Best Way to Start the Day?

Mornings at my house are so rushed that by the time I leave for work I’m already frazzled. I would love to have a calmer, more peaceful morning agenda. Do you have any recommendations for a healthy, positive early-hours’ routine?

– June 20, 2013

My own mornings are usually quite relaxed, but I don’t know if you can model yours on my routine. I have found that an important contributor to tranquil mornings is making a point of going to bed early the night before – I am often in bed shortly after sundown. This habit allows me to automatically wake, rested, when the morning sky begins to get light.

After brushing my teeth, I do my breathing exercises (the bellows breath followed by the 4-7-8 relaxing breath) and sitting meditation. When I meditate, I just observe my breath and what is going on in my body. I don’t try to stop thoughts, I try to note them, to witness them without judgment. Then I go to the kitchen and put on water for tea. I feed the dogs and eat my breakfast, then the dogs take me out for a good morning walk.

Here are some suggestions that might get your day off to a better start:

  • Skip the news and the morning TV shows: Opt out of watching the news on television or listening to it on the radio. Without TV or radio noise in the background, your mornings should feel less hectic. Periodic breaks from the news can promote mental calm and help renew your spirits.
  • Meditate: Individuals who meditate regularly may find that they become mindful – more aware of everyday aspects of life – and able to bring more awareness to everything they do. Immediate benefits can include lowered blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rates, increased blood flow, and other measurable signs of the relaxation response. You can even meditate while breathwalking, which combines the benefits of walking and meditation.
  • Work out: If you’re pressed for time in the morning, you may have to get up a bit earlier to fit in your workout. But for many people, the best time to exercise is first thing in the morning because an overnight fast causes blood sugar levels and carbohydrate stores to be at their lowest. If you want to lose weight, rigorous walking or weight training when you wake up causes the body to access fat for energy more easily and much faster in order to meet the caloric demands of your workout than it can when you exercise later in the day.
  • Wake to natural light: If you need an alarm clock to wake you, you’ll need some transition time to learn to wake up naturally at dawn, as I do. Of course, the trick is to get a full night’s sleep, and that may mean going to bed earlier than you do now. Being awakened by a jangling bell, a harsh buzzer, raucous music or anything other than waking naturally after a full night’s sleep is a detriment to long-term health.
  • Drink a glass (or two) of water: I’m not a proponent of the eight glasses per day rule, but drinking a glass of water in the morning, as some advocate, makes sense. You can flavor the water with lemon or cucumber, or drink iced green tea if you wish. You lose water through respiration, perspiration and urination since your last drink the previous night – possibly 10 hours or more ago – so it’s common to wake up mildly dehydrated. Every biochemical reaction depends on water to work optimally, so try starting the day with eight ounces and see how you feel. If you feel better as a result, make it a habit.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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