“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Have you ever noticed when your morning starts in a frenzy—snoozing your alarm, skipping breakfast, and rushing yourself out the door—the rest of your day seems to reflect that mood of chaos as well? The tone of your morning will determine the tone of your day, so it’s time to start planning accordingly.
When you form healthy habitual behaviors for the morning, you set your day up for success. Whether you are aware of them or not, you operate under habits (both good and bad) all the time—they are an integral part of your daily existence. Part of developing a healthy habit, is to become intentional with it. Most habits are formed because they are easy or along the path of least resistance. If you want to cultivate positive habits, then you may need to put some intentional effort into forming them until they become second nature.
This is particularly true with morning habits. What you cultivate in the morning influences how you feel, act, and think during the rest of your day. Here are 10 simple habits that you can add into your morning routine now, to ensure you are feeling, acting, and thinking at your highest potential for the rest of your day—and days—ahead.
1. Stay Unplugged from Tech
If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your smartphone for messages or work email, you are doing yourself a disservice. You are immediately cultivating a reactive mindset, instead of a proactive one, which will cause you to start your day in a defensive state, rather than a place of inner peace and control.
Instead, try remaining detached from technology for the first hour of your day so you can begin your day with present-moment awareness and a positive focus.
Drinking a glass of water in the morning after going hours without a sip is a good way to hydrate your body. The Ayurvedic technique of adding lemon to a warm glass of water helps remove toxins from your digestive tract that may have built up overnight, provides a good source of vitamin C, freshens your breath, supports weight loss, and stimulates metabolism and digestion. Bottoms up first thing in the a.m. for a healthy—and refreshing—start to your day.
3. Practice Optimism and Gratitude
Before you even get out of bed, give yourself a few minutes to smile and practice gratitude. When you smile, it signals your brain to release the feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin), which lift your mood, relax your body, and lower your heart rate. Who wouldn’t want to start their day on this positive note?
As you smile, start to reflect upon what you’re grateful for. Studies have shown practicing gratitude reduces stress hormones and improves mood, among other benefits. So, adding a simple daily gratitude practice is a great way to kick-start your morning.
Begin by taking one minute in bed before you rise to reflect on one person and one opportunity you are grateful for in your life.
4. Make Your Bed
Tim Ferriss, author and podcast host (The Tim Ferriss Show) has interviewed more than a hundred highly successful people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, and in a variety of industries. He always asks, “What’s your morning routine?” Along the way, he has collected five habits that he has incorporated into his morning routine, and one of them is making his bed.
It may seem like a waste of time, unimportant, or unnecessary (you’re just going to use it again at night), but making your bed is a simple action you can take in the morning that makes you start your day feeling accomplished—and what better tone to set than a sense of pride and accomplishment? Taking charge and completing simple tasks will give you the foundation to take on more and more throughout the day.
Incorporating some type of mindfulness practice like meditation into your daily morning routine can help ground you and train your mind and emotions, which then influences how you react to challenges throughout your day.
During your meditation is also a great time to set your intention for the day. When you get clear on how you want your day to go or what you want to feel or accomplish, you can make clear decisions that create the life you truly want to live.
Note sure where to get started? Here is a simple meditation you can do in the morning:
- Get into a comfortable seated position and set a timer for five minutes.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- Inhale through your nose for four counts, retain for four counts, and exhale through your nose for eight counts.
- Every time you notice your mind wandering, gently guide it back to focus on your breath.
- When the timer goes off, release your counting, but stay seated with your eyes closed for a moment.
- Set an intention for your day and visualize yourself meeting this intention.
- Open your eyes, draw your arms up to the sky for a stretch, and then move on with your day, carrying the calm energy and intention with you.
Whether it’s a simple yoga routine, a brisk walk with your pet, a quick set of sit-ups and push-ups, or hitting the gym to work off last night’s meal, starting off your day with movement energizes the body and the mind. Determine what kind of exercise is right for you and schedule it. It doesn’t have to be complicated, long, or intense, but having some sort of physical activity in the morning will get your blood flowing and help quiet any mental chatter. You can even switch up what kind of exercise you do every day to keep your routine interesting.
7. Put Yourself Together
Putting time and effort into your appearance helps build self-confidence. When you feel “put together,” it is one less thing to worry about throughout your day.
So, shower, wash your face, brush your teeth, floss, comb your hair, apply lotion/oil, dress to impress, and apply any other hygiene/grooming habits that make you feel good about yourself. This may involve picking out your clothes the night before (especially if you are short on time in the morning) or ironing your clothes—whatever makes you feel like you are taking care of your health, looking presentable, and feeling confident.
8. Eat a Healthy Breakfast
You’ve most likely heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you make time to eat a healthy breakfast (lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains), you’ll have more energy throughout the day and a stronger ability to focus and concentrate.
9. Have a “To-Do” List Ready to Conquer
Take a few minutes to write down a “to-do” list for the day ahead. Then prioritize it so your day’s list has only 3 to 5 items on it—ranked in order of priority to make sure you tackle the most pressing things first.
Writing down your “to-do’s” instead of keeping them floating around in your mind helps clear mental chatter. You also give yourself a sense of purpose each day when you know what you need to get done. And there is something satisfying about crossing off tasks on your list—it really cultivates a sense of accomplishment.
10. Get Enough Restful Sleep
This last one isn’t a habit for your morning exactly … however, before you can hope to implement new, healthy morning habits, you should have the foundation of a well-rested body and mind. The way you feel while you’re awake is dependent in part on your sleep habits. If you’ve been feeling groggy, irritable, or exhausted, you may not be getting enough quality sleep.
During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In fact, sleep plays such a vital role in your physical well-being, mental clarity, and quality of life that ongoing sleep deficiency (the amount varies by individual, but typically this means less than 6 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night) can have adverse effects on your health—and how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
When you start your day after a night of restful sleep, you will wake feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the day, starting with your new morning habits.