Morning rituals enable us to connect with ourselves for a little while before the busy day really kicks off. They keep us grounded, give us some perspective, and set the tone for the entire day.
These healthy habits are also essential for our emotional and psychological health both now, and into the future.
Setting up a beneficial morning routine today will see us stay the course throughout our lives, even when times get hard.
Five experiments, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2013, demonstrate that we’re just as likely to default to positive habits during periods of stress or turmoil as we are to self-sabotage…if, and only if, these were our underlying habits to begin with!
Because habits persist even when we’re tired and lack self-control, the establishment of a healthy daily routine is more important than most people think.
Once you begin to integrate these 9 simple rituals into your morning schedule, you’ll look forward to waking up each day – knowing you have a little piece of alone-time carved out just for you!
Get Up Early
Hopping out of bed at dawn is seen as a key ingredient to both success and health.
Research tells us that morning people are more proactive and do well in business – they get better grades in school, get into better colleges, and therefore enjoy better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them.
Once you begin to examine the waking patterns of the world’s most successful people, it’s clear this research holds true in the real world – most of the top CEOs rise between 5am and 6am.
As morning people are so successful, proactive and better able to deal with life’s problems, we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that these early-risers are also happier than night owls.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose whether we are a night owl or a morning lark – it’s passed on from our parents. However, experts say we can take certain steps to adjust our habits.
You can do this easily by leaving the blinds up in your bedroom so you can rise with the sun, or use a light box to shift your schedule. Natural light is how we are meant to wake up – it is the major synchronizer of our internal master clock. It can take around a month to adjust to a new sleep schedule, and cheating at weekends isn’t advised – as we only have one internal alarm clock!
Of course, getting enough sleep is vital for overall health, so it may mean you need to go to bed earlier than you normally do. You may also need to let go of some pre-bedtime bad habits (like these) and embrace natural sleep remedies (such as these ones).
Drink Lemon Water
This is an easy and refreshing habit that everyone should try. Upon waking, squeeze the juice from half a lemon into a glass of warm water and sip. Lemon water offers some fantastic benefits – it boosts digestion, increases iron absorption, and benefits both the heart and blood. Plus, drinking water is proven to boost metabolism – just what you need upon waking.
You may also enjoy a stress free start to the day thanks to this tonic as the smell of lemon can actually reduce levels of stress and depression.
After rising, take just ten to fifteen minutes (or less while you’re starting out) to practice the ancient art of meditation.
While once seen as kooky and bizarre, study after study is now showing that meditation is an incredibly beneficial mental exercise which can lower blood pressure, ease chronic pain, reduce anxiety, boost immunity, improve concentration and resolve pregnancy problems.
What’s really great is that you should begin to see the effects within just a matter of weeks. After just six weeks of daily meditation, participants in a study were found to experience less emotional distress when put in a stressful situation. Their immune systems also showed less activation.
Many mindfulness teachers recommend you meditate first thing in the morning as the mind is still relatively quiet after leaving ‘the sleep state’.
There are no set rules for meditating – it simply means you choose to focus on what is relevant now, in the moment, while tuning out distractions. Find the type of morning meditation that suits you, whether it’s focusing on your breathing, repeating a mantra or carrying out a series of yoga poses.
Now that you are changing your sleep pattern, what better way to spend this new-found time than working out?
While you may not exactly jump out of bed relishing the thought of a 6.30am run, many studies show that an early exercise routine is best for success. Not only does morning exercise increase your energy for the rest of the day and rev up your metabolism, but research suggests that, in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who break a sweat in the morning tend to do better.
Another study found that morning workouts are preferable if you want a better night’s rest. In a separate study, the same researchers discovered it can also benefit your heart better than evening exercise. All of the participants who exercised at 7am experienced an overall 10% reduction in blood pressure and a 25% drop in blood pressure at night.
If you live in a sunny climate, take your early exercise routine outdoors! According to a Northwestern University study, people who are exposed to bright morning sunlight for just 20 to 30 minutes a day have a lower Body Mass Index than those who are not.
Study upon study has shown that breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day – yet 31 million Americans go without it.
There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea! Those who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese. They’re also more likely to have type 2 diabetes, heart disease and lower immunity to infections. A balanced breakfast is a fantastic way to boost both energy levels and cognitive function, while helping you fight junk food cravings throughout the day.
While there are many healthy breakfast options, green smoothies are one of the best. These swamp-like shakes are ready in minutes, are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, and provide a myriad of science-backed health benefits.
Set Your Goals for the Day
While eating breakfast or sipping on your coffee, take a few moments to set your most important goals for the rest of the day. It may be something as simple as making your bed or de-cluttering your wardrobe or it could be that you aim to finally write that first chapter of your book.
Whatever you want to achieve, completing these tasks may bring you more energy, make you happier and even help you live longer, according to research. After all, if you don’t have a plan, how will you get there?
A fascinating study carried out in the Harvard MBA Program looked at goal-setting. When graduates were asked if they had clear, written future goals, only 3% had. Another 13% had goals in their minds, while 84% had no goals. After ten years, the 13% of the class who had unwritten goals earned twice as much as those with no goals. Astonishingly, the 3% with written goals earned an average of 10 times as much as the other 97% of the class.
Even if financial reward isn’t your aim, it’s clear that goal setting works. Give it a try and see what a difference it makes to your life.
Dry Brush Your Skin
You’ve probably heard of the increasingly popular practice of dry brushing – a morning process that sees you use coarse bristles to brush the skin in a particular way.
First used by ancient Greek athletes, dry brushing helps the lymphatic system move waste through the body more efficiently, reducing our risk for illness and inflammation. It also relieves tension, boosts circulation, fights cellulite and helps kick-start the digestive system. Of course, you’ll also be thoroughly exfoliating your skin and giving it a healthy morning glow.
Anecdotal evidence claims that dry brushing is best done in the morning thanks to the burst of energy it brings.
Using a natural fiber body brush, begin at your feet and work upwards, using long sweeping motions and always brushing toward your heart. On the stomach and armpits use a circular, clockwise motion. Do this for ten to fifteen minutes every morning before showering.
To learn more about dry brushing, read our recent article here.
Turn Down the Heat on Your Shower
After exercising and dry brushing, you’ll probably be looking forward to a nice, warm shower. But before you hop out and dry off, take a leaf out of James Bond’s book and turn the dial right down to cold! It has a surprising number of health and body benefits.
When that icy jet of water hits the skin, the body responds by deep breathing which increases oxygen intake, boosting our heart rate, blood circulation, immune function and levels of alertness.
In 2009, a study found that exposure to extreme cold temperatures can indirectly stimulate weight loss while another study that year also saw athletes experience less muscle soreness and improved recovery time thanks to cold water exposure.
Even more research says cold hydrotherapy helps reduce symptoms of stress and depression.
Finally, a cold water rinse will give you that long hair you’ve always wanted – it flattens follicles, improving shine and reducing breakage. It can benefit skin texture too, by reducing the appearance of cellulite.
Who knows, braving an Arctic shower might be the best thing you ever did for your health!
Swish Coconut Oil in Your Mouth
Used primarily in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, the practice of rinsing with a mouthful of oil for up to 20 minutes daily is said to be a fantastic morning habit to acquire. Known as oil pulling, it is believed to boost the immune system, raise energy levels and benefit the skin.
Several studies have shown it is one of the most effective natural methods for promoting oral hygiene. Research says it cures bad breath, reduces tooth decay and tooth loss and prevents gingivitis, while reducing sensitivity and whitening teeth.
Want to know more? Here is a simple beginner’s guide to oil pulling.
Tip: To save yourself precious time before work, try oil pulling whilst in the shower.
Be Consistent With Your New Habits
There’s a commonly held perception that new habits take 21 days to form. Unfortunately, this myth is off by about 45 days or more!
The three-week rule is based on an outdated 1960s book – and even back then the author qualified that habit-forming took ‘a minimum of about 21 days’.
2009 research however, which looked at the habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, tells us that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is 66 days.
And that’s the average – individual times varied from 18 to an incredible 254 days.
So if your new habits take a long time to become ingrained in your psyche, don’t be disheartened. With consistency (even at weekends), it will happen and the rewards may even change your life!