs. On the other hand, melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone,” helps you relax. Melatonin itself won’t knock you out but it lets your body know that it can relax, effectively reducing your stress and keeping you level-headed for the day ahead. Sunlight’s UV rays are a vital component as they allow our body to create vitamin D so it can fight fatigue, improve mental health, and help rejuvenate ageing eyes and maintain a healthy weight.
10. Create a to-do list
Creating a to-do list mentally sets you up for the day and drives you to become more productive, which benefits your mental health. A to-do list holds you accountable for the tasks you aim to achieve throughout the day, so that rather than slacking off, you will be more likely to achieve more. To-do lists can be a great tool for decreasing anxiety and stress by providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day. A trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals rather than large ones for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan. Research on the psychology of goal-making shows that unfinished goals can interfere with other tasks you’re trying to achieve, but making a plan to organize these goals, such as detailing steps on a to-do list, can help your mind set aside the things you have to complete and to focus on the task in front of you.
Ultimately, there are multiple ways to start your day and if you can incorporate even a few of the activities mentioned on the to-do list, you’re guaranteed to be more productive throughout the day.
Candok Health Coach can provide guidance, prepare a customized diet plan, suggest basic physical activity and guide you through your journey to health and wellbeing. If you have any chronic conditions, based on the requirement, the coach will involve your treating physician to monitor and taper medications as required.
Understanding and applying Nutrition Series. Edited by Candok editorial board, Candok Lifestyle. Live Life, Naturally!
Article by Meera, A part of a student project/internship.