The best way to start your day

The best way to start your day

Meet our experts: Julie Robinson is a specialist fitness instructor and Yours' feel younger expert; Helen Barklam is a nutritional therapist with the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy; Graham Allcott is Founder of Think Productive, which provides personal productivity training and consultancy.

It’s a part of your day you probably don’t think about too much about, but what you do with your morning actually paves the way for how you’ll feel for the rest of your day. Rethinking your morning routine could make you more productive, stave off tiredness and even make you happier and healthier. We’ve gathered the experts to share the secrets and science behind getting your day off  to the very best start!

Be alarm alert

You’ve just woken up to the buzz of your alarm clock. For many of us, our first instinct is to hit ‘snooze’ and burrow back under the covers. 

But snatching those ten more minutes, however sweet, could actually make you feel groggy for the rest of the morning. Snoozing confuses your brain and body because they don’t know whether it’s time to spring into action or not.

Waking up well is all about appeasing your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock which loves waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. So to wake up feeling sprightlier, always try to go to bed 7-8 hours before you need to wake. Set your alarm for the time you must get up and don’t hit snooze!

Breakfast matters

We’ve heard it again and again, but breakfast really is the most important meal of  the day when it comes to starting your day right. “Breakfast makes your body start working and keeps your blood sugar steady so you don’t crave sweet things for the rest of the day” says nutritional therapist Helen Barkham.

“The best breakfasts have some good quality protein to fill you up, fresh fruit which is full of nutrients and some carbohydrates to boost your energy. Try Greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds and strawberries, porridge with fresh berries or a poached egg on granary toast.

“To avoid a crash of energy later in the day, steer clear of  high-sugar breakfasts such as toast with jam, sugary cereals or just fresh fruit.

Think what you drink

For many of us, coffee is a staple part of mornings. But it may be wise to switch your caffeine for a different brew to start your day better.

“A glass of water is the best thing to rehydrate you in the morning,” says Helen. “But if  you like sipping something warm, hot water with lemon or peppermint tea is great for kick-starting your digestive system. If you can’t quite say goodbye to your morning coffee yet, make sure you only drink it after breakfast as caffeine on an empty stomach sends your sugar levels soaring, making you feel tired later on.”

Take time to enjoy your breakfast in a well-lit room, too. Studies show that getting 45 minutes of mood-boosting sunlight before 9am controls your appetite and can even help you keep your weight down.

Stretch out

Having a good stretch while you’re still in bed is great for waking up your circulation, especially if your joints are stiff in the mornings. It also helps avoid the light-headedness you get from jolting up too suddenly.

“Lie on your back without a pillow and try each of  these stretches  five times,” says Julie Robinson, the Yours Feel Younger expert:

Knee bends

  • Bend one knee sliding your heel along the bed towards your bottom. Hold for three seconds and slide back.
  • Do the other leg.

Shoulders, fingers and toes

  • Gently stretch your fingers and toes and then curl them in.
  • Bring your shoulders towards your ears and back down before rolling them back and around.
  • Keeping your heels on the bed, pull your toes on one foot back towards your shins. Using your other foot, push your toes down towards the bed and alternate between feet.

Arms, legs and heels

  • Slide one leg out to the side without letting it slip off  the bed and slide back.
  • Repeat on other  side.
  • Once you’ve sat up, stretch your arms as if  you’re doing a big wake-up yawn and take a deep breath.
  • Pedal your heels up and down from the floor a few times and then slowly stand up.

Plan to be productive

Our willpower, energy and even eagerness to tell the truth is at its highest first thing in the morning according to researchers, so make the most of this.

“If you need to make an important decision or be strict with yourself on something, do it early in the day,” says Graham Allcott of  Think Productive. “Start each day with the same quick checklist. Ask yourself: How do I feel today? What’s in my calendar that I need to do and when? What things am I most likely to want to put off?” says Graham.

“Then do the hardest tasks you’ve just listed straightaway. Once they’re out the way, your to-do list will look easy. Separate this to-do list into short daily actions, such as cleaning the bathroom, and bigger goals you need to do in the future, but not immediately, such as planning your summer holiday and you’ll be able to achieve far more in the day ahead.”

  • There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.