Have you always envied morning people? Do you dread your alarm going off in the morning? To make your mornings the best part of your day, it’s easy to make subtle shifts in your routine so that, over time, you’ve created a morning ritual that helps you wake up, center and feel happy to be starting a new day. Here are some questions to consider when crafting your best morning routine:
Do you consider yourself a morning person?
Are you in the habit of waking up before the sunrise or well after? Guess what, it doesn’t matter. No matter what time you wake up, you can be a morning person. That doesn’t mean you have to wake up with the sun, but it does mean that you have to like your mornings, which means liking your morning routine. Stop labelling yourself and open yourself up to the idea that mornings, yes even weekday mornings, can actually be enjoyable! But the first step is a willingness and belief that you truly can be a morning person.
Is coffee the first thing on your mind when you open your eyes?
While there is no general consensus on the health of consuming morning coffee, studies have shown that sipping your joe immediately might be a bad idea. Cortisol levels are high in the first hour after waking, and consuming coffee during that time causes an excessive cortisol spike that taxes your adrenals. Instead, sip on some lemon water first thing, or perhaps herbal or green teas. Once you are awake, reach for that delicious cup of coffee when your body can handle it, between 9:30 and 11am.
Can’t live without coffee before work right now?
A better idea might be drinking a big glass of lemon water and then taking 5 to 10 minutes to meditate before reaching for a cup of wake-me-up. This not only allows you to properly hydrate, but also to become naturally centered and to clear your mind before the coffee-fueled multitasking of the day begins.
Do you have a morning fitness routine?
If you wake up and strap on your running shoes, good for you. But, those who don’t integrate movement into their morning routine might do well to add a short bout of stretching, pilates or yoga. Your body is a fabulous machine. But, if you don’t exercise, stretch and lubricate your muscles, fascia and joints, they will stiffen and you will feel so much worse because of it. A happy body is a limber body. You may be astounded at how much happier you are at work if you take 15 minutes to stretch and use a foam roller in the morning. If you have lower back pain or shoulder/neck tension, morning stretches are an absolute must.
Are screens involved in your current morning routine?
If you turn off the television or open up an internet browser when you sit down for coffee or breakfast, consider the ramifications. Screens overstimulate the brain, and dosing yourself with that much technology first thing in the morning can sour your daily start and interfere with your overall productivity. Instead, try doing some journaling or some morning pages to clear your fluttering thoughts before flooding your brain with the chaotic wild west of the internet.
Do you go outside?
Daylight plays such a huge role in our ability to wake up as humans. Since most of us sit inside working all day, getting outside a little bit in the morning can improve wakefulness, productivity and overall happiness. Sunlight exposure has a huge impact on your hormones—it may even help to reduce excess body mass. The sun is that important. Creating a morning ritual is all about taking care of yourself and what you need as a human being to start your day. Don’t deprive yourself of water, a little sunlight and fresh air.
Do you eat breakfast?
It is important to take time for your first meal of the day. Some of us function best with a light snack and a bigger breakfast later. Some prefer intermittent fasting, which means a later breakfast. Some like to eat the works right off the bat. Whatever you prefer, make time for it. Don’t just run out the door with a to-go oatmeal bar every morning. Sip your smoothie on the porch. Sit down while you eat your oatmeal. Play some good music while you cook your eggs. The way you consume your breakfast is just as important as what you consume for breakfast.
Do you take time for morning hygiene?
A lot of us spend the mornings rushing around, stressing, clumsily trying to comb our hair and brush our teeth at the same time. That sort of routine serves no one. Make time for what might be considered lavish hygiene. Oil pulling is great for you and relatively easy to do. You could dry skin brush before a morning shower. Take 5 minutes to steam your face. Pamper yourself in a reasonable way in the morning and mornings will never feel horrible again.
What is your favorite part of your current morning routine?
Do you have a moment in the morning where you can just let out a sigh of satisfaction? Maybe it is that first sip of hot coffee. Maybe it is sitting on your porch while reading the newspaper. Maybe you do some morning yoga or stretching. The point is, in order to have a morning ritual, there needs to be this moment of utter relaxation. You need to exist in the moment, even if it is just for one blip in your hectic day. Find what you love most, and make time for it in your mornings.
Taking care of yourself and having a solid morning routine is the most important thing you can do if you want to be there for others. Make yourself happier, healthier and more productive just by tweaking the way you go about your mornings. I promise, it makes the day so much better.
This post originally appeared on Care2.com.