12 ways to have a great morning
Stop using your cell phone in bed
The easiest way to have a great morning is to sleep well the night before. And evidence is mounting that your cell phone habit could ruin both your sleep and your mood. A Swedish study found that intensive cell phone use increased sleep disturbances and depression in test subjects. A Japanese study reports that cell phone usage after lights out is associated with insomnia and poor sleep quality. And a 2008 study commissioned by mobile phone manufacturers found that subjects exposed to intensive cell phone radiation took longer to enter the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest stage once they got there.
Don’t fall asleep with the lights or TV on
Your mom was totally right when she told you to turn the lights off at bedtime. According to Dr. Joshua Gooley of Harvard Medical School, exposure to artificial light at bedtime "affects sleep quality and the body's ability to regulate body temperature, blood pressure and glucose levels." Melatonin happens to be the hormone that regulates your body's sleep-wake cycle, and deficiencies have been linked to cancer and type 2 diabetes. So turn off the tube for a sweet night's sleep and an even sweeter morning.
Kiss and make up before bedtime
Turns out there's a lot of truth in the old saying that you shouldn't go to sleep angry. Neuroscientists at UMass Amherst found that if you go to sleep immediately after experiencing a traumatic event (like an argument), your negative response upon waking will be just as strong as it was when the event occurred. Test subjects who stayed awake and processed their emotions recovered more effectively. They probably enjoyed their mornings a lot more, too.
You already know that exercise is good for you, but do you know exactly how good? A simple 30-minute walk every day has been proven to relieve stress, alleviate depression and improve the quality of your sleep. Oh, and it's good for your sex life, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, "regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal" in both women and men.
Bonus points if you exercise before breakfast. Researchers in Belgium found that working out before breakfast directly combats the effects of a high-calorie, high-fat diet. In other words, it can keep you from gaining weight. (Pass the post-workout pancakes, please!)
Meditate for five minutes a day
Clint Eastwood does it. Jerry Seinfeld does it. Even Ellen DeGeneres does it. Strange but true: Sitting still and simply observing your breathing for as little as five minutes a day is scientifically proven to increase your sense of well-being, your attention span, your blood pressure and a host of other things. The best part is that it's free and easy to work five minutes of calm into your morning routine. Some motivated multitaskers even meditate while they're sitting on the toilet!
Switch to decaf
Most of us depend on a strong cuppa joe to kick-start our mornings. But the sad news is that your so-called salvation may be making your mornings worse. Even moderate caffeine intake has been linked to decreased REM and slow-wave sleep, decreased sleep duration and plain old insomnia. Not to mention irritability and anxiety. Although the transition might be painful, your mornings will be much better if you wean yourself off the bean.
If the thought of quitting cold turkey gives you the cold sweats, try switching to black or green tea. You'll still get a boost, but with the added benefit of antioxidants.
Eat a good breakfast
According to the American Dietetic Association, kids who eat a healthy breakfast have better hand-eye coordination on the playground and better problem-solving skills in the classroom. But it's not just kids who benefit from a well-balanced brekkie. Adults who start their day with a helping of lean protein and whole grains tend to weigh less and have more stable blood-sugar levels throughout the day. So skip the bagel and go for a hard-boiled egg or some Greek yogurt instead. The rest of your day will thank you.
When Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh advised his students to begin each day with “the same smile you see on the face of the Buddha,” he had the right idea. A 2012 study conducted at the University of Kansas subjected three groups of people to a series of stressful events. Group one had a neutral facial expression, group two had forced smiles held in place by chopsticks (true story) and group three smiled genuine smiles. Both groups of smiling participants recovered more quickly, with lower heart rates and more positive feelings, than the unsmiling group.
Sing in the shower
Science is starting to prove what kids around the world have known forever: singing makes you feel better. A 2010 study of preschoolers found that singing releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers. Why is that good news? Endorphins are also responsible for those feelings of euphoria and well-being associated with sex and exercise. Now that’s something to sing about!
Think about the big picture
Kelly McGonigal, author of "The Willpower Instinct," says that the simple act of writing down your goals and reviewing them each morning actually strengthens your willpower and improves your chances of making meaningful changes in your life. Keep your goals simple, though. "The temptation is to set a huge goal and try to do everything quickly and at once,” McGonigal says. “The truth is, we all have to start where we are."