35 Ways to Start Your Day
35 Ways to Start Your Day
Whether reducing stress, increasing energy, or simply bettering overall health is your goal, how you start your day is crucial to achieving it. Some of us benefit from slowing down, taking time for ourselves, and eating a complete breakfast. Others will find that a good stretch is all they need. What's clear is that while few people can do all of these 50 suggestions, everyone will benefit from doing one or two.
Secretaries, financial executives, customer service representatives, moms, dads, grandparents: everyone faces unique daily stresses that eventually take their toll. Below are tips from leading mental health, life, career, and stress management experts about how to start your day on the best possible footing.
1. Take Some Time for You
It's important to make your mornings productive, calm, and energizing. But that kind of good zen doesn't happen if you roll out of bed five minutes before for work: you still have breakfast, shower, makeup, and laundry ahead of you, and no time to do it all. That spells stress.
Try waking a full hour earlier than you typically would to put a few of these tips into practice. Make it your special time of the day, when you focus solely on you and your own needs. It's not selfish; it's healthy!
2. Play Your Music
Music has a profound effect on the human body when used as a therapeutic tool, especially to aid depression and limit stress. "Therapeutic," for the record, doesn't mean whale and rain sounds, though it can. If you start your mornings sluggish and sad, turn on the music that gets you pumped and feeling great. If you start your mornings feeling worried or stressed, then whale sounds or otherwise soothing music might be your ideal music therapy.
- Place the palms of your hands flat together in front of your chest.1
- Flex the wrists at a 90° angle.
- Keeping the palms together, move them up until your elbows touch.
- Return your hands to their original position.
- Repeat four times.
3. Stretch Your Moneymakers
Certain parts of the body, like the butt and back, tend to hold most of the tension from hard work or stress, but these parts often release that tension easily after a few stretches. The result is a flood of feel-good energy. Likewise, since so many of us make our living using computers for everyday tasks, we also put a great burden on our wrists, elbows, forearms, and upper arms. Failing to stretch these muscles regularly increases the risk of long-term and debilitating injuries. Tip: Don't save the stretching for morning - have a little stretch at lunch to revitalize your afternoon hours.
4. Get Clean - Nice and Early
Many take their showers the evening before, but while showers are helpful for winding down during the evening, they also help to kick-start the day. Try switching things around by taking morning showers. The goal is to start the day feeling fresh, calm, and energized. Do not underestimate just how thoroughly a shower can clear the mind!
5. Rub Your Feet
We all love a good foot rub, but there's more to it than simply stretching muscles. The pressure points on feet correspond to many other areas of the body, including our legs, which often remain sedentary through the workday. A good foot massage also relieves anxiety and depression. Cortisol levels drop by up to 50% with regular massage. Give yourself ten minutes and focus on your feet and calves. Use a little body butter or massage oil, if you have it.
6. Put on Your Yoga Pants
A morning yoga routine is not a revelation. Many people throughout the world have long known about the benefits of a quick yoga routine to start the day. Not only does the extensive stretching with breath control release good energy into the body, but it also works out any muscle stress left over from the night or previous day. Beginning the day free of stress and relaxed means that you can tackle just about anything that comes your way with a level, happy head.
7. Go to Bed Early - No, Really
The most important part of starting your day right is going to bed at night. No, no: not at 1 a.m. like you have been, but maybe more like 8 or 9 p.m. Aim for between eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. Any less than eight, and you run the risk of feeling foggy and sleep-deprived. Any more than 10, and you may feel sluggish for most of the day. Make bedtime a priority: studies show, sleep matters.
8. Eat Something!
Breakfast tells your metabolism what to expect for the rest of the day. So, skip breakfast, and your metabolism will attach 10-pound concrete rocks to each of your ankles. Without the signal to your brain that you have primed your body for action, your body will instead attempt to conserve energy. That means sloth not success! The famous mid-morning slump, an epidemic in the workforce, would improve greatly if everyone stopped to grab some fruit, protein, and a little fat for breakfast.
9. Make Plans for World Domination
You don't want your morning to be stressful from the moment you roll out of bed. No, you want and you need to have a sense of accomplishment, of ease, of put-together-ness. Consider preparing the things you need for the next day the night before, rather than the morning of:
- Lay out clothing (for you and the kids, if necessary)
- Prepare lunch(es) for the next day
- Setup coffee or tea to brew or steep
- Lay out papers or projects for work
- Put your keys, shoes, and briefcase beside the door
10. Stop and Smell the Coffee
Even if you dislike coffee, few people deny that the smell of fresh-brewed stuff is a bit like a drug. Buy a tiny little coffeemaker (under $20), some cheap canned grounds, and get the coffeemaker brewing every morning. Don't drink, just smell.
11. Hydrate Yer Brain
Before you put one bit of food in your mouth, quickly down 16 ounces of water. Not only does this get your daily hydration off to a good start, but it corrects the natural dehydration your body experiences after a long night's sleep. People sweat while they sleep, and that includes you. Dehydration directly affects energy-levels, and sometimes, those two glasses of water mean the difference between a long slog and a happy jaunt.
12. Go for a Cuddle and a Kiss
Even if you're in a rush, it's important to take the time to show those we love how much we care. And it's no surprise that by reminding them, you're actually reminding yourself. A simple quick cuddle with your kids or significant other leaves everyone feeling reinforced, socially-strengthened, and happy. Don't leave the house without giving a quick kiss to the wife, husband, or kids. It's not just good for them; it's good for you, too.
13. Eat Some Fruit
A little sugar never did anyone any harm. Too much, on the other hand, will sabotage the day. The perfect touch of sweetness is one that provides fiber, vitamins, and even antioxidants. That means fruit, not fruit roll-ups! Blueberries make a great option, since they meet all the qualifications above and taste great. Bananas bring the added benefit of a small fat content and a very rounded nutritional profile. Really, any fruit will do to get the blood-sugar pumping. Stick to one serving, such as an apple or a handful of berries, and combine it with something else, like a few almonds or a hard-boiled egg.
14. Put Off the Rush
Typically, our mornings consist of nothing but THE ROUTINE. Roll out of bed, jump in the shower, scramble through the closet for something to wear, frantically throw-on makeup or shave, look for the toothbrush, try to grab something, anything, as you leap out the door for work or to take the kids to school.
THE ROUTINE may be a necessity, it's true. Anyone who has had to prepare three children for school knows it for a certainty. You don't have to make THE ROUTINE the only thing you do in the morning, however. Try getting up a little earlier, doing some of these tips, and then falling into THE ROUTINE. You'll be surprised at how much calmer, cool, and collected you'll feel.
15. Take 15
Set aside 15 minutes just for you at the same time, every morning. It's both a practice of discipline and a way to feel like you've accomplished something just for you. Do you like to write? Use this time to do absolutely nothing but write. Be disciplined; hold yourself accountable. This time is yours to accomplish something you want to do, something that speaks to a larger life goal. Want greater financial security? Use this time to organize your bills or review your budget. Seeking a little spiritual enlightenment? Devote your time to reading some nourishing spiritual texts. You get the idea!
16. Take Vitamins, Pee Neon
Not all vitamins truly help an individual, but some do. If you suffer from headaches and low energy related to stress, consider taking B2 and Magnesium. Any of the B vitamins will help with energy, while Calcium and Magnesium will help with absorption, as well as overall bowel and bone health. Live somewhere with very little exposure to sun? Try taking Vitamin D supplements - you can bet you aren't getting enough. Put your health first and find some vitamins that might really benefit you, then take them diligently with breakfast. You deserve good health and good days!
17. Use Positive Self-Talk
If you've ever watched this little video about Jessica's daily affirmations, then you already know to do positive self-talk. Sure, you might feel a little ridiculous, but who cares? What matters is that you affirm your strengths and values. Daily. Speaking to yourself positively not only reminds you that you don't deserve crumby treatment, but also that you're capable of achieving great things. Today. If you believe your self-talk, others will, too.
18. Wake Slowly
Try setting your alarm clock for five minutes earlier than you actually intend to get up. Sit awake in bed, stretch, start thinking about breakfast and some of these tips you plan to do. Take a full five minutes to come awake before leaving bed. You won't be stumbling around groggy, but rather, will rise from bed feeling ready, prepared for the day. Many also notice that they feel less sleepy when they use this strategy.
19. Get Some Sun
Now while getting the sun may be tough in cities like Seattle, it's still possible everywhere else. Leave your blinds or curtains partially open so that as the sun rises, the light slowly enters your room. This is a timeless practice that plays on your body's circadian rhythm and innate desire to rise with the sun. You'll wake up feeling more refreshed and ready to take on the day. Not to mention, sunlight affects Vitamin D absorption, which in turn affects mood for the better.
20. Down the Black or Green Stuff
Reliance on caffeine is a no-no, but taking advantage of a little pick-me-up is a-okay. Coffee has been shown to improve concentration and energy, and that's to say nothing about the rich supply of antioxidants in each cup.
Green tea is even better, especially green loose leaf tea, which has less caffeine per cup and so many health benefits that science hardly knows where to start. It's less dehydrating than coffee and requires neither cream nor sugar - not if it's brewed properly!
Drinking something warm, especially in the Fall and Winter, has the added benefit of being soothing. Wrap your hands around the warm cup, soak in the aroma, and slowly sip the good stuff. This will quiet your mind and center you for the day.
21. Take a New Route
In need of another energy boost for the day? Try taking a different route to work. Everyone grows a little weary of routine and trying a different route is one easy way to start your day with a little extra pizazz. Who knows if you might see or experience something new? It also shakes up the routine and gets you thinking and acting outside the box.
When we admit to feelings of stress and anxiety, or write down those prospects and goals that excite us, we release tension and feel proactive. Stress and anxiety improve when the sufferer feels as if he or she has identified the problem, while happy individuals feel best when reinforcing their positive state of mind.
Journals also make interesting reading 20 years down the road.
23. Get Some Exercise
For those who wake and feel all aflutter with too much stress or nerves to hold a cup of coffee properly, a morning exercise routine may make all the difference. Besides using up nervous energy, a quick, 15 to 30 minute exercise also gets the blood flowing and prepares the body for challenges.
24. Take a Meditative Minute
At some point in the morning, take a minute to sit quietly and consider something comforting. If you have a vacation to see friends in a few weeks, take a minute to think about all the fun you will have. If you find hiking gives you peace of mind, then sit and consider your favorite mountain hike. Visualize the beautiful scenery and fresh air. Those who take just a minute to meditate experience a more even, positive attitude throughout the day.
25. Learn Something New
This tip helps you to feel accomplished before you even begin the day. You can limit stress by avoiding news outlets. Rather, seek out "fact a day" or "article a day" websites. When you learn this new thing, repeat it to yourself a few times and mull it over throughout the day. It's amazing what keeping an active brain can do for you!
26. Set Some Goals
Sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and tea, or even with breakfast, and make a list of goals for the day. They can be small, like "Remember to brush my teeth after lunch," or much bigger, "Ask my boss for a raise." If you have children or a significant other, your goals might include enriching the relationship: "Play with little Emily for at least 10 minutes."
The goals are entirely up to you, but they should be attainable and personally valuable.
27. Get Some "Action"
Having sex in the morning does more than reinforce the relationship and leave you feeling loved and energized. It also reduces stress. Substantially. The Queen's University of Belfast discovered that the risks for heart attack and stroke diminish by half after a little morning loving. Morning sex also alleviates migraines, so don't use a headache as an excuse! Not to mention that having a little sex is liable to keep you looking and feeling sexy. Each session of sex burns about 200-300 calories, increases blood flow, releases a flood of hormones, and keeps you alert.
28. Play a Game
Do something fun, like play a game. This lightens the mood and relieves stress. It also reminds you not to take THE ROUTINE so seriously. The game might be a crossword puzzle or Sudoku; or it might be a quick 10 minutes in World of Warcraft or Halo. It's up to you! No matter what you choose, it should be fun and something you can shut-off easily when the time comes to attend to the day.
29. Take a Bath
If you are putting these suggestions into practice and getting up a little earlier, then you have plenty of time to sit in a nice hot bath and relax. Baths get the blood flowing, release tension in muscles, and leave the bather feeling spiffy and clean. It's an energizing way to start the day. Just be sure to have all your clothing ready to go so that getting dressed after the bath doesn't become a source of stress.
30. Go for a Walk
On nice days, take a stroll outside. It doesn't have to be a long stroll. In fact, even a stroll to the mailbox and back is good enough. Regardless of how far you walk, if you do it slowly, breath deeply, and look around you, then your blood pressure will drop and your body will release yummy hormones sure to make you happy. Take in the colors, the activity of others, the sun (or rain, as the case may be). Keep your ears peeled for sounds that trigger good feelings or energy, such as the hum of lawnmowers in the distance.
31. Do Some Deep Breathing
- Find a comfortable chair that will enable you to sit with a good posture. Begin relaxing your body, from your toes through your eyebrows. Relax and pay close attention to the rhythm of your breathing.
- Place both hands on your abdomen and feel each breath go in and out.
- Breathe through your nose and note whether or not your chest rises and falls with your abdomen.
- Now place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen. Breathe deeply, and slowly, through your nose into your abdomen. Your chest should rise only a little.
- Exhale, keeping your mouth, tongue, and jaw relaxed.
- Pay close attention to the sounds of your breathing, and repeat.
32. Treat Yourself
While treating with food is dangerous, it's certainly safe to try a new type of fruit for breakfast or a different flavor of latte. Even better, treat yourself by making your body feel good. Use lotion to hydrate the skin on your arms, chest, and neck. Simple acts profoundly modify moods. Consider taking an extra five minutes to give yourself a long foot massage. Find little things that don't take time or cost a great deal of money, but which mean something to you.
33. Clean Something
Putting something in order, especially when you have plenty of time to do it, is a sure way to feel productive and energized. In addition, coming home to a house that is just a little cleaner prepares your mood for the evening. Quickly sweep up the cheerios on the floor, or wash the juice off the counter. Rinse out the pot in the sink, or pick up the magazines by the kitchen counter. It can be small - no need to clean and organize the hall closet.
34. Use Aromatherapy
A little aromatherapy can make your bedroom soothing and your kitchen energizing. Scent allows users to harness memories and instinctual physiological responses. If lavender reminds you of those carefree summers at your grandmother's house, consider lighting candles in your bedroom while you read and relax. If the scent of peppermint preps you to take over the world, then incorporate it into your kitchen.
- Lavender, Chamomile, Basil, Juniper relieve stress and anxiety.
- Marjoram, Rose, Sandalwood, Chamomile promote restfulness.
- Peppermint, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Lavender, and Nutmeg energize.
35. Count Your Blessings
Now I know you have energy for this one. List your blessings. You needn't make a fifty item list. Maybe you only feel grateful for one or two things, and that's okay. But think of something. Dwell on each of the things you appreciate about your life and write down one or two that feel particularly important for that day.
This mental exercise not only gets your brain thinking, but it also improves attitude and mood.
Example of Deep Breathing
- Hanser SB, Thompson LW (November 1994). "Effects of a music therapy strategy on depressed older adults". J Gerontol 49 (6): P265-9. 22 Aug 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7963281>.
- Dartmouth. "Deep Breathing Exercises." 22 Aug 2011. <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CEMQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dartmouth.edu%2F~acskills%2Fdocs%2Fdeep_breathing.doc&rct=j&q=deep%20breathing%20exercise&ei=4ulSTujpB-fniAKlnM31DA&usg=AFQjCNHc9nDHvGddLvVWR4E0n_PtiKE8NQ&cad=rja>.
1: Venturelli M, Scarsini R, Schena F. Six-Month Walking Program Changes Cognitive and ADL Performance in Patients With Alzheimer. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2011 Aug 17. [Epub ahead of print] 2011 Aug 22. PubMed PMID: 21852281.
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