Ever notice that your morning experience affects your entire day? What we do (or don’t do) in the time immediately after opening our eyes can set the stage for the rest of our waking hours. Apply these few simple habits to revamp your morning routine in the New Year to promote better health and productivity.
Habits can help shape our health destiny if we maintain healthy behaviors over time. For many of us, our mornings are full of activity: showering, dressing, making breakfast, getting the kids ready for school, packing lunches. However, taking time to incorporate a few small health-supporting habits can help prepare our bodies and minds for what’s to come in the day ahead.
Our bodies lose fluids overnight while sleeping, mostly due to breathing and sweating. Perhaps one of the most important healthy habits to consider is replenishing as much hydration as possible in the morning hours. This can also kick-start your digestion, increase energy and give your metabolism a slight boost. Focus on drinking at least 8 oz of water upon waking up, or drink non-caffeinated tea. Many swear by warm lemon water to help even more with digestion and energy.
Most individuals have heard of rehab, especially in relation to an injury. However, with new science and research in the last decade we’ve learned that a good prehab routine doesn’t just apply to an injury or orthopedic physical therapy. The idea behind prehab is to perform movements and exercises to help strengthen and mobilize the joints as well as improve balance so as to avoid getting hurt in the future. Exercises in the morning like yoga squats, shoulder taps, and hip openers can go a long way to starting your morning.
Not all of us can wake up at dawn and hit the gym: it’s simply not feasible for many of our lifestyles or preferences. However, it is extremely beneficial to incorporate some type of movement after waking, whether it be a brief walk around the block or slow, cozy yoga. Waking up the body with movements helps lubricate joints that may be stiff from sleeping and stretch muscles to prevent strain. Evidence also suggests working out or being active in the morning is better for overall health and metabolism than waiting until the evening hours to exercise, as this can disrupt sleep. Take 5-10 minutes every morning to stretch or walk, or hit the gym if it feels good.
These days, waking up in a frenzy is common. Stressors in life and work invade our thoughts and are sometimes the first things to pop into our head in the morning. Waking up stressed out can set you up for continued stress throughout the day and lead to diminished health over time. One of the best tools to combat stress is breath work. Also used within many forms of meditation, structured breathing can help relax the nervous system and bring our minds into the present moment (not stuck in a cycle of disruptive, stressful thoughts). Start with simply being aware of your breath for 2-3 minutes, or practice the “square method” of breathing: breathe in for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, breathe out for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts. Starting the day with breath work can keep your body and mind in a more relaxed state throughout the day, instead of being stuck in fight or flight mode.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” used to be an anthem shared by most of the wellness community until practices like intermittent fasting and cleanses came onto the scene. While these can be beneficial for some (more beneficial for men than women, especially), there is still a large amount of evidence that suggests eating a balanced meal within a few hours of waking is good for overall health. Even eating a small meal with balanced macros (fats, proteins and carbs) can set your metabolism on the right track for the day and help ward off cravings that may lead to overeating later on. Eating at regular intervals each day starting in the morning can also help support a healthy circadian rhythm: an inner rhythm that helps dictate our bodies’ wakefulness, sleep patterns and metabolism.
How we spend our morning time dictates how we experience the rest of our day, in many cases. However, we are all unique. It is important to listen to your body to know what works best for you in the morning and continue with habits that support your individual health, whether that is incorporating breath work, going on a run, sipping on tea, or eating a full breakfast. For the upcoming New Year, make a goal to find out what is best to prepare your body and mind for the day ahead and maintain these habits to continue supporting your long-term health.