Rise and shine! Whether you greet the sunrise with a smile or are tempted to hurl your alarm clock out the window on the regular, chances are your day begins sometime in the single digits.
For both morning birds and night owls, actions taken soon after waking can have a big impact on the health and productivity of the rest of the day. As theologian Richard Whately said, "Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day hunting for it."
You may already be doing a lot of things right in the morning, but could some of your habits be secretly sabotaging your efforts? If any of these sound familiar, it may be time to reevaluate your routine.
#1. Don't check email or social media.
If you're in the habit of rolling over and grabbing your smartphone or tablet to see what you missed while you were dreaming, you're not alone—but you're not doing yourself any favors, either. Checking email or social media first thing in the morning is a huge distraction from more important activities, like working out, stretching or preparing a healthy breakfast.
Organization expert Julie Morgenstern, author of "Never Check Email In The Morning," told The Huffington Post that starting the day by responding to emails is a recipe for failure. "Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless—there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes," she says. Instead of overwhelming yourself by sifting through a deluge of messages and notifications, Morgenstern recommends starting the day by completing a more focused task.
To make the most of your time, health coach Liza Baker with Simply: Health Coaching believes it's more important to focus inward in the morning instead of scrolling through what everyone else has been doing. "Consider that catching up on social media or email is really allowing others to dictate what you do with your time," she warns. "Spend a few more minutes in your 'me' zone, and you’ll be surprised at how much more energy and time you have when you do finally have to face the world."
#2. Don't eat added sugar.
If you're regularly sprinkling the sweet stuff into your morning coffee, grabbing a Danish from the corner bakery or unknowingly whipping up a sugar-filled smoothie, look for healthier options. Instead of a sugary start, eat a hearty breakfast of fruit, complex carbohydrates and protein to keep yourself focused for a longer portion of the day.
"Try to eat a healthy breakfast within an hour of getting up, and include some high-quality protein (animal or plant-based) and some beneficial fat (avocado, olive oil or pasture butter), especially if you tend to eat a carb-heavy breakfast," recommends Baker.
Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, recommends trying an unsweetened protein smoothie, blended with fresh fruits and veggies. "The protein content will keep you full longer than a cereal, while the produce adds nutrients and fiber," she says.
#3. Don't expose yourself to negative news.
While it's natural to want to know what's going on in the world, your day might bode better if you wait until you've got a couple of hours under your belt before you start scrolling through your favorite news channel or websites. With the occasional exception, a lot of news media focuses on negative events, which can cause your stress levels to spike before you've even picked up a toothbrush. Some research has even shown that consuming negative news can make you less productive at work.
Instead, therapist Lisa Bahar recommends waking up with a more calming message that will enhance your well-being, whether that’s a favorite podcast, a motivating mantra or a few pages of a book that inspires you. Take care to wait to turn on any news networks until you're more centered and can keep some perspective.
#4. Don't rush through your routine.
For many, the morning can feel like a race against the clock. If your first waking hour is spent in a mad rush to get yourself (or others) ready and out the door, though, you're setting the tone for a stressful day. If you feel like you simply don't have enough time, you probably don't—and the only solution is to find more. Try setting your alarm for 30 minutes earlier or taking steps the night before to proactively prepare for the next day, so you'll have plenty of time to prepare for the day. Save the racing heart rate for your workout.
#5. Don't decide to work out later.
While there's no "right" or "wrong" time to work out, it stands to reason that it's more likely to happen if you get it done first thing in the morning. The longer you wait, the greater number of distractions and interruptions will threaten to derail your fitness intentions. It's all too easy for an unplanned work meeting to disrupt your lunchtime walk, or for a child's last-minute school project to make you a no-show at your evening spin class.
If you're not the type who wakes up brimming with energy, we've got some simple tips for embracing morning exercise as a health-boosting habit. And if your early-morning schedule makes it impossible to fit in a full workout, try committing to a quick 10-minute bedside yoga session to get your body primed for movement.
If you have a tight schedule in the morning, try to commit to a 10-minute bedside yoga session to get some positive vibes flowing and put fitness in your mind.
#6. Don't drink coffee before you've had water.
With 83 percent of American adults drinking coffee, the traditional morning cup of Joe isn't just a caffeine boost, but is also ingrained in our culture. While we're certainly not suggesting that you give up your beloved java—in fact, it could actually have a host of health benefits—it doesn't have to be your first source of hydration.
Ilana Muhlstein, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Beverly Hills, recommends always drinking at least 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything else. Angela Lemond, R.D, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told USA Today that, "Drinking a couple glasses of water to allow the body to rehydrate allows for better digestion when you do eat."
Drinking water isn't easy for everyone, but these 12 tips will help you get closer to the recommended four to six cups a day, or whatever amount makes your body feel healthy, hydrated and happy.
If you’re still struggling to hit your H20 quota, Dr. Apovian suggests trying some freshly brewed green tea. "This healthy drink contains high levels of catechins, which are antioxidants that protect against cell damage," she says. "Green tea has been linked to many health benefits, including boosting energy, improving memory, protecting against heart disease, lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar levels."
#7. Avoid using your phone as an alarm.
Remember that tip about not checking email and social media first thing in the morning? That will be a lot easier to accomplish if you don't use your smartphone or tablet as an alarm clock. As an added bonus, you won't be tempted to get sucked into screen time before bed.
When one blogger conducted an (unscientific) experiment by banishing her cell phone from the nightstand and using an old-school alarm clock instead, she found that she fell asleep faster, slept better through the night, woke up easier, had fewer headaches and communicated more with her spouse.
#8. Don't contact people who bring the drama.
We all have those people in our lives who tend to rile us up, whether it's by broaching negative topics, complaining or gossiping about others. According to Bahar, the early hours aren't the time to give them the floor.
"In the mornings, don't contact people who create tension in your life—these folks can wait," she says. "Instead, get centered and be aware of those who can exacerbate your thoughts and feelings."
#9. Don't put off important tasks.
First thing in the morning, when the whole day is still ahead of you, it's easy to fall into the trap of postponing big tasks until later. After all, you still have the whole day to complete them, right? Even if it seems like there's plenty of time ahead, chances are your ability to tackle projects will dwindle with each passing hour.
Over the course of more than 80 studies, researchers at the University of Nottingham found that energy and self-control are closely linked, and that we have the highest levels of both first thing in the morning. As the day wears on and our energy starts to fade, so does our self-control—which means we may become less productive and less effective at completing large or challenging tasks.
As Mark Twain once said, "Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." Start each morning by identifying your "frog"—whether it's finishing a presentation or making a difficult phone call—and conquer it before the rest of the day gobbles you up.
You don't have to be a morning person to start your day off right. By avoiding the wrong actions, you'll make room for the right ones while setting the tone for a healthy, productive afternoon.