Why the First Hour of Your Day is the Most Important

The beginning of the day isn’t just when you brush your teeth and make your bed—it’s also when you set the tone for the next 16 hours. If you wake up late, miss your morning walk and hit the drive-through for breakfast, you are likelier to think that the day is shot, so who cares if you order pepperoni pizza for lunch and skip your post-work workout. But the momentum also goes the other way: If your alarm goes off and you go for a quick jog before eating fresh fruit and eggs for breakfast, you will feel so good that you’ll want to keep making healthy decisions throughout the day. So now that you know why that first hour is so important, here’s how to create the healthiest morning routine:

  1. Don’t hit snooze. Those extra nine minutes may feel like heaven, but hitting snooze can set you back for the day. That’s because when the alarm first sounds, it sets off your stress response, boosting your adrenaline and cortisol levels. If you try to go back to bed after that, you won’t actually get into a deep sleep. The result: sleep inertia, which can make you groggy for hours. A better plan is to set your alarm for the moment you absolutely need to get up instead of building in a buffer.
  2. Spend time thinking. It may seem counter-intuitive to stop and think during a normally hectic time, but doing so can help you feel more relaxed and pulled-together all day. Rather than just springing into action—answering emails and running around the house to get out the door in time—build in a few minutes to mentally plan and prioritize your day. You can even do this in the shower (isn’t that when the best ideas happen anyway?).
  3. Eat a smart breakfast. Try the First Family’s rule, which applies to the Obama kids and the President: Everyone has to eat breakfast before they leave the house in the morning. Studies show that eating a meal early in the day gives you more energy and helps prevent obesity. That’s because people who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat later and eat fewer fruits and vegetables that day. Plus, your body reads skipping breakfast as fasting, which can increase your insulin response and lead to fat storage. Ideally, eat a breakfast that hits all of these categories: whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables.
  4. Break a sweat. Exercise doesn’t just help maintain weight and boost metabolism, it also improves mood, memory and learning. And getting it out of the way in the morning—before the chaos of a long to-do list, meetings that run late or a last-minute invitation to dinner—is a great way to ensure you actually fit in a workout. Perhaps that’s why studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more consistent about working out than those who exercise later in the day. If you can’t fit in a full gym trip, going on a stroll around your neighborhood is also a great way to start the day. Studies show that a simple walk can increase your creativity.

If you struggle to even get out of bed, try these five ways to become a natural morning person.


Photo credit: Howard Lebowitz

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