Have a great morning every morning!

Mornings can be the most stressful part of the 24 hours that make up our day. Too many of us awake to a blaring alarm clock, hurry in a frenzied panic to get dressed, and choke down some dry cereal before running to catch the bus to work. The morning can feel so rushed that it often seems like the day hasn’t properly begun until the afternoon rolls around and we can catch our breath.

Yet, the morning time hours are essential to our overall wellbeing because starting off with a great morning sets you up right for success later on in the day.

Below are three morning rituals that you can implement to start a daily routine to prepare you for a great day ahead! This post is going to be a long one, so grab a cup of tea or your drink of choice, get comfortable, and read on.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal sleep clock. It regulates when you feel awake and when you feel sleepy. Say you wake up at different times every day this week: 7 am on Monday, 6 am on Friday, then 10 am on Sunday. This variety in wake times would confuse your body and it wouldn’t know when to program you to feel sleepy and when to program you to feel awake. Your body cannot register whether you got enough sleep or not the night before. So in order to pay off this “sleep debt,” it will make you feel generally tired throughout the day to encourage you to sleep more. Waking up at a consistent time everyday improves how refreshed, alert, and energized you feel throughout the day.

Now, most of us think that we can’t change our moods, and if we wake up in a funk, we are resigned to spending the rest of the day in that funk. This is false. According to experts, 40% of happiness is within our control. What does this mean? We can change our behavior so that negative emotions don’t linger. In fact, this is how antidepressants work: they decrease negative emotions, according to University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and author of the book The How of Happiness.

Pay more attention to the good things in your life! There are many ways in which to do that, and these are just a few examples below:

☼ Visualize your day.

Make your bed, sit up in a comfortable position, and imagine having a great day ahead. Think of your commute, walking into the building where you work, acing a difficult presentation to your boss and having a funny conversation and laughing with your coworkers. Make sure your visualization is specific and positive. Set yourself up for success.

Did you know that imagining your success can be just as important as the actions you take to achieve your goals? A Cleveland Clinic Foundation study had subjects simply visualize weight training weight training for a short period of time. After a few weeks, subjects had a 13.5% increase in strength! A University of Chicago study showed that participants who visualized free throws for a month improved their shooting in basketball by 23%.

Visualize, believe, then achieve!

☼ Start a gratitude journal.

Every morning, as soon as you wake up, pick up your journal. Write a list of 5 things that you are grateful for in your life. Read each item after you write it. Experience the feeling of gratitude and joy washing over you as you read each item that you wrote. Then, write “Thank you!” in large print underneath your list. This is an idea I got from the book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. In that book, she suggests that you write 10 things that you’re grateful for, but I find 5 to be more manageable on a daily basis.

☼ Meditate.

Meditation does not have to mean burning incense and sitting cross-legged in a room for 2 hours while you try to void your mind of thoughts. Meditation can be as simple as getting in tune with your body for 5 minutes in the morning with a few simple yoga stretches in bed. There are free 5-minute morning bed yoga tutorials on YouTube! By doing a light yoga exercise, you’re naturally clearing your head of any negative thoughts by instead focusing on your body, your breathing, and your posture.

☼ Work out.

Exercising releases chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which make you happy! The release of these “happy chemicals” in your brain lifts your mood, reduces stress, decreases depression, and even improves your long-term memory. You can do something as simple as a 15-minute Pilate workout on YouTube or take a 20-minute walk around your neighborhood.

☼ Read the Word or a Daily Devotional book.

I can’t say enough how much reading Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyers has changed my life. Get an inspirational daily devotional book that will uplift you, increase your confidence, and get you energized for your day. If you’re not religious, buy a daily meditation or mindfulness book.These exercises will help you get into a good mood by clearing your mind of any negative energy and opening you to receive, accept, and give positivity throughout the day. They can be very calming, so you may want to set a second alarm clock just in case you find yourself drifting off again while journaling or doing bed yoga.

There’s a reason it’s called “breakfast.” Your body has been fasting the entire night while you’re asleep for at least 7 hours. When you get up, you have to replenish your body’s energy reserves and nutrients so that it can function properly. It’s like charging your phone. Your body needs to be charged up with healthy foods. This can be difficult if you have a hectic schedule like most Americans.

For 3 years, I worked at a company that was a 40-minute commute away from where I lived. For months when I first started, I would eat my oatmeal in the car as I drove there – a terrible habit! First off, I could only eat at red traffic lights, so eating breakfast was a very stressful experience—especially in Philadelphia where cars honk at you if you don’t drive off at the exact split-second the light turns green.

Secondly, I wasn’t allowing my body the time to properly digest my food. Your brain can only do so much at once. Eating is a sensory experience. When you eat while you’re distracted, your brain does not fully process the flavor, textures and spices of the food. So, the food tastes blander than it actually is. On top of that, it also takes longer for your brain to send you a signal that you’re full. This would explain why I would arrive to work and be ravenous a half-hour after finishing a full bowl of oatmeal.

If you’re not eating breakfast every day, that’s a problem – and it could also be contributing to your mood in the mornings, if you’re arriving to work “hangry.” If you’re short on time, meal prep may the way to go! Every Sunday, you can prepare  breakfast for your weekdays in advance. This way, during the week, you can take out a meal from the fridge, sit down and enjoy it, then head to work. Alternatively, you can take the ingredients for your breakfast with you to work and eat it at your desk before starting your day.

You may be thinking, “That’s all good and nice, but I can’t afford to eat breakfast in the morning! I don’t have the time.” But my response to you is that you can’t afford not to. Your good health is a currency that you cannot beg, buy or barter for. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And although there may be no instant gratification to be gained by eating breakfast sitting down every day, over time your body will suffer from being deprived of the nutrients that it needs to serve you and function properly throughout the day.

I use my cell phone as my alarm clock. However, I am not allowed to use my phone to look at texts, check my email, social media, or do anything beyond play music in iTunes until I’ve read my morning devotional, meditated or journaled, and had breakfast. Your smartphone is an amazing tool to keep you connected to the world, but it can also be a black hole that silently devours the precious free time that you have. You will find it very difficult to follow a morning routine if you’re sneaking peeks at your cell phone the entire time, and thus losing precious morning time.

Put the phone down, let the world wait on you, and prioritize yourself in the early morning. As a wise millennial once said, #YOLO. You Only Live Once. If you’re consistently missing out on having a great morning, you’re consistently missing out on having a great life. You cannot take back that half-hour that you spent watching YouTube hair tutorials in bed (raises hand), but you can make a resolution to do better next morning and make this life your best life, and make your mornings count. You can build a morning routine by implementing one or more of the rituals outlined above. I wish you the best of luck.

Let me know how it goes, and have a fabulous morning! And if you have any great morning rituals that you love, please share them down in the comments below! I’d love to learn from you.

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