Morning is for most of us the start of our day, our chance to prepare for work or school. It’s when we set the tone for the whole day. But the choices we make first thing can have ramifications throughout the rest of the day, so it’s worth being aware of some of the bad habits that can hurt our health and well-being.
20. Skipping breakfast
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is definitely true if you want to maintain energy for the morning. But just eating anything will not help you much. You should aim to get in some lean protein and good fat to keep you nourished and firing on all cylinders until it’s time for lunch.
Science confirms the value of a good breakfast, with research showing it helps to cut the risk of diabetes and heart problems. Neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez told website Bustle in 2016 that you can get by without anything too elaborate, so long as you aim for healthy. She said, “If you’re in a rush, grab a pack of trail mix or a yogurt to stow away in your purse until you get to where you need to be.”
19. Not leaving enough time
A morning routine might be a great way to get going in the morning. Getting up an hour or so before the kids leaves time to look after yourself. So long as you don’t spend that hour browsing social media, a bit of morning “me time” can fire you up for the day ahead.
If time doesn’t allow for much extra in your morning routine, you can still indulge in listening to an educational podcast while you get ready. Or if you do have 20 minutes that you can use, reading a book is a great use of your time. The idea is to get your grey matter working in the first hour so that it will stay productive all day.
18. Starting the day without a plan
It’s a good idea to create space to make a plan for the day or even the week ahead. While you’re waiting for coffee to brew, or taking the kids to school if you are able to walk with them, when you have ten minutes to meditate – these are great opportunities for formulating a schedule for the time to come.
More formally, a task list might help structure your day. Listing jobs you want done by day’s end can aid in selecting your priorities. This can be made easier by using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix: rank jobs as: 1 (key and time-sensitive), 2 (not urgent, but important), 3 (unimportant, but urgent) or 4 (of least consequence).
17. Hitting the snooze button
Sometimes the alarm just seems to go off too early, and we reach automatically for the snooze button. But sleep expert Robert Rosenberg told website the Huffington Post in 2015, “Hitting the snooze button is frequently a sign that you are not getting enough sleep.” In fact, snoozing the alarm can make you feel even more tired than if you had just risen from your bed.
One way to rise more awake is to use a dawn simulator. This machine makes it so that your room is gradually lit from about 20 minutes before the time that you wake up. Rosenberg told HuffPost, “In one study, morning cortisol levels were higher in the dawn light subjects. Cortisol usually is highest in the morning and contributes to feeling awake.”
16. Checking your phone before getting up
Lots of us take our phone to bed, and naturally when we wake up, we reach for our device. But this habit may be increasing your stress. Psychologist Joanna Kleinman told the Huffington Post in 2015 that early phone users were “awakening your Inner Critic.” She said this resulted in, “your brain [beginning] to produce stress hormones, and your body [responding], and before you know it, you are tense and agitated.”
A better idea is not to have your phone handy when you wake up. Simply put it on a charger in another room. Then do all your self-caring – showering, dressing, breakfasting – before you even pick your device up. Some experts suggest that it’s best not to even open your email inbox until you’re away from home.
15. Not exercising
While exercising at whatever time of day you can is good for you, it’s best to do it early if you can. Studies have looked at exercise in the morning and found that it lowers blood pressure all day. On the other hand, evening exercise can leave a person unable to get to sleep.
So how can you fit exercise into a busy morning? Well, if possible you could put it on your schedule and make an early start so that you can do it. Alternatively, you can put in an effort to accomplish other tasks the evening prior. This has two benefits: not only are there fewer jobs to take up time the next morning, but you’re also more likely to sleep well, keeping your finger off the snooze button.
14. Running the shower too hot
On a cold morning, a hot shower can feel like just what’s needed. But it might actually be doing you more harm than good. Heat instructs your muscles to take it easy and your heart to slow up. Calming yourself down is the last thing you want first thing! A hot shower can apparently also dry out your skin, leaving it prone to irritation and itches.
It’s better to take a swift shower, long enough to get clean but not too much longer. If you can’t stand a cold shower, warm is fine, so long as it doesn’t redden your skin. Once you get out, it’s better to pat yourself dry than it is to rub, and if time permits, liberal moisturizer can help your skin thrive all day long.
13. Eating sugar for breakfast
Lots of breakfast food is full of sugar and carbs. Even cereal, which we associate with morning time, can be very sweet – with four tablespoons of sugar in some typical servings. It might be delicious to eat, but the feeling of fullness will quickly disappear, leaving you hungry and tired.
One dietary expert, Chelsey Amer, even claimed that pizza was better to eat for breakfast than cereal – after all, with protein, fats and carbs all included, it has everything. If pizza seems a step too far, lean meat, scrambled eggs or cottage cheese are all good morning eats. And you can’t go far wrong with a fruit-and-veg smoothie.
12. Slurping an early coffee
For many, the morning only starts when they have a coffee. But experts have found that that first coffee can interfere with the body’s cortisol system. This can cause jitteriness and hyper-alertness, perhaps inducing a crash in the afternoon; the recommendation is not to have your first coffee until after 9:30 a.m..
Indeed, using coffee as a crutch for low energy is a bad idea. More sleep will fix tiredness, and exercise or a healthy breakfast will help power up your day. Research finds that later morning is best for drinking coffee, and water may be best for refreshment first thing.
11. Staying curled
When you sleep, the discs of your spine soak up water to rehydrate during the night. This can increase their size, which can lead to you being an inch or two taller first thing! But it can also make you stiff. So it’s important to stretch out when you first wake up, rather than just jump out of bed.
Getting stretched might even help your mood during the day. Research says that those who wake with their upper limbs in a V can be happier than those who don’t. But if you’re not one of them, it’s still beneficial to stretch your limbs and circle your wrists to get blood pumping into them.
10. Not hydrating
Naturally, after several hours asleep, your body will have become dehydrated. It’s important not to rush out of the door without drinking water. It has all sorts of benefits, from flushing toxins out of the liver to alleviating constipation, giving your immune system a shot in the arm (so to speak) and preventing infections in the urinary tract.
If you don’t like to drink just water and want a bit of flavor, a dash of lemon or lime is fine, and either one will aid in the process of detoxing the liver. However, experts say that you should avoid drinking water that’s too cold. You might give your system a shock and lessen any gains to health. Room temperature is best.
9. Not making the bed
Science has shown that beginning the day with good habits can boost your productivity through the day. And a key habit to form is making your bed. Once you are doing that every morning, other habits will spin off and prove easier to maintain. This idea has had endorsement at the highest level.
In 2014 Admiral William McRaven, the special operations commander who led the mission to rid the world of Osama bin Laden, told new undergrads at the University of Texas why he endorsed the habit. He said, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.”
8. Making the bed too soon
However, don’t make your bed straight away! If you do, you risk locking in the sweat that your body shed in the night. That creates the damp surroundings that dust mites adore. These tiny insects can trigger allergic reactions, bringing symptoms that resemble hay fever, or even asthma. They are particularly likely to cause a reaction in the young.
So the best thing to do might be to leave the covers off your bed in the morning long enough for it to dry out. However, British allergy scientist Andrew Wardlaw told the BBC in 2005 that although it was true that dust mites would not thrive in very dry conditions, British homes at least were generally sufficiently humid for them anyway.
7. Dressing in the dark
Getting dressed in the dark might seem harmless, but in fact our body clocks use light to interpret the time of day. So if you don’t turn on the bedroom light, you may end up continuing to feel a bit slow and groggy, instead of the lively, energetic and alert start that a good day needs.
The final outcome of dressing in the dark every day may even be depression. Indeed, one of the treatments for “morning depression,” an outcome of a disrupted body clock, is “light therapy.” In this, a person is exposed to a source of light that is somewhat similar to natural light. This can also help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
6. Brushing right after eating
So you’ve eaten your healthy breakfast, but now your teeth are covered with the debris. So it’s time to brush your teeth, right? Wrong. In fact, it can be a really bad idea, particularly if the things that you ate contained acid – fruit, for instance. You could be wrecking the enamel on your teeth.
The answer is not to avoid brushing altogether but to do it before breakfast. When you’ve eaten, you can rinse, but no brushing. You can use floss to remove any bits that are annoying you. If you really want that minty feeling in your mouth, give it half an hour after breakfast.
5. Eating for the sake of it
Although we’ve seen the importance of a good breakfast, some people just can’t face food early in the day. That’s okay, and forcing yourself to eat probably won’t do you any good. What you could try is to spread your breakfast through the morning. Eat one food group as you leave the house, then the others as a morning snack.
Another choice is to give intermittent fasting a try. One way to do this is to avoid eating for 16 hours of the day and then have food strictly within the other eight. This may be perfect for those who just don’t want to do breakfast. Indeed, it has some benefits for health, which could even include losing a few pounds.
4. Not delegating
One problem that busy people face is that there’s only one of them! You only have one pair of hands and one pair of feet. So you can’t be everywhere and do everything. Learning to let others take a share of the burden can help you free up space in your schedule for the really important things that you need to do.
It’s not just about avoiding tasks that you don’t want to do. You can delegate things to others who are simply better at doing them. For instance, if you aren’t particularly good at editing, you can pass on proofreading to a team member who is. And don’t forget to share the credit: the worst thing that you can do when you get help is to pretend that it was all you.
3. Not getting enough sleep
It may sometimes seem like wasted time, but sleep is extremely important to us. If we don’t get enough of it, our ability to think and produce slides. It’s like fuel for the productive engine of our lives, as essential to us as gas is to most cars. Allow it to run low, and the engine grinds to a halt.
If sleep proves difficult, sticking to the same time for going to bed and getting up every day – including weekends – might help. A routine for bedtime that helps you wind down can also be beneficial. Exercise can also help, so long as it’s not actually at bedtime. You’ll find it easier to sleep in a cool, quiet room, on a comfortable mattress.
2. Missing out on interaction
Although you need to carve out some time for yourself in the morning, it’s important to interact with others. Having conversations with others may take a bit of effort, but it can give your mood a huge lift, boosting productivity. Even those without a family can grab a quick chat with co-workers, the barista at the local café or a roommate.
And science agrees. Journal Harvard Women’s Health Watch said in 2010, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer.” A 1965 study outlined how bad lacking interaction could be, discovering that lonely people were about three times more likely to die in the nine years of the study than those who had high levels of social interaction.
1. Drinking sugary drinks
These days, there can be so much sugar in your morning cup of joe that it’s more like candy than coffee. This makes it an unwanted source of excess calories. A better choice may be to have it “bulletproof”. To do this, mix your black coffee with butter or ghee and a slug of MCT oil (with MCT standing for Medium-Chain Triglycerides).
Sugar can also enter our diets through breakfast treats such as muffins or bagels. These give us a boost in energy, but it soon disappears. Adding fiber and protein, and making the muffin or bagel wholegrain, can give you a lasting full feeling, allowing you to stay productive for longer.