The Ultimate Morning Routine: Four Steps to Achieve More, Be Happier and Live Longer
The recipe for a happier, healthier, longer and more productive life involves four things: sleep, nutrition, focus, and exercise.
Making small changes to your morning routine will transform your day, allow you to achieve more, be happier and live longer.
Following this simple, 4-step morning routine will allow you to wake up better, clear your mind, and will prepare you mentally and physically to have a fantastic day
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The Secret to Performance and Wellbeing is not a Secret
Some of the world's most successful people swear by their morning rituals. Oprah Winfrey meditates. Bill Gates hits the treadmill and watches educational programs. Mark Zuckerberg checks Facebook. But, copying a celebrity’s morning routine won’t make you rich, famous, or even happier, healthier and more productive.
“The four ingredients of improved health and wellbeing are better sleep, nutrition, focus, and exercise.”
The secrets to a happier, healthier, longer and more productive life aren’t really secrets. They’ve been widely studied by the scientific and medical communities and captured in a number of great books, like The Ripple Effect (a must-read by doctor, scientist and performance physiologist, Greg Wells).
The four ingredients of improved health and wellbeing are better sleep, nutrition, focus, and exercise. The science behind how each of these impacts your overall wellbeing is clear.
Lack of sleep has been compared to alcohol in the way that it impacts performance.
Proper nutrition -- in particular, protein, fruit, and vegetables -- improves athletic performance, cognitive performance and slows aging. (see this study, for example)
Mental focus improves cognitive performance, and the ability to focus is something that can be trained
Physical activity improves health and cognitive performance, as demonstrated by many studies
Do these 4 things in the Morning to Transform Your Day and Live Longer
“Making small changes to your morning routine will transform your day, allow you to achieve more, be happier and live longer.”
1. Wake up rested…and ideally with a plan
It’s almost impossible to wake up rested if you’re not getting enough sleep. If that’s your challenge, there are a number of great resources to help you sleep better. (For example, this 14-day plan will help get you on the right track). If your problem is simply not getting enough sleep, make a habit of going to be a little earlier!
Regardless of how much sleep you’re getting, you can really improve how you wake up and get going by doing these three things.
Wake up naturally. This means no alarm, but only if you can pull that off. Waking up without an alarm is not really an option for most of us. The next best thing is waking up to an alarm at the right stage of your sleep. And, yes there’s an app for that! I’ve been using the Sleep Cycle app for years, and it’s totally transformed how I wake up. There are others as well.
Have a healthy dose of caffeine. To be clear, for non-users of caffeine the right dose is none, and that’s fine. For the other 85% of us, caffeine improves mood and performance. Many studies also link the antioxidants and caffeine and coffee to a number of other health benefits.
Ideally, your coffee or tea should be sugar-free, sustainable and easy to make. Sustainable means avoiding coffee capsules (even recyclable ones), choosing organic, fair-trade coffee and preparing it in a plastic-free coffee maker. This popular, all glass and wood pour-over coffeemaker is by far my favorite. If tea is your thing, go for loose tea made in a traditional Japanese-style cast iron teapot like this one. It makes great tea and is beautiful.
Wake up a plan. You don’t need anything formal or written, just enough to get you through the first hour or so. Do you have any coffee in the cupboard? Do you know where your yoga mat is?
2. Reset...and train your mind to focus
If you often find yourself multitasking, you need to take the time to reset and build your ability to focus. Multi-tasking is the enemy of performance. Focused attention on a task is directly linked to performance. Multi-tasking, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce productivity by 40%. But, it gets worse. Multi-tasking creates unproductive cognitive patterns, and the more you multitask, the more these patterns are reinforced, which actually impedes your ability to focus when you need to.
“A short meditation session in the morning allows you to reset your mind and improve your brain’s ability to focus.”
A short meditation session in the morning allows you to reset your mind and improve your brain’s ability to focus. Meditation’s benefits are well supported by scientific research. Meditation has been shown to change brain patterns, confer advantages in mental focus and improve cognitive performance. Practicing meditation helps cultivate the skills to be more mindful - more tuned into the present moment, more balanced, and less prone to distraction.
Making meditation part of your morning routine is easy and impactful. We recommend building your mediation skills by following a program. One of our favorite mediation guides is this 28-day program. For those simply looking for short meditation exercises, the Little Book of Mindfulness provides a number of 10-minute exercises that you easily integrate into your morning routine.
You can meditate anywhere that’s comfortable, but sitting on a meditation cushion like this one promotes good posture and relaxation. Sitting on a meditation cushion also sends a clear "do not disturb" message to your family or roommates!
3. Get moving...a little can be a lot
Exercise makes you younger and smarter: the science is pretty clear on this. The other thing that is also clear is that short periods of vigorous exercise that involve resistance (strength) training are much better than longer moderate-intensity exercise sessions. In fact, a 2017 study showed that High-Intensity Interval Training not only works at the cellular level to “correct” age-related declines but that it is also more effective than other forms of exercise.
“Adding 20 mins vigorous exercise to your morning routine gets your cognitive juices flowing and prepares you to take the challenges of daily life head-on.”
You don’t need to sign up for a CrossFit class, leave the comfort of your home, or spend a ton of time to boost your physical and cognitive performance, and actually turn back the clock on aging! You do need to crank up the intensity though, and you might need a bit of help on that front. That help can come from the structure and “push” of a personal trainer, group classes, or from following a program at home. For the home option, these 20-minute HIIT workouts are great (and super affordable). Don’t forget your dumbbells and yoga mat!
The bottom line is that adding 20 mins vigorous exercise to your morning routine gets your cognitive juices flowing and prepares you to take the challenges of daily life head-on.
4. Eat...more and better
Even though we know that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, most of us are not getting what we need from this super important meal. Your breakfast needs to be protein and produce powered, and bigger than you probably think. If you’ve done your 20 mins of HIIT, you not only need to provide fuel to your muscles but also set yourself up for the day. You should probably be aiming for 350-400 calories. Add some fat and carbs to the lean protein and vegetables to round your macronutrients and get the calories you need.
“Your breakfast needs to be protein and produce powered, and bigger than you probably think.”
There is no shortage of quality breakfast options, but when you’re in a hurry a protein and vegetable smoothie is hard to beat. My partner Leigh was kind enough to share two of her favorites here that she makes every morning in her Ninja. Enjoy!
…oh, and don't forget to make your bed!