5 Tips for a Healthier Morning

Start your day off right with these healthy (and caffeine-free) habits

Does your morning go anything like this?

Being in bed feels so good that you can’t get up, so you hit snooze — three or four times.

Once you open your eyes, you realize you have a 9 o'clock meeting, so you check your email while still in bed to get ahead of the workday.

Now you’re running late. You throw down vitamins with a glass of juice. You can't find your keys or your left shoe and run around the house until you've found both.

Finally in the car, you grab the biggest coffee you can order and two glazed donuts at the drive-thru, and traffic has you fuming before you even get to work.

All that rushing around can set a negative tone for the entire day, making you feel stressed, lethargic and irritable — and, possibly, affecting your ability to focus on tasks or calmly cope with work-related crises.

To help get your day off to a better, and healthier, start, follow these tips from Maria C. Reyes, MD, an internist at RUSH.

1. Slow down.

Get into a relaxed mode by meditating. "Meditation in the morning — even for 10 minutes — is very helpful in dealing with stress," Reyes says.

What's not relaxing? Checking your phone for texts, emails or Facebook in still in bed. "You might feel like you need that head start, but jumping into work that early might actually delay you from getting into the office, increasing your stress levels," she adds.

If your phone is too tempting, consider moving it out of the bedroom and using a digital alarm clock instead.

2. Hydrate.

"First thing each morning, even before drinking coffee, drink at least 8 ounces of water," Reyes suggests. "Overnight we tend to get dehydrated, and drinking the water upon waking will replenish what you've lost, flush out toxins and possibly kick-start your metabolism."

Then, have the 1 or 2 cups of coffee you're craving. Numerous studies link moderate coffee consumption with decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer due to coffee's antioxidant properties.

Movement wakes up the brain by increasing oxygen flow, which helps keep your attention focused, reduce inflammation and manage stress.

3. Breakfast on proteins, not carbs.

"View food as fuel for the body," Reyes says. "If you want to start day well, put good food in your body first thing."

While pancakes, bagels, donuts and cereal are traditional breakfast foods, protein-packed foods like Greek yogurt or an egg white omelet with lowfat cheese provide healthy nutrients and help you avoid the mid-morning sugar-carbohydrate crash (add some fresh veggies like spinach, tomatoes or broccoli to your omelet for extra flavor and nutrition).

And if you're juicing your fruits, think again.

"Whole fruit provides both soluble and insoluble fiber," Reyes says. "With juicing, even though you're consuming the same amount of sugar as with whole fruit, you lose the insoluble fiber, which is helpful for digestion and helps you feel full."

Because they contain fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, blueberries (fresh or frozen) are probably the best type of fruit to eat.

4. Get moving.

Movement wakes up the brain by increasing oxygen flow, which helps keep your attention focused, reduce inflammation and manage stress.

"If you can, take a 30-minute walk, do some yoga at home or schedule in an early-morning bike ride," Reyes says. "If that's not possible, do at least 7 minutes combining stretches, plank exercises and jumping rope."

In fact, even a few stretches before you get out of bed can be helpful.

5. Have a good night.

Feeling good in the morning actually starts the night before. Do the following an hour or so before bedtime:

  • Take a bath to relax and soothe fatigued muscles
  • Put away all screens (in fact, don't keep any electronics into the bedroom, if possible)
  • Organize what you need for the next day, including picking out your clothing, knowing where your keys are and packing your briefcase or work bag.
  • Set up healthy foods for breakfast. "Make breakfast bowls the night before with quinoa and brown rice. It's pretty easy," Reyes said. 

Then, when you're ready to go to sleep, make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet to avoid disruptions in the middle of the night. And adjust the temperature before you lie down to ensure that you won’t wake up because you're too hot or cold.

"These things sound simple, but everyone has a busy lifestyle," Reyes said. "Everyone is always rushing. Making time for yourself and creating a healthy routine in the morning can help you start your day off right."

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