Whatever your morning routine was before the pandemic — whether chaotic, invigorating or performed with military precision — it may be a little rusty after months of working from home.
Many people also rush through this key time without putting much thought into how it might affect the hours to come.
But when you start your day with a sense of accomplishment, it creates forward momentum that allows you to show up in bigger, better ways in everything else that follows, said Liz Baker Plosser, author of the new book, “Own Your Morning: Reset Your A.M. Routine To Unlock Your Potential.”
Fall is the perfect time to reinvent your morning, she noted.
“The energy in the air in September is in many ways even more powerful than those restart vibes that we all feel come January 1st,” Plosser, who is the editor-in-chief of Women's Health, told TODAY.
“Kids are going back to school, we're starting to go back to the office or just thinking big for how we want to spend the fourth quarter in our work lives… it’s just the ultimate time to have a reset moment.”
Here are her tips for getting the best possible start:
Embrace the unique power of mornings
Plosser wasn’t a morning person when she was younger but “begrudgingly” made the transition after she graduated from college, started working and realized life often got in the way of things that were important to her, such as exercise.
When she planned to stop at the gym after work, she’d get diverted by last-minute deadlines or dinner invites.
“I learned that I could not control what unfolded throughout the day, but I could control how I spent my mornings,” Plosser said. “So I taught myself how to wake up earlier and start adding in those things that were so crucial to me feeling my best. Once I did that, everything went better.”
Set a special wake-up time
For Plosser, it’s 5:17 a.m. because her lucky number is 7. The key is to pick a number that’s special for you and avoid the generic 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. wake-up time.
“There’s just a psychological energy to starting the day with a number you chose that matters and is important to you,” she said.
“I am much less likely to press the snooze button when I set my phone alarm to an odd number.”
Don’t hit the snooze button
Experts have called the snooze button “a disaster” because it's essentially a battle with yourself.
Plus, every time you press it, you're interrupting the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, which takes place in the later stages of the sleep cycle — “that's when the magic happens in terms of restoration and recovery, so you really don't want to mess with that part,” Plosser said.
It’s better to be realistic about the time you need to wake up and get out of bed right then, rather than setting the alarm for 30 minutes earlier and hitting the snooze button three times, she noted.
Expose yourself to light
Morning light resets the body’s circadian rhythm, which influences the wake-sleep pattern and alertness. Studies have found brief bright light exposure on workday mornings can improve sleepiness and performance.
One researcher Plosser interviewed compared sunlight exposure first thing in the morning to having a cup of coffee — it naturally makes you more alert and awake.
On dark mornings in the fall and winter, a light therapy box can mimic dawn, but even on a regular bright lamp can help, Plosser said.
Move your body
Exercise provides wonderful physical and mental health benefits, so Plosser likes to go for a run or lift weights most days of the week. She starts exercising by 6 a.m. and is back in her apartment an hour later.
“But you don't have to be hard core like I am to reap all those benefits,” she said. “Even doing a light stretch or taking your dog for a 10-minute walk or just doing 10-minute workout in your living room — all of that counts. It all makes a big difference.”
Plosser gets stomach cramps if she eats before her morning workouts so she exercises in a fasted state, but other people may feel tired if they don’t have a snack or mini breakfast beforehand, so it’s best to experiment what works best for your body.
Incorporate your core values into your morning
Whatever lights you up and makes you happy should be a conscious part of the start of your day. If it’s food, buy fresh green apples or other beautiful fruits and arrange them in a bowl on your counter to appreciate. If it’s family, send a loved one a text that says, “I'm thinking about you.”
These micro moments take less than a minute, but can make your heart soar, Plosser said.
“When you fill yourself up with the things that light you up every morning then you can go be a better parent, a better manager or employee,” she noted.
Set up for success the night before
Anticipate your needs for the morning: Pick out the clothes you’ll wear tomorrow. Take a few minutes to clean up your home and wash any dishes lingering in the sink.
“Those are things that can trip you up tomorrow morning,” Plosser said. “Your brain is automatically going to focus on them… it's going to take up mental energy that you could be using in so many more beautiful positive ways.”
Remember: Every new day is a chance to reset
If this morning didn't go like you wanted it to, it’s OK. Congratulations for putting in the effort and get ready to try again.
“Sometimes you just have to say, 'Let's make this work tomorrow. I know I can do better tomorrow,'” Plosser said.