Wake During Light Sleep
How you wake up (or, more specifically, when) is crucial to how your day starts off. “During sleep, your body goes through 90-minute sleep cycles starting with light sleep, progressing into deep sleep, and then back into light sleep or REM sleep,” says Dr. Jo Lichten, a PhD nutritionist, registered dietitian, and author of "Reboot: How to Power Up Your Energy, Focus, and Productivity." “If you wake up during REM or dream state, you will feel more refreshed. If you wake up during deep sleep, you’re more likely to feel sleep inertia that could last minutes or hours.” To ensure you wake during REM sleep, go to sleep earlier and use a sleep app designed to wake you during a light cycle, such as Azumio.
Start with Magnesium
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and a medical advisory board member for the Nutritional Magnesium Association, replace your morning caffeine with a glass of water mixed with a powdered magnesium citrate, and you’ll be amazed by the energy you feel. “The mineral is required in six of the eight steps in the production of ATP, the energy molecule,” says Dean. “Magnesium is one of the key electrolytes and is an excellent example of an energy nutrient since it activates enzymes that control digestion, absorption and the utilization of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.”
Squeeze in Exercise
For starters, making time for regular morning exercise—even if it’s just 15 or 20 minutes—guarantees it will actually happen and that a last-minute meeting or your post-work fatigue won’t take priority at the end of the day. Another plus of morning exercise: It has benefits for the brain. “Exercise can help redirect negative energies and reduce tension, which helps our brains process information easier,” says neuroscientist Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd of The Brain Institute at the University of Utah.
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Feed Your Brain
To fully shake your brain of its morning grogginess, consider supplementing with citicoline, a natural substance vital to brain health, says Dr. Yurgelun-Todd. “Citicoline can help to increase brain energy and function. And in a study conducted by The Brain Institute at the University of Utah, it resulted in increased memory and concentration in participants,” she says. Additionally, she suggests incorporating Omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and B vitamins into your breakfast, which can help deliver more nutrients to your brain.
We’ve all heard breakfast is essential, but protein at breakfast is extra essential. “Protein at every meal is very important, yet often ignored or downplayed during breakfast. Since the body can use just 20 to 30 grams of protein at one time to incorporate into the body, it’s critical to eat this much at each meal,” says Lichten. A few of Lichten’s suggestions to achieve those 20 to 30 grams every morning include: 2 eggs and an ounce of cheese, or a whole grain English muffin with peanut butter and a glass of milk, or a fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder.
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Set a timer for five minutes and write down whatever comes to mind in a journal, suggests Jaime Pfeffer, author of "Uplift: Amazingly Powerful Secrets to Conquer Stress, Boost Happiness and Create an Extraordinary Life" due out in Summer 2015. “Most people aren't taught strategies to ‘work out their minds,’ but it's just as important as working out your physical body,” says Pfeffer. She also notes that freeing up any negative thoughts by writing them down first thing in the morning is especially important. If you start the day harboring any negativity, it will only grow as the day goes on.
Count Your Blessings
After your journaling exercise, use the same notebook to jot down three things you’re grateful for. “Research shows people who wrote down three gratitude items once a week were 10 to 25 percent happier than those who didn’t,” says Pfeffer. It’s also a great way to keep the day in perspective. Is that board meeting really worth missing your daughter’s recital? Probably not.
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One Task at a Time
If your mornings consist of a harried blur of multitasking, it’s time to refocus your attention, says Pfeffer. “It is mentally impossible to do two things at once. What actually happens is you switch back and forth between the two things and end up not being fully present for either,” she says. Rather than multitask, focus on one thing at a time. “Doing this makes you more present, and when you're more present, you also reduce the tendency to misplace things, which is a huge time-waster.” Another benefit: Focusing your attention, or mindfulness as it’s often called, is scientifically proven to improve well-being as well as physical and mental health, Pfeffer says.
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Focus the Mind
If you’ve told yourself countless times, “I really should meditate,” but never do, chances are you assume you don’t have the time. But the benefits of meditation can be harnessed in a matter of minutes. “All you need is three minutes, three times a day,” says Dina Proctor, author of "Madly Chasing Peace: How I Went from Hell to Happy in 9 Minutes a Day". Proctor calls the practice "3x3 Meditation." “Each short burst of meditation brings a state of inspired focus, relaxed awareness and presence,” she says. “Mindset comes first and it’s so important to train the brain first thing in the morning.”
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Connect with Yourself
While the rest of the family is still asleep, take advantage of a quiet house and make watching the sunrise your “me time.” “I love to wake up before everyone else and have a cup or coffee or tea looking out the window at the sunrise, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” says Proctor. “Immersing in the quiet and connecting with nature before looking at email or interacting with anyone is a major part of starting the day off right.”
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