You’re reading First Thing, a weekly series on HuffPost UK to help make your mornings happier and healthier.
How you start your day can set the tone for everything that follows.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person, there are simple, small steps you can take as soon as you wake up to improve your mood and reduce stress levels as your work day begins.
Here are some of the things productivity experts say you do to get a good start to the morning during the week. Your answers have been edited slightly for clarity and length.
I drink a glass of cold water.
“Every morning I start my day with a large glass of ice water. Although it’s tempting to jump straight to coffee when you start your day with ice water, you’ll rehydrate after a seven to nine hour fast.
“Rehydrating with ice water helps me feel more alert, and there are reported benefits like boosting metabolism and flushing out toxins. Making that morning move a breeze—especially because it’s me not a morning person – I fill an insulated mug with ice water and set it on my bedside table before bed. When I wake up it’s right there and ready for me without having to go to the kitchen to fill a glass. As soon as I finish my glass of water, I enjoy a delicious cup of this life-giving coffee.” — Anna Dearmon Kornick, time management coach and host of the It’s About Time podcast.
I do a breathing exercise to center myself.
“As a night owl, the Early Morning Club is not for me. These three simple habits have helped me for many years: daily affirmation, meditation, and a gratitude journal. As soon as I wake up, I silently say a positive affirmation. It’s usually “I’m calm. Take a deep breath.’ But if I [know I’m going to be speaking publicly that day]the confirmation could be: “I am confident”.
“Then do a meditation or breathing exercise to deepen the positive affirmation. It takes 10 minutes, but if I don’t have time I would just do a 1 minute breathing exercise. I love doing “4-2-4,” which is inhaling for four seconds, holding for two, and exhaling for four seconds. It helps the body relax and focus.
“Finally, my gratitude journal helps me set intention for the day because I write down three things I do to make my day great.” — Samphy Y, Productivity Coach
I meditate and then review my schedule.
“I meditate and journal every morning before I start work. It helps me relax and prepare for the day ahead. Then I review my schedule for the day and week, noting work sessions, upcoming meetings and appointments. Finally, I make a short list of my daily to-dos.” — Rashelle Isip, Productivity Advisor
I decide how I want to end my day.
“Start the day by setting your own finish line. We live in a world where work never ends. There’s always more you can do: another idea to explore, another request to think about, another step to follow up on, another hint to follow up, an article to read, or a social media post to comment on.
“So in a world where work never ends, it’s up to us to define our own finish lines. What’s on my agenda? What does success look like today? What is most important? How do I want to appear today? Checking in with ourselves first allows us to set our own finish lines for the day and celebrate as we cross them. Our brains find this much more rewarding and less inclined to be tempted by other distractions that might derail us.” — Grace Marshall, productivity coach and author of How To Be Really Productive: Achieving Clarity and Getting Results in a World Where Work Never Ends
I write down my daily goals.
“The first thing I do after praying is to write in a goal journal. I write down my daily goals, review my weekly and monthly goals, and even set a few new ones.
“It’s actually a newer ritual for me. It’s more holistic. I used to only do very cumbersome productivity tasks like “writing a to-do list,” but incorporating my prayer and affirmation work helps me with that as well [care] me.” – Lindsey HolmesProductivity consultant and CEO of Usable Tech Co.
I read and write to be creative.
“I spend the first 90 minutes of my morning getting the kids up and ready for school. But once I’m at my desk, I make sure to do two things: I read and I write a little in my “free writing case.”
“This year I’m reading all of Shakespeare’s works, so I’m going to read 3-4 pages in my collected works of Shakespeare. For the past year, I’ve read through a chapter of War and Peace every day; There are 361 chapters. Then my experimental writing this year is about a single day in a character’s life, spanning 365 bite-sized entries. So I write one of these (100-200 words). Both help me start the day in a creative space.” — Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author of the forthcoming book Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters
I’m doing a spiritual practice.
“For the last 10 years I have started my mornings with the spiritual practice of reading the Bible and praying. I wake up before my kids, pour myself a cup of strong coffee, and spend about 30 minutes in my most important relationship—the one I have with God.
“Of course, not all spiritual practices look the same. But I’ve found that when life gets hectic, starting the day by taking care of my soul helps me stay peaceful and grounded. It also helps me start my day on my own terms. For the first 45 minutes that I’m awake, I don’t have to react to my kids, my clients, or someone else’s agenda. It helps me to remember that as a person, I’m not defined by how much I get done.” — Katie Wussow, creative business coach and host of The Game Changer podcast.
I do something I enjoy before I start work.
“For several years I’ve been waking up and scrolling through social media apps, which is a terrible way to start the day. Finally, I’ve just moved my apps off my home screen so I no longer have them open from muscle memory, and since my intention with opening Twitter first was to catch up with the news, I’d just… open a proper News app instead.
“Once I’ve read the news and am a little more alert, I turn to the really nice way to start my day: doing a crossword puzzle (and now Wordle!). It’s a nice, gentle way to start the day that has nothing to do with productivity – these days I don’t even make a to-do list until I officially start work – and everything related to it, to introduce a little joy into my morning routine.
“After the crossword, I dabble in coffee and podcasts and maybe even some knitting and/or Real Housewives. Basically, I think of my mornings as my free time, free from the stress of work emails or too many Twitter posts, or even limited to the most functional tasks like showering or walking the dog, which allows me to get on with my actual work day a focused and relaxed place to start.” — Rachel Wilkerson Miller, Vox Editor-in-Chief and author of Dot Journaling – A Practical Guide
First Thing is a weekly series on HuffPost UK Life giving you tips and advice on how to enjoy your mornings. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, a good start to the day makes for a happier, healthier day. We share exercise advice, diet advice, and ideas for building new habits. (And no, the answer to a productive morning isn’t just setting an alarm for 5am!)