Developing healthy habits is on everyone’s agenda but following through with our good intentions is harder than it seems, especially when you’re busy. The good news is that the less time intensive and complicated a habit is, the more likely we are to stick to it. Research shows that people maintain healthy habits when these are small and manageable changes to one’s lifestyle.
Our feline friends do it naturally after waking up from slumber but the practice isn’t common enough in humans, which is a shame! A simple stretch in the morning can improve your posture, reduce chronic back pain, increase blood flow to your brain for better focus, and energize you all at once. Plus, stretching right after you roll out of bed gives you time to reconnect to yourself and wake up gently.
Experts from the American College of Sports Medicine suggest focusing on hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and chest muscles as these are the most commonly tight and stiff muscles. Hold each stretch 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times on each side of your body. As a rule of thumb, you should feel a slight pull, being careful not to stretch to a painful point.
If starting a stretching routine sounds intimidating, don’t fret! The key is to do what feels right to you. Less than five minutes is more than enough to start reaping benefits from working on your flexibility every day.
2. Have a Cup of Tea
Whether you enjoy green tea, a classic English Breakfast tea, or the trendy chai, forming the habit of having a cup every morning is a good idea. Packed with antioxidants named Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) or catechins, tea leaves hold healing power. They fight free-radicals in our bodies to relieve inflammation, prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and neurological decline.
Drinking tea as part of your morning rituals is also a good way to wake up gently as it promotes mental alertness without giving you a headache later on. Tea helps with digestive issues as well, and will get things moving so you can start your day feeling light and energized.
3. Get Some Sunshine
Getting a good dose of sunshine right when you wake up — whether by going outside for a short walk or having breakfast in a room with an east-facing window — is one of the easiest and most rewarding morning habits to get into.
Natural light is beneficial to regulate our circadian rhythms especially in the morning hours. It promotes wakefulness by stimulating the neurotransmitters involved with arousal in our brain. Exposure to light is also important to the production of melatonin an hormone essential to proper and restful sleep. How well you sleep at night can be determined as soon as you wake up!
4. Get Creative
Using our imagination and taking the time for creative pursuits is not something most of us are eager to do when we’re fighting with the snooze button but research says that early mornings are actually the best time to give our brains a bit of a workout.
Think of it this way: the demands put upon us during our day require us to make choices, use our willpower, and exercise our focus, all of which are tiring and weaken our ability to be creative. Getting our creative juices flowing not long after we wake up is a good way to seize upon those brain sources before our energies are depleted.
It also turns out this time of day is when our prefrontal cortex is most active. This brain area is closely related to artistic creativity and divergent thinking, or finding new ideas to solve problems.
Instead of scrolling through social media in the morning, why not try stream-of-consciousness journaling or mindlessly doodling for a few minutes while eating breakfast?
5. Eat a Piece of Fruit
Want to have a strong immune system, fight inflammation, get restful sleep, be full of energy, and have good skin? Consuming fruit on a daily basis can help with all of that!
As the most important meal of the day, breakfast is the perfect time to incorporate at least one of our ‘5 a day’, especially as research shows that our ability to make healthy food choices weakens as the day goes on. Eating a good breakfast with the inclusion of at least one piece of fruit is an easy way to make sure that you get the necessary nutrients and antioxidants your body needs to thrive.
6. Add Chia Seeds to Your Breakfast
These seeds may be tiny, but their health benefits are not. Packed with omega-3s, fiber, a ton of micronutrients (potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and manganese), and antioxidants, chia seeds are good for digestion, regulating blood glucose, and preventing major diseases.
7. Take Your Vitamin B12
Whether you eat a plant-based diet or not, supplementing with vitamin B12 is a good idea. Far from being a vegan issue, it is estimated that up to 30% of the population is deficient in this vitamin.
Essential for maintaining the insulation of our nerve cells to protect our neurological and cognitive functions, vitamin B12 is also responsible for breaking down amino acids and fatty acids to supply our bodies with energy.