Most morning routines are a simple function of maximizing the minutes you stay in bed, avoiding the stark truth that you have shit to do, and minimizing the probability that, in the mad rush that ensues, you leave the house having forgotten your insulin pump or other life-sustaining gear you'll need. Usually food.
Unfortunately, looking around for healthy morning routines yields advice that involves buying a trampoline, fitting 22 activities into 30 minutes, or resigning yourself to the fact that not being a morning person dooms you to a sad life. Better news: if you're trying to spruce up your morning routine, there are only five things a normal person realistically needs to do before stumbling out of the house.
Get up the first time
Not only does hitting the snooze button repeatedly give you shitty, interrupted sleep that leaves you groggy and makes anyone sleeping next to you hate you, but it also gets you off to a pretty miserable start. As you drift in and out of sleep, terrifying things pop into your head: “No food in the fridge... texting that girl from last night… getting in early today for that call you completely forgot about… fuuuuck!”
Therapist Melissa Parks strongly advises against this approach: “That extra time in bed can lead your mind to wander and obsess and worry about everything you have going on that day.” It might feel bad in the moment, but you'll wind up feeling worse if you lie there for an hour stuck between sleep and consciousness, dreading the day.
Not really the best advice in life these days, but doing it while you’re still in bed is A) definitely going to take longer than you think and B) will also most likely make you freak out. “It’s not your to-do list,” writes productivity expert Sid Savara. Seriously -- those emails are the things that everyone else wants you to do, but for the first 5% of your day, they can go screw themselves. Never Check E-mail in the Morning is even the title of a real book by "Oprah's favorite organizing expert," so, yeah, what more do you need? You can recommend this approach to anyone who takes issue with your lack of timely responses first thing in the morning, but it's probably best to make this change on the sly.
Move your body
Sleep… or exercise… sleep… or exercise? If you’re one of those motivated people who’s going to skip out on a full hour of sleep to get into your workout clothes, get fit, and get showered, great, that makes one of us. Otherwise, you should give up on the idea of turning your morning routine into a killer ab workout.
All you need to do is take literally a few minutes to do something a little bit active. “Getting your blood pumping in the morning is a good kick start to your cardiovascular, respiratory, and… metabolic systems,” says nutrition and fitness expert Juli Huddleston. The idea isn’t to get in shape, but to get your body into gear. “Doesn't have to be much: a few jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, walking the dog, or doing some stretches and yoga poses.” If you can roll out of your bed and onto the floor for a stretch, congratulations! You're already getting somewhere.
Eat something, even if it's not a classic breakfast
Look, you don't have to wake up, put on a starched shirt and sit down for a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and toast. You're trying to wake up, not enter a food coma. Plus there's that whole thing about not having enough time. Huddleston’s answer? “Made-ahead breakfast sandwiches! Make several at once, individually wrapped and ready to go.”
If you're not the breakfast sandwich type, a piece of fruit or a hard-boiled egg will help get you going, which makes you less likely to double up on lunch or dive into that box of donuts someone brought to work.
Take a few moments to do nothing
It’s easy to focus your morning routine on getting your hand on the doorknob at a time that won't lead to a termination of your employment. But your best bet for setting yourself up for a good day is to make sure you feel centered before going out there. Stopping the rush -- just for 60 seconds, if that's really all the time you have -- and taking a moment to close your eyes and not think about all the stuff you have to do that day will go a long way toward reducing your stress and improving your overall cognitive performance. Beyond the mental benefits, how often do you really get to do absolutely nothing? Build it into your mornings, and you'll start to look forward to it.
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Marina Komarovsky is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and she's working up to #1 and #3 by doing yoga poses without getting out of bed after hitting snooze. For more on health, follow her tweets @MariKomarovsky.