Ever wondered how ‘morning people’ do it? Follow this simple guide to making the most of every day
Are you one of those people who stumbles into the office 10 minutes late huffing and puffing, only to meet your colleague freshly showered from their morning run about to conduct their second meeting of the day?
Infuriating doesn’t cover it. While we’re not advocating that you try to emulate the super-competitive morning routines made famous by New Yorkers (up at 4am for Soul Cycle, before running to reach the office by 7am), there is something to be said for getting up just half an hour earlier. There are physical and mental health benefits to having more time in the mornings. Don’t believe it? Read on…
Make the bed
Making the bed, which could seem quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things, can have a huge impact on your state of mind. Why? Because you start the day with a sense of achievement – ticking something off your to-do list – and you ensure the environment associated most with rest and relaxation is organised and welcoming for your return.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg calls making the bed a “keystone habit”, which means that it is something that sets in motion other positive behaviour.
“Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget,” Duhigg writes. “Somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
Have a good breakfast
The word breakfast literally means to ‘‘break the fast’’.
“When you eat breakfast you are breaking the overnight fast during which most of us haven’t eaten for around 12 hours,” nutritionist Kim Pearson explains. “It’s your opportunity to replenish energy and nutrient levels in order to provide fuel for the body’s daily activities.”
Research in July 2013 by the Harvard School of Public Health found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27 per cent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease1.
A balanced breakfast includes foods from each of the food groups from the Eatwell Guide2. Variety will optimise vitamins and minerals intake and a beverage will also provide hydration. Why not try two poached eggs on mashed avocado served with grilled tomatoes and wilted spinach? Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and top it with some black pepper.
Open the curtains and take in the day
Even if the day is depressingly grey and overcast, opening the curtains first thing and taking time to absorb the outside world will set you up better for the day ahead than if you just stagger around in the dark. Such exposure to light stops the release of melatonin3, known as the ‘‘sleepy hormone’’, until darkness arrives. Our body clock is reliant on natural light, (which is one of the reasons night workers can struggle with their routines) so opening the curtains will physically wake up your body and mind.
Tick off one of your five-a-day easily
One little 150ml glass of Tropicana 100 per cent Orange Juice provides 60 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which helps support the immune system and is needed to make collagen, a protein required for the normal structure of many tissues in the body including bones, cartilage, gums, skin, tendons and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant nutrient because it contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress caused by external aggressions such as pollution, tobacco or ultraviolet light from the sun. It’s a simple way to set you up for the day.
Make a packed lunch
Getting up earlier allows time to make a packed lunch, which not only saves money, but has been proved to encourage a healthier diet.
A study conducted in 2014 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine discovered that people who spent more than an hour a day preparing food (so making breakfast, lunch and dinner), had a much higher-quality diet than those who didn’t4. They ate more vegetables, salads and fruits, while those who relied on buying lunch ate more fast-food options and spent a lot more.
Taking as little as five minutes a day to sit down in a stress- and distraction-free environment (no mobile phones) to practise meditation has been shown to improve communication skills, concentration and creativity while reducing levels of stress and anxiety at the same time. Meditating in the morning ensures that you feel calm and ready to face whatever the day throws at you. Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey says she sits in silence for 20 minutes every morning5, while Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington says meditation is one of her “joy triggers”6.
Making exercise part of your morning routine is a surefire way of keeping at it. There’s less incentive to cancel for other plans and it means you start the day with a sense of achievement. The natural release of endorphins has been proved to make you feel happier and reduce stress.
Plan for the day ahead
‘‘Morning people’’ are more proactive than ‘‘evening people’’ because they are in sync with the 9am-5pm working day. Morning people tend to plan for the day ahead and prioritise their to-do list with the most important tasks. Evening people put off the important things until later, which can increase stress7.
Arabella Weir is taking on a series of challenges to start the day in the right way. Visit tgr.ph/littleglass to read her weekly blogs and read her latest post here:
1. Circulation. 2013; vol 128: 337-343
2. The Eatwell Guide. 2016: 9-10
3. Science. 1980; vol 210: 1267-1269
4. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014; vol 47: issue 6, 796-802.
6. Vogue. 2011; 19 Sept.
7. Psychological Science. 1997; vol 8: 454-458