Don't Dread the Dawn — 5 Ways to Upgrade Your Mornings
by Catherine Morris | September 1, 2020, updated 18 days ago
In an ideal world, mornings would be a time of reflection and serenity. You'd spring out of bed, greet the day with a smile, leisurely get dressed and enjoy an unhurried, healthy breakfast.
For most of us, the reality is somewhat different. Bleary-eyed, short on time and patience, we tend to view mornings as a necessary evil—a small slice of mayhem to be endured before you can get on with the rest of your day. However, a few, small tweaks can make all the difference
Hack your morning and embrace the new you with these 5 easy to integrate tips.
1. Move – Any Way, Anywhere
Just like warming up your muscles for a workout, it's a good idea to warm up your muscles for the day. It doesn't have to involve anything strenuous—no sane person wants to roll out of bed and immediately into a set of jumping jacks.
Don't sweat it (literally). If all you can manage is a few minutes of yoga-like stretching on the bedroom floor, that's plenty.
Cat and Cow Pose are a great way to wake up the spine, Child's Pose opens up those sleepy hips, and Downward Dog will get the brain fired up. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, a quick Plank will kick your core into high gear.
Mornings are also a good time to fit in those trendy micro-workouts you've been hearing about. Popping off a few squats while waiting for the kettle to boil, running up the stairs to grab your things, dropping for a few push-ups before the shower—they don't take long, but they're surprisingly effective, and are as much of an energy boost as a cup of espresso.
2. Take a Cold Shower
It sounds like a particularly cruel form of torture, but early morning cold showers have some surprising health benefits. From combating depression to easing tired muscles, cold showers might leave you shivering but they're good for body and mind.
In case you needed a bit more persuasion, according to a 2009 study, cold showers can even help you lose weight.
I know what you're thinking—a cold shower might just be in the cards in the summer, but there's no way you're standing under an icy blast when winter hits and there's snow on the ground. Your supercharged shower doesn't have to be a 20 minute freezing soak. Run the shower hot as usual and then switch over for a blast of cold before you step out. All the benefits of a cold shower, and it's over in a matter of seconds.
A Norwegian study asked 3,000 brave volunteers to finish their morning shower with a 30, 60 or 90 second blast of cold water. After 30 days they compared results and discovered that everyone in the trial had 29 percent fewer sick days off work than those in the control group. The researchers concluded that cold showers seem to make people more productive, and could even kick their immune system into high gear.
3. Do a Quick Detox
A nutritious breakfast can set you up for the day, giving you slow-release energy to keep you focused and sharp until lunch. Breakfast is also a good opportunity to sneak in some detoxifying foods that might not otherwise make it on your plate.
If you're someone who can't stomach a big breakfast first thing, a morning smoothie is a good option. If you over-indulged the night before, consider adding activated charcoal which reduces gas and protects the liver.
Spirulina is another great smoothie ingredient. Hailed as a superfood thanks to its high concentration of B vitamins, iron, magnesium and potassium, this unique algae is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
Whatever you're eating for breakfast, you're probably pairing it with coffee—another great detoxer. While it might not get you as buzzed as that early morning exercise, your cuppa provides a powerful hit of antioxidants at the start of the day. Studies show coffee has significant benefits for your brain, your liver and your longevity.
Just make sure it's filtered, and try not to drink it immediately. It's best to wait and drink your coffee an hour after waking if possible. Chugging it down straight from bed counters your body's natural morning cortisol spike, making that caffeine hit less effective.
4. Spend Some Time in Your Head
Mindful meditation in the mornings means a calmer, more focused day...and it doesn't have to take long. Setting aside just five or ten minutes to sit, take deep breaths, or repeat a mantra is a quick mood and energy jolt.
It's particularly worthwhile for those heading into the office. Meditation helps cognitive function, which makes it easier to multi-task, focus, and eliminate stress. It also gives you a bit of clarity during the early rush—helping you identify what you want to get done with your day, and encouraging gratitude for everything you've already accomplished during the week.
One more tip—if you're going to meditate, make sure your devices are out of the picture. So many of us reach for our phones immediately upon waking, to check emails, browse social media and see who's posted what while you were catching 40 winks. Not an ideal tactic if you're looking for mental peace and focus.
5. Go Outside
Just ten minutes in an outdoor setting has a significantly positive impact on mental health, so it might be a good idea to sip your coffee outside. If you're one of the millions of people experiencing brain fog due to poor sleep, exposure to natural light first thing in the morning can improve your rest at night and your concentration during the day.
If it happens to be sunny when you're out, bonus! The so-called 'sunshine vitamin', Vitamin D is crucial to all aspects of our health, so soaking up some sun in the morning can boost heart health, immunity and mood.
Changing your routine can be tough, but the results speak for themselves. If you need help integrating any of the above suggestions into your life, reach out to our Which Doctor community of therapists, life coaches, meditation teachers, yoga instructors, dietitians and naturopaths.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.