The New Year is always a good time to try on new habits and resolutions to better our health. No matter what your resolution might be, starting the day off right will further help your chances of success. I find an intentional morning routine sets me up for a happier, calmer mindset, increased productivity, and healthier choices throughout the day. Here are some tips that work for me. Don’t get overwhelmed, even trying out one or two could make a positive impact in your day!
- Get plenty of sleep. If you only make one resolution this year, make it this one. The impacts of sleep debt are real and although there are certainly challenges to getting enough shuteye, it’s the most important way to ensure a good morning and long-term health. Work seven to nine hours backward from your ideal wake-up time and try to get to bed then. It can be tough, but it’s so worth it!
- Give yourself enough time. I’m all too familiar with the routine of hitting the snooze button too many times, rapidly showering, grabbing a quick (usually starchy) bite from the kitchen, and sprinting out the door. Not only is this a recipe for a stressful morning, but I find that it sets the tone for the day. Make the effort to get up early enough to allow yourself to go through your morning routine at a leisurely pace, creating space for a calm mind.
- Plan for movement in the day. Whether you like to go for a run in the morning before work or you’re packing clothes to hit your favorite class during your lunch hour, make sure that exercise is scheduled in as non-negotiable and that you’re prepared for it. It’s often the first thing to fall off the plate in a busy life.
- Consider a gratitude practice. Instead of opening your eyes and immediately going over a mental list of everything you need to do that day, try pausing and listing the things you’re grateful for. By reminding yourself first of the things that bring you peace and calm and happiness instead of stress and anxiety, you can even strengthen your immune system.
- Make your bed. There’s no getting around it: when I don’t make my bed I start the day out feeling scattered and disorganized. There’s something reassuring about knowing that no matter what else I might fail or succeed at during the day, I set the tone for productivity by accomplishing that one task with consistency. Navy SEALs even know the value of making your bed every morning. Try it and see what you think!
- Connect with someone you love. I’m lucky in that my family has a schedule right now that lets us sit down to eat breakfast together every morning. My three young boys love the chance to chat and share what they dreamed about and what’s going on in their day with my husband and me. Engaging in relationship encourages oxytocin release, whether it’s a hug or a kiss or even sending a text to a far-away friend or relative to say good morning.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. When we eat a starchy, carb-heavy breakfast without prioritizing fresh vegetables and protein, we set ourselves up for a roller coaster of sugar highs and crashes. This can impact my mood and productivity in really ugly ways! Aim for a breakfast that is high in protein, quality fats, and complex carbs to help stabilize your blood sugar. A common meal at our house that helps everyone get to lunch without crashes looks a little different than a typical American breakfast: green smoothies, sausage, avocado, apples with nut butter, carrots, and cucumbers are all commonly in the mix. Sometimes we even eat dinner leftovers.
- Have your lunch (and dinner) plan ready. The single biggest indicator of success for my clients is their ability to motivate to meal plan. When we create a structure, it takes the stress out of in-the-moment decision making around meals, and we are less likely to make crummy choices. Whether it means bringing your lunch with you to work, chopping veggies in the morning for dinner, or throwing ingredients in the slow cooker for meals throughout the week, you will always thank yourself when you sit down to a meal you already planned for.
- Hydrate! Whether it’s drinking a couple big glasses of water or having a cup of warm water with lemon, I always feel better if I make sure to hydrate in the morning. The addition of lemon is a great way to stimulate the digestive system, not to mention the immune system benefits we get from the citrus fruit’s vitamin C. If caffeine is part of your morning routine, just make sure that you’re also drinking plenty of water.
- Make time for mindfulness. Even if it’s not a formal meditation practice, finding ways to practice mindfulness in your day can have huge benefits—and the morning can be a great time for it. (I love the app Headspace—have you tried it?) Sometimes I set aside five or ten minutes to sit quietly, or tell myself that during my lunch break today I’m going to eat slowly and intentionally, or even just remind myself to be fully present during a meeting with a client. It all adds up to a sense of focus and groundedness throughout the day.
While this list may seem like a lot, don’t worry about taking all these habits on at once! See how it feels to add one new thing to your morning routine for a week. If you like it, add another. Notice how it impacts the rest of your day. If you’re anything like me, it will make your afternoons and evenings much more enjoyable.
Sarah Kolman is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World.