How to Be a Morning Person -- or at Least Fake It

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Wake Up Right

Stop slapping snooze When your alarm goes off and your body pleads, "Five more minutes," just say no. "You'll only be getting an extra 10 to 15 minutes of sleep, and it'll be very fragmented and not deep enough to feel restorative," says Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Rather than setting your alarm for 6:15 a.m. and snoozing for 15 minutes, you're better off just setting it for 6:30.

Catch some early rays Think about how much easier it is to get out of bed in summer, with light pouring through your windows. That's because light stimulates your brain and suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you feel sleepy. Zee suggests turning on a lamp soon after waking, and heading to a window to take in natural daylight (sunny or not) as soon as possible. Another option: Program a light box to gradually become brighter, starting about 15 minutes before you wake up. "Look for one with blue light and a rating of 3,000 to 10,000 lux, which is the equivalent of being outside on a cloudy day," Zee says. Alternatively, you could plug your bedside lamp into a timer or try a clock that uses bright lights and soothing sounds to wake you up, like the ones at wakeuptothesunriselight.com.

Don't check e-mail right away "Once you start looking at e-mail, you're spending time on issues other people consider a priority, and it puts you in a reactive state of mind," says Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert and author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Wait until you're out the door to start scrolling.

Stretch before your feet touch the ground This gentle two-part move from Pilates and hatha yoga instructor Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones helps warm up your lower back and hip joints, which can feel stiff in the morning. The breath work sends oxygen to your stomach and other organs, prepping them for the day.

  1. Lie on your back in bed and hug both knees to your chest. Inhale as you move knees away from you; exhale and bring knees back in to chest. Repeat five times.
  2. Stretch your left leg out and hug right knee toward chest. Use your hands to gently move the right leg in slow circles a few times, then change direction. Next, bring right leg across straight (left) leg, touching knee to the bed if you can, taking 3-5 deep breaths before returning to center position. Repeat on other side.
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Eat for Fuel

ACE toast (avocado-chia seed-edamame) Kick up the healthy in your avocado toast: Mash ½ cup avocado and season with sea salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Spread mixture on a slice of toasted whole grain bread; sprinkle with ½ cup cooked, shelled edamame. (They'll easily stick to the mixture.) Sprinkle on 1 Tbsp. chia seeds for an extra 2 g protein.

Nordic yogurt parfait Also called skyr, Icelandic yogurt tastes similar to Greek and also has lots of protein (thanks to the straining process), but is slightly thicker. Top it with ½ cup high-fiber cereal, something like Kashi GoLean Crunch or a few crumbled Frosted Mini Wheats, and ½ cup raspberries or peaches.

PB & A waffle Top 2 whole grain waffles with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter and ½ apple, sliced. "With whole grains from the waffle and protein and healthy fat from the nut butter, you won't run the risk of becoming hangry," says Ilyse Schapiro, M.S., R.D., coauthor of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? With 8 g protein per 2 Tbsp., peanut butter has the most protein of all the nut butters. (Almond isn't far behind, at 7 g.) Nut-free? No problem: SoyNut Butter has 7 g. The apple adds hydration, vitamin C, and fiber.

Streamline It

Ritualize your morning Pick a few outfits and breakfasts you like and put them on rotation. "Even the seemingly smallest choices can start to drain your energy," says psychologist Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

Don't overprep the night before "When evenings are taken up by chores, people tend to stay up late for 'me time' in the form of television, Internet, or reading, only to wake up sleep-deprived," Vanderkam says. Save one or two chores that make sense for morning (like packing lunches), turn in earlier, and you'll rise and shine raring to go.

Set an 'almost time to leave' alarm You can't get rid of all morning chaos, but setting an alarm for 10–15 minutes before you need to head out can help you make the most of your time. "Recognize that those minutes after the alarm dings might be more stressful, but this helps you pace yourself," Vanderkam says.

Bring Good Vibes

Skip the morning news It can be stressful, and that can cramp your concentration: One study found that people who watched a happy video (a laughing baby, cats cuddling) learned new concepts better than people who watched an upsetting video (a report on an earthquake). Sure, you want to know what's going on in the world, but wait until later in the morning to check your feed.

Listen to music instead "Songs that start out gently help you wake up gradually; then you need a more intense beat and empowering lyrics to get you going," says David M. Greenberg, a music psychologist at The City University of New York.

Take a mindful moment You have to shower anyway, so why not work in your moment here? "Pay attention to the sound of the water and the way it feels on your skin," says Timothy Pearman, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist at Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chicago. Don't worry if your thoughts wander. "The simple act of trying is enough to help you focus and experience a bit of calm," he says.

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