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People can generally be divided into two groups; morning people who wake up each day and fully enjoy the fresh start of a new day, and those of us who struggle to drag ourselves out of bed, hitting the snooze button as many times as we possibly can. Mornings can be tough for some of us, but did you know that how you approach your morning routine can impact the rest of your day? How we approach the first few hours that we are awake is so important that we actually have the power to affect our moods, relationships, productivity and even our health. It really doesn’t matter if you are a morning person or a night owl, you can always look at your morning routine and decide if there is room for a little improvement. If you are wondering how you can make positive changes to the start of your day, read on and consider these tips for creating a morning routine that helps to make you a happier, healthier person.

It Starts Before You Even Set Your Alarm

The key to a smooth morning routine is to actually plan for it and to put in the energy to make it happen long before you ever slide in under your favorite comforter. Preparing for your morning means taking steps to reduce morning stress and make your transition from dreamland into the land of the living as simple and relaxed as possible. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Start by identifying and eliminating morning stressors. Take a look at your morning routine and try to evaluate where your stress triggers are. Do you struggle to piece together a breakfast for yourself or the family? Is there always a struggle over who gets to use the bathroom and for how long? Do you lose time standing in front of your closet, unable to decide what to wear? These are the little things that can waste time in the mornings, causing you to feel additional stress and tension. The way to avoid this is simple. Recognize those sneaky stress triggers and change the behaviors that lead to them. This can be as simple as planning and preparing for a week’s worth of breakfast ideas at once, or choosing your outfit the night before. If you are constantly running into other family members in the morning, try setting a schedule for everyone -- even if it means getting up a few minutes earlier so that you can enjoy your morning shower in peace.
  • Don’t neglect breakfast when you do your grocery shopping. Smart shoppers like to look for good deals and plan out a week or more worth of meals before they head out the door to their shopping. Many times, breakfast is neglected in this equation. The result is a breakfast that is thrown together, unhealthy or insufficient for the energy that you need to sustain you for the first part of your day. Remedy this by keeping fresh fruit, low fat yogurt, grains that are low sugar and high in fiber and lean proteins such as eggs or turkey sausage on hand to make a healthy and satisfying start to your day.
  • Make lunches or have your plans set for lunch by the time you settle into bed. Nothing adds hectic stress onto an already busy morning more than trying to scurry around and throw together a lunch. This is true if you are only responsible for yourself or if you have a family of school-aged kids. Just like with breakfast, if you plan for it and get the details out of the way ahead of time, you are more likely to make healthier choices.
  • Set your alarm for a time that doesn’t allow you to hit the snooze button. We all love the concept of “just a few more minutes”, but what are you really gaining from waking up out of a peaceful slumber just to hit a button and spend the next fifteen minutes in a half awake state? If you set your alarm for 6:00, but typically hit the snooze button twice, just set it for 6:20 instead and allow yourself those extra twenty minutes of restful, beneficial sleep. If you are the type that likes to lie in bed, stretch and think about the day ahead for a few minutes then go ahead and do it, just calculate that into your wake up time also. That way you won’t immediately jump from your rested state to a hurried panic as you realize that too much time has passed.

Prepare for Your Day with a Little Pampering

  • Do you love a steamy hot shower, especially in the morning? You might think that the hot water is helping to loosen stiff muscles, warm you up and get your blood flowing for the day. However, a hot shower is best reserved for nighttime routine. The heat from a hot shower can actually trick your brain into thinking you are sleepy. Also, the hot water is drying for your skin. To really kick start your day, take a shower that is comfortably cool or lukewarm. If there is a chill in the air, turn the hot water up a bit, but not too much. This will help energize you, get your blood pumping and your hair and skin will be healthier for it.
  • Use naturally scented, invigorating products in the morning. Choose products that offer scents such as citrus, rosemary, bergamot or anything from the mint family. These scents help to awaken your senses and are proven mood boosters. If your favorite bath products don’t offer these scents, try going for an unscented version and add a few drops of your favorite invigorating essential oils. What scents should you stay away from? Anything too heavy, warming or that is comforting in a cozy sort of way. Vanilla, coconut, spice, heavy florals, etc. are better saved for evening or for more leisurely days.
  • Exfoliate for smooth skin, but also for an immediate circulation boost. A quick rub down with your favorite exfoliating scrub or a gentle exfoliating sponge will get your blood pumping. Start at your feet and use circular motions to work your way up towards your heart. Just don’t overdo it or your might irritate your skin.
  • Practice self love when you look in the mirror. The number one way of easing stress in the morning is by making your routine a little simpler. Many of us spend an incredible amount of time on our appearance in the morning, making sure that our hair and makeup is perfect before stepping out the door. I understand the importance of being well groomed, but how about taking a step back, truly appreciating what you see in the mirror and consider scaling back your hair and makeup routine a little. If you have an arsenal of cosmetics, choose just a few that you love, the ones that really make you feel good about yourself, and toss the rest aside. Simplify your choices and then splurge a little by treating yourself to some all natural skin care products that help to bring out your beauty naturally and simply.

Practice Gratitude

Mindfulness and gratitude are hot topics right now, and for good reason. The simple act of being present in the moment and expressing gratitude for even the simplest things in our lives has been shown to have a multitude of healthy benefits including less stress, lower blood pressure, lower incidence of cardiac disease, less depression and anxiety and improved productivity in all aspects of your life. If you think that incorporating a little gratitude practice in your morning is just too time consuming, then you need to think again. Here are just a few quick ways to add some daily gratitude to your morning routine.

  • Keep a notepad on your nightstand and allow yourself five minutes before you even get out of bed to quickly write down three things that you are grateful for. You do not need to go too deep in thought here, just quickly jot down the first three things that come to mind. When your very first thoughts of the day are filled with gratitude, it is difficult for that attitude to not carry over into the rest of your day.
  • While you are going about your morning routine, instead of focusing your thoughts on how hurried you are, try instead to focus your thoughts on just one thing that happened yesterday that you can be grateful for. Try to come up with two or three bullet points about your subject of gratitude that best describe the reasons that you are grateful. Also think to yourself if there is anyone that you need to thank for the experience. This takes no extra time since you are doing this while you are completing your other morning tasks.
  • Start someone else’s day off with a smile. Phone calls can take too much time in the morning, but what about sending a quick text message to someone to let them know that you are thankful for their presence in your life. Just take a quick minute to compliment someone at the start of the day. Maybe the person that you are most thankful for at the moment is standing right next to you. It only takes a second to let them know. Spreading a little happiness and gratitude is a great way to start everyone’s day.

Take Care of Your Physical Well Being

Yes, I am talking about exercise. There are a ton of excuses that can be made to get out a quick morning exercise session. However, if you are being completely honest, what are you gaining by skipping out? Adding just fifteen to twenty minutes of physical exercise in the morning gives you more energy, mental clarity and contributes to a healthy lifestyle. If you are feeling crunched for time in the morning, try looking for ways that you can fit in an extra fifteen minutes, even if it means going to bed a few minutes earlier the night before. Morning exercise does not have to be complicated or extremely strenuous. Here are a few ideas for simple, healthy exercise that you can fit into a short amount of time.

  • Go for a morning walk around your neighbor. Multitask by bringing your dog along.
  • Spend fifteen minutes doing gentle stretching exercises to get you ready for the physical demands of the day.
  • Use this time to also focus your thoughts or practice mindfulness.
  • Get your blood pumping with a short bout of cardio.
  • Use free weights. Exercises that use any type of weight resistance not only make you stronger, but they help to increase your metabolism and protect your long term bone health.
  • Research twenty minute workouts and find free videos online to follow along with.
  • It is also important to note that taking care of your physical well being isn’t just about exercising. Try to eat a balanced healthy diet that includes locally grown and organic foods whenever possible. Also, if you feel your diet is lacking, consider taking a well respected vitamin supplement.

The value of a healthy morning routine cannot be overstated. Research shows that people, who make an effort to reduce overall stress, including the stress that comes from your morning routine, are healthier and live longer lives. The way you start the morning really does set the stage for the rest of the day and it can be very hard to turn around the negative cycle of a day that has started poorly. If you think you don’t have the time, I ask you to just try. You will be surprised at how little time and effort is actually required to add the suggested activities into your morning routine. A great start makes all the difference, and I promise you that you are worth it.

December 16, 2016 by Angela Irish