When it comes to the word “habit,” we’re usually reminded of the negative ones in our life, like biting fingernails, picking split ends and snoozing like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, we often neglect to recognize the pieces of our daily, weekly and monthly schedules that can be actually beneficial in the long run. The ones that re-energize us, give us meaning and remind us of our purpose and goals. Nothing from your daily life coming to mind? That’s perfectly okay. We’ve come up with a list of habits that you don’t need to worry about clouding and distracting you from your work, social life and fitness goals.
Enter: 10 mood-boosting habits that will make you happier, healthier and more relaxed—all before the clock strikes 10 a.m.
Take a moment to be humble. Before you head out the door each morning, think about something you’re grateful for. Maybe it’s a really good friend who met you for a mid-day yoga class when you were having a tough day, or your tiny studio apartment that, though fit for a mouse, somehow houses all of your belongings along with countless memories and experiences. Putting your life in perspective will come in handy when you hit every red light on your way to work or get your toes run over by a herd of suitcases before you even enter the office. See, it’s not that bad!
Fill up on breakfast. You know it’s the most important meal of the day, but who has time to sit down and eat a full meal in the morning? You do. In fact, studies show that eating a healthy, filling breakfast (no, we’re not talking Krispy Kreme doughnuts or McDonald’s hash browns) can improve your concentration, focus and performance at work, while also giving you more strength and endurance. Trust us, your boss and your bootcamp instructor will be super impressed.
Set a daily agenda. It might sound obvious, and perhaps a little ambitious, but planning out the activities and goals you wish to accomplish that day significantly improves your chances of achieving them. And as far as your mood and positivity level goes, one study found that when you see yourself progress towards a difficult or challenging goal, your negative energy and emotion is suppressed.
Break a smile. Even if you’re not fully awake by the time you walk out the door, make an attempt to smile — be it at your doorman, mail man, neighbor or just in the mirror. The act of grinning ear to ear (even if it’s forced!) has a positive influence on your emotions. It’s also proven to reduce stress, a nice relaxer we could all benefit from, especially first thing in the morning.
Make time to meditate. You don’t have to be Buddhist or avid yogi to find your daily zen. And while it might seem tedious to put your to-do list on hold in favor of a few minutes of calm silence, the benefits you’ll reap are worth your while. Not only does meditation have the ability to lower your blood pressure, relieve tension-related pain and reduce anxiety, it also ups your body’s serotonin level, leaving you happier, more positive and more energetic.
Get your workout on. You know that invigorating, energizing, super happy feeling you experience upon completing class? Imagine feeling those good vibes (aka endorphins) for an entire day, starting first thing in the morning! Sure, morning workouts might not be for everyone, but studies show that those early workouts can increase your metabolism, meaning your post-class breakfast is digested and broken down much quicker. Need even more incentive? Studies also show that you can burn up to 20 percent more body fat by working out before your first meal.
Have your hot chocolate. Coffee might be the first word you can pronounce in the morning, but studies show that hot cocoa may be an even better choice. Cocoa flavonols are actually proven to increase mood and levels of alertness. So we give you full permission to cave when it comes to the cocoa this fall, but remember that the mood-boosting benefit comes from the dark chocolate. Also, stick to skim or low-fat milk to avoid adding unnecessary fat, sugar and calories to your diet.
Get your stretch on. You know how amazing you feel when you’re flexing on the mat in pigeon or happy baby, or when you’re walking out of the studio after a peaceful, meaningful namaste? Total relaxation. So you can only imagine how moving your practice to a before-10 a.m. spot can set you up for a relatively stress-free, calm and relaxed day. Sorry, traffic jam and first-thing-in-the-morning work meeting — not letting you get me down today!
Spend time outdoors. Even if it means five minutes. Whether it’s walking Fido around the block one more time or getting off a subway stop or two earlier than normal, being outside can make a big difference in your mood. In fact, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that people have extreme improvements in their mood and self-esteem after just five minutes of being outdoors, and those good vibes were only enhanced by light exercise and movement.
Glance at old photos. Okay, so you’re not going to flip through a photo album while you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed before work, but research shows that being surrounded by fond images of your childhood and family and friends can evoke positive feelings and emotions in the present. At least it’s some incentive to finally get those pictures from last summer printed and framed!