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10 Ways to Optimize Your Morning Routine

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
May 20, 2024

For the night owls and sleep lovers alike, the thought of getting up in the morning is enough to make them burrow farther under the covers—and hit the snooze button. For them, just trying to get by in the morning can be a chore, never mind establishing a productive, energizing morning routine to get the day started.

Even if you consider yourself a morning person, you may find it challenging to create and stick to a.m. rituals that truly recharge you. But doing so is well worth the effort: Research suggests that having routines may buffer stress and boost resilience, especially during difficult times.

There’s no one perfect morning routine, but the closest thing to perfection is establishing a regimen that works for you. Here are some tips to consider to get the most out of your morning and set the tone for a better rest of your day.

1. Set Your Alarm a Little Earlier

Nothing makes for a bad morning like being pressed for time. “Waking up 10 to 15 minutes early can provide time to take care of a few extra tasks or, at the very least, help in not feeling as rushed,” says Larry Marks, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Central Florida Counseling and Psychological Services, in Orlando.

What’s more, giving yourself a little more time in the morning may leave room for savoring (the taste of your morning coffee, the feeling of morning sunlight on your skin), which may help you better cope with stress and boost resilience.

2. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

One 2022 study suggests that using the snooze button may prolong sleep inertia—that groggy feeling when you first wake up—compared to setting just one alarm. Eliminate the temptation by placing your alarm clock across the room so you're forced to get out of bed to turn it off.

3. Make Your Bed

“Completing the simple act of pulling up your sheets and fluffing your pillow means that you’ve already accomplished one thing for the day,” says Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner.

4. Reduce Screen Time

It's one thing to spend a few minutes scrolling through cat videos or listening to a favorite podcast to kick off your morning, but immediately responding to emails or scrolling through negative headlines won’t exactly start your day on a positive note. To better optimize your morning routine, limit your screen time and social media use in the a.m. One study suggests that those who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at a greater risk of developing mental health problems.

5. Squeeze In Some Movement

One 2020 study suggests that 30 minutes of exercise in the morning may help boost productivity and decision-making abilities. Other research indicates that morning exercise may lead to more movement throughout the rest of your day.

“Many find morning workouts also help boost energy and mood,” adds Cooper Hakim. But if a full-blown morning workout just isn’t your speed, don’t sweat it. You could also try going for a brief walk or doing some light stretching.

6. Meditate—Even for Just a Few Minutes

Practicing mindfulness may help you start the day with positivity and gratitude, says Cooper Hakim. In a 2019 study, participants who did a daily 13-minute meditation for eight weeks showed improved attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation. If you find you don’t have time for a full meditation, opt for a few minutes of deep breathing, or try a walking meditation or body scan on your way to work.

7. Drink Up

“Start your morning with a glass of water and drink water throughout the day,” Marks says. It’s important to stay hydrated, as research suggests that even mild dehydration can have negative effects on cognition. Make the habit stick by drinking some water before your coffee, or having a glass alongside your breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…

8. Eat a Balanced Meal

If you’re accustomed to grabbing a granola bar and hurrying out the door, it may be time to rethink your breakfast ritual. Research suggests that having a good breakfast—think a well-balanced mix of produce, lean protein, and whole grains—may help lower stress levels.

9. Make Time to Connect

Whether it’s cuddling your significant other before you get out of bed or snuggling with your pet before you walk out the door, “any form of human or pet contact helps us feel loved and cherished,” Cooper Hakim says. For an added bonus, connect with your family over a sit-down breakfast.

10. And Make Time for You!

The morning is a sacred time: It’s the quiet before the chaos of the day and an opportunity to connect with yourself before you give your time and attention to others. Honor that by taking a few minutes to do something just for you. This could be any activity or hobby that brings you joy: listening to your favorite song, spending a few minutes reading a book, working on your knitting project before you head out the door.

Making time for leisure activities may help us lessen stress and boost relaxation—and could be the perfect addition to your morning routine.

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