Your goal is to start your day off right with a solid head on your shoulders, low stress and a feeling of optimism. It isn’t easy to do, but it’s one of the greatest things you can do for yourself!
What’s the secret to having a great day? Well, there might not be a single secret, but I have seven ideas for you – easy enough to implement right away – that can give you a headstart on having a healthy, happy day.
Have you ever noticed that hurried and hassled mornings lead to some of your worst days? If you’ve ever slept through your alarm clock, you understand what a rushed morning feels like. It sets you up for a long, difficult day, mainly because it makes you feel out of sorts.
Maybe you forgot to pack your child a lunch, bring along your files or toss a book into your bag to read on the train. It can be hard to regain control, especially if your day is fast paced and you go from one thing to the next. That applies whether you work at home or out (and I include stay-at-home parents in the ‘work at home’ category!)
When you don’t get your day off to a great start, the effects linger all day.
In order to set yourself up for having a great day, you must get started with a great morning. We can agree on that right off the bat, I hope!
But how do you keep these positive starts coming when your days are chaotic? The slightest thing can lead to a poor start, which means you need to stay on top of your morning routine. Below are helpful tips for making the most of your morning and enjoying what the rest of the day can bring.
Set the Alarm 15 Minutes Earlier
Are you leaving yourself enough time to get things done? I hear from a lot of people who set the alarm for 6:30 when they must be out of the door by 7. My goodness, how does that even give you time to get dressed and brush your teeth?
Waking up earlier is harder than it sounds. I’m not the only one, I’m sure, who says I’ll wake up an hour early and get ‘all the things’ done. And then morning comes, and it’s so dark and comfortable … and we find ourselves reaching for the snooze button. Even when you know you have livestock (or children) to take care of, it’s so tempting to give in to the snooooooze. Just. A. Few. More. Minutes ….
Not that you get a lot of quality sleep when you hit that button. Maybe you doze off for ten minutes? Fifteen at the most? And you might even just be lying there, wasting time but too tired to get out of bed. After all, your brain knows that you have stuff that needs to be done.
That ten or fifteen minutes can make or break your morning routine. If you know you need to be out of bed by 6, but you always hit the snooze button, set the alarm for 5:45 – and get to bed a little bit earlier. This will give you the time to either pull yourself out of bed or hit the snooze button just once.
Other things might knock off your morning schedule, but you shouldn’t be rushing from the moment you turn off the alarm clock.
If you’re still finding it hard to get out of bed, consider getting an alarm clock that simulates sunrise and signals your brain that it’s time to wake up.
Make Time for Morning Exercise
Exercise is a great way to start the day.
Okay, it may not be how you want to start the day, but once you get used to it, there’s no going back.
This doesn’t mean you need to gear up and hit the gym in the morning. Instead, since you’re waking up a bit earlier, take time to have a quiet walk around your neighbourhood. You don’t have to go very far, but this is a great way to get your body moving, clear your head from the cobwebs of sleep and connect with … well, yourself or God or … you can fill in your own blanks there.
Seriously, though, this is an ideal time for some quiet morning prayer.
During the day, things get busy and we often fail to take time for ourselves. If you can carve out just fifteen minutes before the rest of the household has woken up, you’ll be better prepared for what the day has in store for you.
Just fifteen minutes dedicated to getting up and walking will do wonders for your stress levels and productivity during the entire day.
You could probably find other ways to get a bit of early morning exercise in, too. Maybe you could walk from the train station to work instead of taking a taxi, or ride your bike a few times a week.
Pour a Cold Shower
As a stay-at-home mother with several young children, I long ago learned to take quick showers. Let’s get that out of the way.
But … it still takes a bit of time.
Showering is a little luxury that I really appreciate now that we’re back on grid. Or rather, it’s what we most missed at the cabin.
The shower is a great place to get clean, sing your favorite tunes and refresh your spirits.
But sometimes we carve out a few more minutes of snoozing in bed by taking time off your shower. Even I take more than nano-seconds to shower, and I’m really fast.
There can be something magical about that time in the shower, where we can relax and spend some time gathering our thoughts and waking up. Don’t steal minutes from your morning shower. Just don’t do it.
But can we make the shower better? Well, there are health benefits to taking a cold shower. Brrr!!! It turns out that our luxurious hot showers aren’t actually very good for us most of the time.
Cold showers boost immunity, improve blood circulation, regulate body temperature, enhance lymphatic movements and deepen your breathing. It gets better (or worse, if you really love hot showers) – cold showers can alleviate depression, increase energy and even increase feelings of wellbeing. And if you pay to heat that hot water, you’re saving money, too.
Unless the temperature outside is climbing into triple digits, though, it’s hard to get in a cold shower. Don’t send your body into shock. Instead, enjoy your shower as normal and then switch it down to a cooler temperature for the last thirty seconds. Gradually increase the time and decrease the temperature as you are comfortable.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
You knew that was coming. You really can’t talk about getting your day started right without bringing up breakfast.
People who eat breakfast tend to weigh less, are generally healthier and have higher energy levels – even if they’re eating on the go.
Definitely don’t skip breakfast. BUT it’s equally important that you eat the right foods.
If you’re used to eating donuts, sugar muffins, cereal or slices of pie, you really need to make a change. They probably shouldn’t be a large part of your diet, anyway, but certainly not first thing in the morning. The quick boost of energy that these foods give you is soon gone and you’ll be left feeling tired and unmotivated.
What you need to aim for is a breakfast that includes protein. Protein has a wonderful ability to fill you up and keep you feeling full. That doesn’t mean you need a steak at 6 a.m., but you might want to look into eggs, which have great protein.
An omelet or scrambled eggs are great, as is a simple fried egg. One trick I like doing is boiling and peeling eggs ahead of time and keeping them in the refrigerator. A cold boiled egg can be sliced onto a piece of toast, mashed up with a bit of mayonnaise for a quick sandwich or just eaten as it is with some salt and pepper.
Other great foods to aim for, barring dietary restrictions, include whole wheat toast or bagels with fruit preserves, high-fiber cereals, oatmeal or low-fat dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese. Greek yogurt is a popular pick and has a lot more protein than traditional yogurt while cottage cheese can be mixed with applesauce or fruit for added taste and flavor.
If you find yourself rushing to have a good breakfast, plan ahead. Have the same breakfast each day of the week so that you know what ingredients you need or what to grab on the way out the door to start your day off right.
And finally, you don’t need to go gluten-free to realize the problem with carbohydrates. Or rather, with simple carbohydrates like white flour. These simple carbohydrates – ‘white’ carbs – act just like sugar on your body, so don’t think for a moment that your slice of white toast with sweetened peanut butter is the same as a slice of 100% whole grain toast.
Carbs and sweets cause our blood sugar levels to spike, which makes us feel full and gives us energy. But just as quickly as it goes up, it crashes – and then we feel sluggish, tired and craving more simple carbs. Stop that vicious circle in its tracks by making smart choices in the morning.
Experiment with New Schedules
So even with these changes, the morning just isn’t working? Switch things around on the weekend (or whenever your days off are) and see if you can work out the issues.
Perhaps you’re having trouble waking up because you have trouble falling asleep at night. Try turning off electronics an hour before bed, exercising later in the day, or keeping a journal to clear your head as you settle down in the evening. As I’ve mentioned before, a great way to get a good night’s sleep is to forgive everyone for everything, and to do it every night.
Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. So if your current schedule isn’t working, change it!
Night-Before Preparations for Smooth Mornings
The best way to have a good morning is to start with a good night.
No, I don’t mean you had to go to bed with a smile on your face (although that wouldn’t hurt!) but that you have everything in place and organized before you go to bed. It just takes a few minutes in the evening to get everything ready and it helps so much.
Pull out clothes for the children and for yourself, right down to the underwear. (If they’re not told to change them, I think my boys would wear the same underwear for a month. Yuck!)
Pack lunches for the family.
Make sure that work papers are stacked neatly on the counter.
Start enforcing a ‘clean out your bags’ rule after everyone’s home. Bags – and purses and briefcases – need to be emptied, checked and refilled so that they’re ready to go. That way you don’t forget to sign the important permission slip, file those receipts or call that person.
You’ll feel more prepared and better able to take on the day. And, if you’re running late, you know you can grab everything on the counter and it’s ready to go.
Of course, going to bed at the same time every night and clearing your head so that you can sleep well are also critical in getting a good night’s sleep.
Avoid Stress Triggers
Some stressors can be avoided by waking up on time, getting a bit of exercise right off the bat, taking time to enjoy that morning shower, and having everything packed and ready to go.
But there are some things you’ll really want to avoid.
Unless it’s a life or death matter, don’t start a conversation about sensitive topics with your spouse or child first thing in the morning. These discussions can almost always wait.
If it’s the traffic that stresses you out, look for ways to change things. Can you take a different route to work or leave at a different time? Beating the traffic leaves you with a little while to collect your thoughts when you arrive or to take a walk around.
One of my biggest stressors is waking up to ‘I’m hungry!’ – especially when that’s multiplied by four. Small children have difficulty waiting until Mommy has finished her coffee and fully woken up. The solution to this was to gradually dial back my bedtime so that I could get up an hour and a half before them.
Getting up at five is hard, but dealing with hungry, bouncing, wide-awake children when I’m still half-asleep is harder!
A great morning is a golden ticket to a great day.
Unfortunately, we often rush through our mornings and start our days disorganized, hurried and stressed. When stress builds up, it’s almost impossible to start the day with a good attitude.
Your goal is to start each new day with a solid head on your shoulders, low stress and a feeling of optimism. It isn’t easy to do, but it’s one of the greatest things you can do for yourself! And with that said – it’s 8:45pm and time for me to get washed up and ready for bed. Good night!