How you start your morning determines a lot about how motivated, healthy, and happy you’ll be the rest of the day. I know this firsthand: the mornings that I open my blinds and get moving, I’m much more productive and cheerful. What’s the secret to shaking up your morning routine? Try these strategies that work for me.
Let in some morning sunlight. The first thing I do when I wake up is open my blinds. The benefits of morning sunlight include alerting our internal clock, also called our circadian rhythm, that daytime has begun. This immediately gives your brain—and you—a kick start to your day. More specifically, when the brain sees morning light, it sends out a signal to produce less of the sleepiness hormone melatonin as well as the stress hormone cortisol and more of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. It’s serotonin that helps regulate memory and mood—reducing feelings of depression and anxiety—as well as boosting sleep-wake behavior. Needless to say, serotonin is a key hormone to boost when you want to feel happier overall.
I also try to spend more time in morning sunlight by taking a before-work walk outdoors. (Any time before 10 a.m. is ideal.) Ten to 30 minutes spent in morning sunlight has been found to have many benefits. It helps promote better sleep at night thanks to the regulation of our internal rhythms. This exposure to morning sunlight also helps keep the pounds off, say researchers from Northwestern University.
A bit of morning sunlight—particularly during the spring and summer months—can also give you a much-needed boost of vitamin D from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This hormone plays such an important role in keeping us healthy (our immune cells need it to fight off viruses and infections) and our moods stable; so many of us are deficient because we spend too much time indoors. Daily sunlight will help boost your levels. Tip: avoid wearing sunglasses or a sun visor when you’re in the morning sun; don’t stare at the sun by any means but your eyes do need to receive some unfiltered sunlight to kick start the hormonal cascade.
Get moving. Whether you’re walking or doing some yoga stretches at home, movement in the morning is a natural remedy for stress-relief all day long. It boosts your circulation, revving up your brain and energy for the day. It also seems that morning exercise, particularly cardiovascular exercise, increases the size of your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. This increase in size not only helps you stay more focused during the day, it may help prevent dementia when exercise is done consistently over the long haul.
Brush your skin. Get an extra circulation boost when you gently stroke a dry brush up, down, and in circles all over your body skin before showering. Using a gentle dry bristle brush (we prefer ones that are sustainable and cruelty-free) helps invigorate the skin, sloughing off any dead skin cells. In the process, you get a healthy radiant glow. There’s more to dry brushing too: by revving up the skin, you’re also promoting lymphatic flow and drainage. The lymph system is part of our circulatory and immune systems; it helps remove waste products and toxins from our tissues and returns them to the bloodstream for the body to remove.
If you don’t have the extra time to dry brush before showering, simply add a little Pharmacopia Citrus Conditioner to a loofah and gently “brush” your skin in the shower. This is perfect option if you have dry skin like I do!
Finish with a blast of cold water. You’ve probably heard of the Polar Bear plunge, where people willingly run into cold water in the middle of winter. Well, there’s actually a method to their seeming madness. Cold water immersion can have numerous benefits: it can boost immunity, enhance recovery from exercise, improve circulation, make you feel happier, reduce inflammation and pain, and kick-start your metabolism and fat burning.
But you don’t need to plunge into freezing waters to reap the benefits. You can do it every morning in your shower. To be perfectly honest, I’m not Polar Bear Plunge brave. In order to get the benefits of cold water, I have to gradually turn down the shower to get a minute of cold exposure. If you’re more courageous than me, give yourself a blast of cold water for one to three minutes at the end of your shower. The benefits for your hair are amazingly instantaneous: a cold-water blast helps to lock in moisture, preventing frizz and making it smoother and shiner. Suds up with our Citrus Shampoo and Body Wash for a more invigorating wake-up!
Power up your breakfast with protein. Whether you’re an intermittent faster or a eat-as-soon as-you-wake-up type of person, what you eat determines how satiated you’ll be all day long. Research shows that eating plenty of protein in the morning (as opposed to eating plenty at night) actually keeps you from getting hungry later—and helps stabilize your blood sugar (and your energy) and your weight. Add a little healthy fat like a slice of avocado, sunflower seed butter, or nuts—and you’ll stay full longer. One thing that doesn’t seem to help in the morning: empty processed carbs like bagels and sugary cereals. For all these reasons, I steer clear of morning carbs and eat plenty of protein instead. My favorite breakfast is sauteed kale and eggs with a side of avocado or, a when on-the-go, a healthy shake with almond butter, flax seed, coconut milk, berries and protein powder.