[This is a guest post by Kevin Hilton.]
Who doesn’t want to start their day right?
Feeling good and energized before the workday even starts is something we all can use – whether you’re a freelancer, industry expert, or a cubicle-dweller like me.
However, jumpstarting the day with a strong sense of direction and energy is easier said than done. Most of the time, having a fantastic start is left to chance.
Worse, some use their mornings as if it’s their last chance to indulge in stuff they love – cramming online games, social media, and email before starting the real day. I know because I used to treat my mornings as such. And boy did my productivity tank.
Wouldn’t it be nice to turn lousy mornings to an effective productivity and energy booster?
Science says you can by following a handful of simple steps!
Set Your Intention For The Day
Letting the course of the day take care of itself once in awhile can be fun. But if you want to be happy, clam, and ready to take on life? Being in control is the key!
Quoting a 2001 study, Niven David, PhD and author of The Simple Secrets For Becoming Healthy, Wealthy, And Wise, said:
“People with a sense of control in their lives, in both career and relationship, were 66 percent more likely to report feeling happy and satisfied.”
So how do you get in control?
Set your intention for the day.
You need to pause and sit down to think how you will reach your destination.
Are you looking to build a blog? Writing 2,000 words of content sounds like a worthy goal. If you’re looking to grow a photography business, mapping out a marketing or referral strategy is a step in the right direction.
Make your intention clear and measurable, and be sure to write it down. Doing so turns your intention to actionable goals, increasing your chances of achieving them.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, is a huge fan of setting intentions. You may not be aspiring to build an empire nor amass a net worth of $4.9 billion. But the man is living proof that starting your day with clear targets can take you places!
Reach For A Glass Of Water
Your brain is made of 73% water.
But you’re dehydrated when you wake up, having slept for 7 to 8 hours without water. While you may not feel thirsty, your brain does.
Without the fuel for optimal performance, your brain will feel foggy and you might even be tempted to reach for the snooze button!
We know how sleeping in can throw a monkey wrench to our schedule, ruining our productivity for the rest of the day. So instead of going back to bed for just 10 minutes more, drink a glass or two of water. For good measure, drink 16oz of cold water and go from groggy to fully awake in seconds!
But drinking water doesn’t just rehydrate your brain into wakefulness. It also spikes up the metabolism by 30% for up to 90 minutes while energizing tired muscles. In simpler words, water gets you ready to rock your day!
Take An Ice-Cold Shower
You may opt to exercise, eat breakfast, or even start grinding after drinking water. But if your body needs a greater boost in energy, few things can beat an ice-cold shower. Not for the faint of heart, I know. But this shocking practice (literally) can do you a lot of good!
Showering with ice-cold water for 5 to 10 minutes can feel like torture. But you’ll come out of the shower stronger. It acts as an oxidative stress test for your nervous system, while relieving stress by decreasing uric acid and increasing glutathione levels.
My first ice-cold bath is anything but fun. I remember swearing and shrieking like a cat for 10 minutes. To my surprise, I ended up just fine. Yes, I was cold and shivering. But I was fine.
The second day was somewhat identical – 10 minutes of swearing and screaming but nothing life-threatening.
I kept at it every day. By the end of the week, taking a cold shower had become a peaceful, quiet affair. And after 30 days of cold morning showers, I’m taking to it like a fish to water.
My mornings felt better. My body felt energized. But most important, I became a bit more comfortable with discomfort. And that’s a quality all of us will want to foster!
Whether you’re a creative professional, college student, or an office worker, life will measure our mettle through difficult situations. We can only rise above those challenges if we stay at ease even though uncomfortable.
Meditate For 10 To 15 Minutes
First things first:
Meditation is not just for robe-wearing Buddhist monks.
CEOs, lawyers, stock market traders, and other high-performance professionals start their day by sitting still and being mindful of their breath. These people live life at a neck-breaking pace – attending meetings, dealing with paperwork, and putting out one fire after another.
Yet they make the time to meditate.
Because meditation works – and neuroscience approves!
Researchers from different universities in the US found that meditation rewires the brain for the better, resulting in sharper focus, better stress management, and calm. In the frenetic and distracted age we live in, we can all use a bit more of these healthy brainy perks!
And the good news:
You don’t need much to start meditating. Get a timer, find a place to sit, and you’re good to go.
Forget about the chants, mantras, or complex visualizations – unless you’re into that stuff. Set the timer to 15 minutes. Sit on a chair or on the couch. Close your eyes and pay attention to the breath and the tactile sensations it creates.
If you’re a complete beginner, you can find free guided meditation tracks online. You can listen to those for as long as you like, or until you’re skilled enough to meditate on your own.
Bonus Tip: Drink Coffee But Be Mindful Of The Time
For millions around the world, coffee is the go-to “pick me up” drink. And good news for the coffee lover (like me), a long list of studies show that Mr. Joe is packed with healthy benefits.
But if you’re like most drinkers, you’re probably drinking coffee at a less-than-ideal time.
Grabbing a cup the moment you wake up in the morning sounds about right. You’re half-asleep and feeling sluggish. A bolt of energy can’t be bad, heh?
However, our bodies rely on the 24-hour clock known as the circadian rhythm.
One of this internal clock’s responsibilities is to manage when we feel awake and sleepy. The circadian rhythm commands the body to be fully awake and reach peak cortisol levels at around 8 to 9 o’clock in the morning.
And if you drink coffee at ‘round about the same time, you get diminishing returns. Your body is about to perk up anyway! So instead, get your caffeine fix at around 10 to 11 o’clock when wakefulness dips, or around 1 to 2 in the afternoon when midday sleepiness strikes.
We just looked at 5 simple and science-backed steps to energize your day and get on the path to better productivity. But where do you start!?
I say start with just one. Transforming your mornings for the better is a marathon, not a sprint. Sounds cliche. But making steady and sustainable progress – rather than big leaps – is the key to permanent and positive change.
For me, short but daily meditation proved effective in slowly developing my discipline and clearing mental fogginess. The positive changes are small but significant, enabling me to take up the other habits in this list like taking cold showers, goal-setting, and waking up 5:30 in the morning.
What about you? Have you developed any of the habits listed above? If you have, I’d love to hear your experience.
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Kevin Hilton is the community manager for CafePoint, a vending solutions company based in London. Always looking to better himself, he’s always on the lookout for facts-based techniques to boost his productivity, balance work and life, and be happier.