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10 Effective Morning Habits To Help You Win The Day

My morning habits never used to be great. Even as a child I had problems with waking up and facing the world.I must confess, for someone so into productivity, I’m not a huge fan of mornings.

I wholeheartedly envy those who jump out of bed, rarely hit sneeze, splash some water on their face and are ready to face the day.

Our ordinary morning habits

I’m more of a wake up, lay in bed in half an hour, try make sense of the world and figure out why exactly I need to be up on this ungodly hour, get out of bed (rather slow and painful process) then continue the difficult process of waking up on my sofa for another half an hour. Or so I was, until I started making daily changes to my morning routine. According to Tim Ferris, the tremendously successful author of the best selling book The Four Hour Workweek, the first few hours of your days should be scripted. You should be on autopilot. You should not have to think and waste your precious mental energy on things like what to do for breakfast, what

Well, you’re onto something Tim, I thought. That’s exactly what I do in the morning, wander around on autopilot, on the verge of consciousness. I sat down and created a routine for myself. Being the ambitious over-achiever I am, I did aim a bit too high and could not follow through with most of them. It’s only natural, says Tim, you need to experiment. So I did. I kept trying and failing for a week and then something miraculously happened: my morning rituals started to work. I planted the seeds and gained new habits.

Do’s and dont’s of a successful morning

Here’s some habits that will make your morning worthwhile.

1. Make your bed

For some this may not be such a revelation as it was to me but it works a treat. It’s a small win in the morning but it is  a win nevertheless, plus it is the first successful completion of a task that is the first small step towards winning your morning. And you know what they say – winning your morning wins your day.  Bonus achievement – it’ll  feel great to get in to a nicely made bed. It reminds you of you of the first achievement of the day. Plus if you’re climbing into bed with somebody new, it’ll definitely look good on you

2. Meditate

There is scientific evidence of meditating – even for 5 minutes which I do, but Tim Ferris does 21 minutes – altering your brain, in a good way. And there are some other benefits, too. According to this article, meditation can raise your testosterone level, your libido, eliminates your headaches and grows your influence. I simply love the clarity it brings, I love to sit down for 5 minutes only and focus on nothing else but my own breathing. I do very simple meditation but there’s a whole world out there from silent retreats in Indian ashrams and local mindfulness groups, it’s up to you how serious you want to take it. Do it little or more, it’s a great thing either way. There are a few great apps out there that bring you guided and unguided meditation practices, my favourites are Calm and Mindful, check them out. If you’ve never meditated before it’s worth starting with guided meditations first.  Don’t be too ambitious with setting your time limit, meditation can feel a bit unnatural to begin with. Start small and get a sense of achievements to build a long lasting habit.

3. Have a hot drink – but no caffeine until 9.30AM

I love a hot drink in the morning, especially in the winter, curled up under a nice warm blanket. It’s a lovely thing to do but experts say you should hold your horses until 9.30AM. The reason for this is that caffeine activates a key hormone, cortisol (yep, the dreaded stress hormone) which has another job apart from causing you anxiety. It regulates your body’s internal clock and wakes your system up in the morning. As it gets activated by waking up anyway – the sunlight and the shock of getting out of bed does the trick – overstimulating can cause anxiety and stress. Add a hellish commute to work to the mix and you start your day on a verge a nervous breakdown. Don’t drink coffee or caffeinated tea until 9.30. If it’s important to you to have a hot drink, drink caffeine-free coffee or tea, that’ll do the trick.

4. Work out 

Now you probably think, who’s got the time for that, right? Wrong, everybody does. Some prefer go to the gym, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour starts her day with playing an intense match of tennis, Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington practices yoga, Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter runs in the morning. How you work out and how long for it’s entirely up to you and your schedule. If you really feel you’re pressed for time, you can always do the 7 Minute Workout, a high-intensity circuit training, a combination of aerobic and resistance training with limited rest placed in between. You can just follow the instructions from the linked page or download one of the many smartphone and iPhone apps. It only takes 7 minutes of your morning and it is scientifically proven to make a difference.

5. Stretch 

Another great way to wake up your body is to stretch in the morning. You can do this following your work out routine or instead if you’re feeling lazy. It can really help you build a better, more flexible body and if you had any pain from a particularly hard gym session, you can get rid of it by following your own routine or taking some advice from this article. Downloading an app is also a good bet, Sworkit has a whole section dedicated to stretching.

6. Have breakfast (and have very little variety)

Having breakfast is one of the most widely known and promoted morning habits. Enjoy the luxury of having breakfast at home. I used to eat breakfast at my desk while checking my emails – what a bad habit. Focusing on what you eat is important, research shows that multitasking while eating can lead to over-eating and weight gain.  Don’t over think it. Asses your diet and choose 2-3 things that you’ll be having on weekday mornings. Make sure they’re all easy to make. Then sit down and eat in quiet and peace, no TV in the background, no newspaper – just you and your meal and if you have kids or a loved one nearby, you can share a meal. How cool is that?

7. Wake up up early 

It is widely established that successful people wake up early. Maybe not all but a whole lot of them do, Richard Branson says he wakes up at 5.45AM. And he’s not the worst, Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 4.3o.  Now, that’s early early. You may not want to go that far, but try to wake up earlier than you’d normally do. Try half an hour earlier first. Then an hour. Then before you know it you get up at 5.45AM and you’re as successful as Richard Branson.

8. Journal and set goals

One of the most popular morning habits is journalling. Well, some people prefer to journal, some like to set goals or intentions for the day. Tim Ferris recommends writing down your top 5 priorities and pick out the one that will make the biggest difference, Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express starts his day writing down his 3 top goals for the day and Steve Jobs started a day asking himself: “If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?”. Goal setting and journaling doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, just write down a few things. I personally use the Notes app on my iPhone because it syncs with my Mac but some prefer handwritten notes – use whatever works for you.

9. Reduce variety in clothes

There’s a new school in power dressing and it is called dressing down. Again, it all boils down to utilising mental energy effectively. Standing in front of the wardrobe and thinking what to wear is a massive waste of time and mental capacity. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook is an outspoken leader of this trend, and this is so widely known that there was a meme site created about a fantasy cooperation between H&M and Zuckerberg. 

10. Don’t check emails or social media

As tempting as it is, just don’t do it. It’s one of the worst morning habits. Checking emails will set you in work mode – have boundaries, enjoy your personal time in the morning. Social media makes you lose focus, you get absorbed in news, other people’s lives, photos. It’ll take your focus away from what’s really important, your personal and professional goals. Same goes for news but if you really need to do it, do it during your commute, not in the morning. Or even better, during your lunch break.

+1 Watch for your night before behaviour 

It is not a morning habit, but it is equally important to have downtime the night before the next morning. Morning habits work best if are properly rested so make sure that you get to have a relaxing hour or so before your bedtime. Clean up your living room, wash the dishes, listen to some chill music, have proper winding down time. Some like to pack lunch and put out clothes for the next day – I prefer switching off the decision making part of my brain way before bedtime to avoid insomnia.

Your thoughts?

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Hi there, I'm Anna, editor of the Practical Happiness blog. I'm a life-curious adventure lover, an aspiring social scientist and a positive psychology nerd, interested in the why behind everyday life's mysteries. I write about things that excite and inspire me.