The surprising secret to a slimmer, healthier you? Learning to love—and take advantage of—your mornings. A growing body of research shows that early risers reap a host of rewards, from feeling more positive to weighing less. The reason: Self-control tends to be stronger in the A.M., making it the ideal time to establish habits that can improve your body, mind and even your relationships. Here, your grump-free guide to becoming a morning person.
1. Prep ahead. Set yourself up for a less stressful A.M. by laying out clothes, packing your bag and making lunches the night before. Doing the work in advance will reduce the pressure—and your to-do list—so you’re less crazed in the morning.
2. Rethink bedtime. You’ll feel better the next day if you snooze for the recommended 7 to 8 hours, no matter what time you get up. So an earlier bedtime doesn’t necessarily mean a better one. If you usually hit the sack at midnight and wake up at 7 but want to start rising an hour earlier, don’t force yourself under the sheets at 9:30 P.M. You’ll probably stare at the ceiling until your “regular” bedtime. Instead, start small: Move up bedtime by just 15 minutes each night until you meet your goal.
3. Stop to smell the roses. People who look at flowers first thing in the morning report being more cheerful and energetic, according to a Harvard University study. In fact, simply admiring the blooms made participants feel less anxious and more compassionate throughout the day. Place a fresh bouquet on your nightstand or kitchen table.
4. Choose to tune out. Watching the news as soon as you get up makes for a stressful start. Setting limits, like no morning news and no email for at least 30 minutes, sets the tone for the day. Or, try cranking up your favorite song. Research from Knox College found that listening to upbeat music is a major mood booster.
5. Ban the button. If you hit snooze, you’ll feel much less rested than if you’d just gotten up the first time (going back to sleep can send you into even deeper slumber). So place your alarm across the room.
6. Sip lemon water. You’ve gone hours without drinking by the time you crawl out of bed, so your body needs hydration—stat. A glass of water with lemon is a smart move because it gives you a little jolt and a feeling of fullness, plus the citrus taste can deter you from grabbing a doughnut later.
7. See the light. The Verilux HappyLight ($39.95; Amazon.com) can make it easier to get going when it’s dark. Exposure to this kind of light tells your body to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin and can help you feel more awake in just 15 minutes. (Light therapy has also been shown to ease depression.) Place it at arm’s length and turn it on while you brush your teeth.
8. Get moving! Research shows that people who work out in the morning are more likely to stick with a routine. Just 10 minutes of walking or stretching can get your blood flowing and help you wake up.
By Kelly Mickle