'Harmless' Morning Habits that Are Sabotaging Your Day
How you spend the first moments of your day can set you up for success—or failure. Make sure you’re choosing wisely when you wake up.
#1 You drink coffee first thing in the morning
Step away from the coffee maker… for a few hours, anyway. That wonderfully warm, caffeine-filled cup of joe interferes with your body’s natural production of cortisol, disrupting your normal circadian rhythms and making you more jittery right after you drink it as well as more tired later on. Your body produces the greatest amounts of the energizing hormone cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) between 6 and 10 a.m.—and especially between 8 and 9 a.m.—and if it instead begins to expect coffee, it will start producing less of it and you’ll need more coffee to function. A better time to imbibe would be after 10 a.m. when cortisol levels naturally dip.
#2 You hit the snooze button
Those few extra minutes of shut-eye aren’t doing you any favors, and in fact, they’re making you more tired than if you hadn’t had them in the first place. The problem is, you’re messing with your REM sleep by starting a new sleep cycle and being awakened abruptly from it too soon. This interruption also leads to a more severe form of sleep inertia, that grogginess you feel for a while after waking, and it can take hours to shake. In turn, that can negatively impact your decision-making, memory, and general performance. It’s time to shake up morning habits like this that are sabotaging your day.
#3 You check social media while still in bed
You might just think you’re “catching up,” but what you’re really doing is worrying that you’ve missed something. This puts you in the wrong mindset from the get-go and can make you focus on things that don’t really matter, according to a report from Business Insider. Furthermore, studies have shown that use of social media can lead to increased anxiety and decreased feelings of overall well-being, which is not an optimal way to start your day.
#4 You make your bed as soon as you get out of it
How can making your bed possibly be problematic? Two words: dust mites. These microscopic creatures can cause coughing, sneezing, and itchy eyes, as well as exacerbate asthma symptoms. Dust mites love the warm, humid conditions produced under the covers at night, and researchers from Kingston University in England believe that making your bed can trap them in there and ensure that they stay all warm and cozy. If you don’t make your bed—or at least wait till right before you leave the house when your bedding has had time to cool down—some of the dust mites may become dehydrated and die off.
#5 You skip water
Caffeine and food may be the first things on your mind, but water should be a top priority. When your body is dehydrated after a night of sleep, it slows you down and can put you in a bad mood. Regular old water is a magical elixir, warding off those problems as it hydrates you, as well as aiding digestion, decreasing stomach acidity and heartburn, and preventing constipation. Studies have also shown that drinking water can boost your metabolism, decrease your calorie intake, and generally help with weight loss.
#6 You consume a carb-heavy breakfast
At least you’re eating breakfast, right? Sort of. Science indicates that breakfast can boost metabolism and even lower a person’s risk for developing diabetes and heart disease, but refined carbs can create wild swings in blood sugar—not to mention leave you ravenous well before lunchtime. While complex carbs certainly have a place in your breakfast menu, protein should have top billing. Healthline cites a number of studies on the benefits: Protein will help you consume fewer calories throughout the day, help you feel full longer, target belly fat, and promote long-term weight loss. One of the best foods to get your morning protein fix, according to science? Eggs. One study found that eating eggs instead of a grain-based breakfast leads to lower calorie intake for the next 36 hours.
#7 You keep your curtains drawn while getting ready
Let the sunshine in—literally. When you stay groggily ensconced in a dark room, you’ll feel less alert and energized. Sunlight is nature’s way of telling your body that it’s time to get up and get moving and that it’s time to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin. Morning sun can also brighten your entire day, according to scientists, particularly if you’re exposed to it between 6 and 8:30 a.m. It will reset your biological clock and keep it on track so you can function better during the day and fall asleep easier at night.
#8 You tackle your least important tasks first
It feels great to check a whole bunch of little things off your to-do list, but that may inadvertently derail your success with the more important tasks you’re saving for later in the day. Researchers at the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Education in Singapore found that people lose “self-control” when it comes to task performance as the day goes on—meaning that your mental and physical stamina take a hit, and as a result, your work quality suffers or you put off your big task until tomorrow. So, focus on the big things first to be truly productive.
#9 You formulate a comprehensive to-do list
When your brain is bombarded with a massive list of tasks to accomplish, it seems smart to write them down so you don’t forget anything. But according to an article in Fast Company, “to-do lists are where important tasks go to die.” Research from the project-tracking software company iDoneThis found that 41 percent of all to-do-list entries never get done. You’d be better served, say time-management experts, by time-blocking your calendar with events and accounting for the time that it will take to accomplish them. Even things like doing the laundry and buying a baby gift should go in there. Why? If it’s scheduled, you have a greater chance of actually doing it.
#10 You don’t leave time for a workout
Science proves that revving up your body in the morning hours can help with a host of health issues—from burning more fat and helping you eat less to lowering your blood pressure and your risk of diabetes—and, surprisingly, it can also make you better at your job. According to researchers from the University of Bristol, a morning (or lunchtime) workout improves the ways in which people deal with the challenges of their workday. In the study, 72 percent reported better time-management skills on exercise days, and 79 percent said that their mental and interpersonal performance improved; others reported improvements in concentration, stress reduction, motivation, and happiness. Even if you can’t fit in a proper workout every morning, increase your physical activity with a walk to the office or even a walk up the stairs.
#11 Your morning routine is all about getting out the door
Yes, you have places to go and people to see, and time is precious, but if you don’t factor in a few minutes for yourself, your day may be more haphazard and stressful. Psychology Today lists dozens of scientific studies that extol the benefits of meditation and taking the time to connect your body and your breath: You can improve focus, concentration and memory; boost your ability to problem-solve in creative ways; and help keep yourself on task. Meditating can also make you happier, calmer, more compassionate, and more connected with others, and it can even bolster your immune system.
#12 You watch the news before work
The horrors headlining the morning news can stay with you. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, if you watch just three minutes of negative news in the morning, you have a 27 percent greater chance of feeling unhappy for up to eight hours later. As a result, you may then bring a negative attitude with you to work, hindering your performance and productivity. The study authors recommend turning off news alerts on your smartphone and starting the day with news that’s positive, empowering, and solution-oriented.
#12 You engage in small talk
Talking about the weather can be depressing—and not just when it’s cold and rainy out. Researchers found that people are happier when they have conversations of more substance and are truly connecting with others, according to a study published inPsychological Science. Those who are the “happiest” engage in two-thirds less small talk and double the amount of “substantive” conversations. What might qualify? Talking about your family, a big event you’ve been planning, or something else that truly excites you.