The morning is probably no one’s favorite part of the day, particularly if you stayed up the night before to watch Leno or Jaws for the seventeenth time. Remember: Stress and anxiety wreak havoc on your immunity. Enter your day happy and relaxed, and you greatly increase your chances of a healthy, productive day.
1. Go to sleep with your blinds or curtains halfway open. That way, the natural light of the rising sun will send a signal to your brain to slow its production of melatonin and bump up its production of adrenaline, a signal that it’s time to wake up. When the alarm goes off, you’ll already be half awake. Even better: Go to bed early enough so that waking up when the sun shines through your window still gives you the recommended seven hours of shut-eye. If you maintain this routine, it’s likely that you can start relying on your biological clock rather than an alarm clock.
2. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. This way, you don’t have to jump out of bed and rush through your morning. You can begin your morning by lying in bed, slowly waking up. Stretching. Listening to the news headlines. Mentally clicking off what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to do, what you’re going to have for breakfast. It’s just as important to prepare yourself mentally as physically for your day. These few minutes in bed, before anyone else is up, are all yours.
3. Stretch every extremity for 15 seconds. Try this even before you open your eyes. Lift your arm and begin by stretching each finger, then your hand, then your wrist, then your arm. Then move on to the other arm. Then your toes, feet, ankles, and legs. Finally, end with a neck and back stretch that propels you out of the bed. You’ve just limbered up your muscles and joints and enhanced the flow of blood through your body, providing an extra shot of oxygen to all your
4. Stick a chair in the shower and sit in it. Use one of those plastic chairs you can buy at any hardware store. Let it warm up under the spray for a minute, then sit in it and let the spray beat on your back. It’s simultaneously relaxing and energizing, like getting a water massage. After a couple of minutes, you can swing the chair out of the way and commence with washing.
5. Read a motivational quote every morning. This can provide a frame for the day, a sort of self-talk that keeps you motivated in the right direction as opposed to the negative thinking of the morning news. Another option: Use a motivational mantra that provides a meditation-like burst, or read or recite a poem that helps you focus. A good one to use: Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”
6. Take a vitamin. Keep a multivitamin out on the kitchen counter right by the coffeepot so you remember to take one every morning. More than 20 years of research led to a major recommendation in one of the country’s premier medical journals suggesting that every American take a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle.
7. Eschew any decisions. For truly relaxing mornings, reduce the number of choices and decisions you make to zero. Go about this two ways: First, make your morning decisions the night before: what clothes to wear, what breakfast to eat, what route to take to work, and so on. Second, routinize as much of your morning as possible. Really, there’s no need to vary your breakfast, timetable, or bathroom ritual from one morning to the next.
8. Cuddle with your kids. Few things are more stressful in the morning than waking up an overtired fifth grader or a snoring high schooler. Yet this is one of the few times you can catch your child still vulnerable. Sit on his bed and gently smooth his hair as you softly waken him. Or, if you’re dealing with a very young child, lie beside him and gently hug him awake. Such a moment will send a quiet surge of joy through your entire day and will become all too rare in all too short a time.
9. Spend 5 to 10 minutes each morning listening to music or sitting on the deck or porch just thinking. This allows the creative thinking that takes place during the night to gel and form into a plan of action, grounding you for the day.
10. Wake to the smell of coffee. Really great coffee. Buy the absolute best coffee you can afford — fresh beans are preferred — and put twice the amount you’ve been using into your coffee maker, the one you bought specifically because it has an alarm that can be set to start brewing times. The strong scent of strong coffee will pull you out of bed like a fishhook in the back of your pajamas. Plus, if you’re going the caffeine route, morning is the best time for it. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that acts in many ways like other stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, waking you up and increasing your muscular activity. Even better: A study of 18 men found that caffeine improved clear-headedness, happiness, and calmness, as well as the men’s ability to perform on attention tests and to process information and solve problems.
11. Brush your tongue for one minute. There’s no better way to rid yourself of morning breath and begin your day minty fresh and clean. After all, more than 300 types of bacteria take up residence in your mouth every night. You think a quick brush over the teeth is going to vanquish them all?
12. Take a baby aspirin. There. You’ve just significantly reduced your risk of a heart attack. In one study of 220,000 doctors, those who took an aspirin every day for five years slashed their heart attack risk nearly in half. Of course, check with your doctor first to make sure this is okay for you.