Early Bird Energy: How to Get Up and Go, Go, Go

Maybe you’re a morning person, and maybe you’re not, but chances are the first moments in which you open your eyes aren’t your best. According to Matthew Edlund, MD, the director of the Gulf Coast Sleep Institute, in Sarasota, Florida, and the author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough, ‘It can take up to two hours to get the brain fully alert.’ Still, your early morning energy levels are an important health concern, so let’s take a look at a few strategies to help you get going with a lot less grief.


1. Here comes the sun: While wandering around in the dark may seem preferable to assaulting your eyes with the vicious daylight, exposure to light tells your brain to stop producing melatonin – a hormone than induces sleepiness. Sunshine also helps your morning wellness because the light resets your brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, which controls your body’s circadian rhythms or 24-hour biological clock.


2. The long stretch: A few stretching exercises are always a good idea for your wellness, but first thing in the morning is really their time to shine. Edlund says, ‘the first physical activity of the day raises the body temperature and increases blood flow to your brain,’ so, once you’ve opened the curtains, try a few stretches in front of the window. (Make sure your PJs are presentable, just in case the neighbours see!)


3. Move along: As well as stretching, a good morning workout – including cardio and strength training – can help your energy levels soar. Gregory Florez, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, in Salt Lake City, says, ‘Morning exercisers tend not to have midmorning slumps and are sharper mentally than if they hadn’t exercised.’ This is because a morning workout triggers feel-good endorphins and lowers elevated stress hormones, and this feeling can last you for up to eight hours.


4. The look of love: Jim Loehr, EdD, a cofounder of the Human Performance Institute, in Orlando, Florida, says that you find mornings especially difficult because your body is in survival mode; meeting basic needs of hunger and thirst. This makes your body feel like its under threat, which saps your energy. However, you can counteract the primal messages that you’re in some kind of danger by looking at something you love. Experience positive emotions, like hope and gratitude, by having anything you’d be grateful to see next to your bed, such as a treasured photo or flowers.


5. Shake it: While a regular routine seems like a good idea for that time of day when your brain isn’t functioning properly, shaking things up a bit can get your brain into gear. When you have novel experiences, your brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which make you more alert. You don’t need to go bungee-jumping in your PJs; just do your ordinary activities with a twist; use your left hand to brush your teeth instead of your right, for example.


6. Heaven-scent: In your morning shower, get a bit scents-ual (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) with products containing citrus, eucalyptus, or mint aromas. Ann Marie Chiasson, a Tucson-based integrative-medicine physician, explains, ‘When you smell these scents, a surge of energy flows through the body, which clears the mind of clutter and gives you a quick lift.’ In fact, you can take a little bottle of peppermint oil to work, and put a few drops on a tissue and sniff later in the day for an energy boost.


7. Limit your options: According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study, students faced with multiple choices had less physical stamina and were more likely to procrastinate. So when choosing your outfit for the day, Barry Schwartz, PhD, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, recommends limiting yourself to fewer than 10 options. Even better; pick your outfit the night before.

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