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7 morning rituals for a healthier day

The easiest advice to becoming a morning person? Start small.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

The easiest piece of advice to becoming a morning person? Start small.

By improving one small thing in the morning, you set the tone for your entire day. Over time, you’ll notice that these small habits will add up and suddenly you’re a morning person and you accomplish more and more throughout your day. Go you!

I try to add all, or even just one, of these small activities into my morning routine each day so I can equip myself with the tools I need to hit the ground running:

1. Oil pulling

The very first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is swish a tablespoon of coconut oil around in my mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes. Oil pulling is an old Ayurvedic practice, believed to promote dental health and cure 30 systemic diseases ranging from migraines to asthma. While traditional medicine hasn't proved that it works, it's a practice I truly believe in.

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What better way to start your day off on the best foot possible than by removing harmful toxins from your body? I usually multi-task during this time and make my morning smoothie, get dressed and do some quiet meditation.

2. Stretch

Get that body moving first thing in the morning to alleviate any back and neck pain from sleeping and to aid circulation. Stretching will not only make you feel more limber, but will also increase oxygen to your brain to make you sharper.

3. Drink hot water

We hear about the endless benefits of proper hydration all the time, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that consuming H2O first thing in the morning is one of the best things you can do to keep your system running at its best. I prefer hot water with a little lemon to help with my digestion and pH levels.

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4. Meditate

Surely you've heard about all of the health benefits of meditation, and it really is a great practice for the body and soul — no matter what time of day you engage in it. However, meditating in the morning, even if it’s just for five minutes, can be extremely beneficial to setting a clean mental slate for the day so you can conquer the tasks ahead with a clear mind.

5. Avoid technology for 20 minutes

In my house, we have “tech turn down” time in which we all put our phones on silent or turn them off once dinner is served, because that’s our time to connect face to face as a family without distractions.

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I also implement this rule in the morning and I’ve encouraged my children and husband to do the same. We’re bombarded with emails, texts, phone calls, social media activity and more throughout the entire day — it’s unavoidable! If you start your day by checking emails, you’ll start the cycle of mentally organizing and prioritizing tasks before your brain is ready to wake up. So, I take time in the morning just for “me” so my mind remains as uncluttered as possible.

6. Add protein to your breakfast

Exercise is important, of course, but diet is even more crucial to looking and feeling your best. The foods we put into our bodies can dictate how we feel all day long.

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Processed foods riddled with saturated fat and sugar will make for a particularly sluggish day and will open the door for more poor decisions, such as skipping a workout or getting to bed later than usual.

I suggest adding a few grams of healthy protein to your mornings. If you usually eat a banana, add a tablespoon of organic almond butter so you stay satiated longer. If you function well on oatmeal in the morning, add a few almond or walnuts to your bowl for a protein boost.

Slow-Cooker Maple Oatmeal

Forget counting calories; instead, focus on fueling your body with foods that contain as few ingredients as possible and offer a few grams of protein.

7. Focus on movement

Moving your body in some way in the morning will get your endorphins flowing, which will put anyone in a better mood. Even moderate activity, like taking your dog for a walk or a light jog around your neighborhood, can provide the mood-boosting effects of a natural endorphin high.

Set a realistic goal for morning activity, such as “400 steps” and try to reach that goal by getting yourself and your family ready and out the door. If you don’t hit that number, try walking up and down the stairs a few times. That should do the trick!

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Following the path to a healthier, stronger you starts with a single step and the decision to try. Setting the morning off on the right foot can shape your entire day, helping you to make better health decisions. The most important thing to remember is that starting now is always better than tomorrow.