There’s a lot of advice out there on how to get a good night’s sleep. But how about ways to hoist yourself out of bed in the morning? If you’re not one of those lucky souls with boundless energy at the start of the day, here are three easy routines you can incorporate into mornings to kick-start your day.
Let there be light …
… and lots of it. Studies show that circadian rhythms—a cycle of linked physiological processes and psychological responses that occur over a 24-hour period—are indelibly linked to light. Numerous studies, including one conducted at the University of Washington School of Medicine, have shown that the higher the intensity of light, the stronger the effect on the body’s internal signaling system that helps us shift into full wakefulness.
The best source of light is sunlight, but if your alarm clock is set too early to take advantage of natural light flooding through your window and triggering wake-up reflexes, you can trick yourself by immediately switching on a light. Two things are key: The brighter the light, the greater the effect, and you can’t close your eyes once the lamp is on—they must register the light’s presence for your brain to make the connection that it’s morning.
Can’t bear the thought of a sudden influx of lamplight? A number of clock-lamp combinations on the market mimic sunrise by gradually growing brighter to coincide with your alarm set-time.
Take a deep breath
Filling your lungs with fresh air in a series of deep, cleansing breaths is another way to rev up your motor. While sitting or standing is best, you can even practice this exercise while still propped up against your pillows. “A good breathing technique to add to your morning routine is alternate nostril breathing,” says John Douillard, an Ayurvedic and chiropractic physician and author of numerous books, including Body, Mind, and Sport: The Mind-Body Guide to Lifelong Health, Fitness, and Your Personal Best (Three Rivers Press, 2001).
Douillard explains this simple exercise: “Begin by using your right thumb to gently press your right nostril closed, then breathe in slowly and deeply through your left nostril. Next, press your left nostril closed with your right ring finger, removing your thumb from your right nostril, and exhale slowly and thoroughly through your right nostril. Alternate back and forth between nostrils for about five minutes. Besides providing oxygen to the brain, this has a calming effect on the central nervous system, helping to ground you for the day ahead.”
Douillard, who trained in India and codirected an Ayurvedic Cancer Center with Deepak Chopra for eight years, currently directs the LifeSpa Ayurvedic Retreat Center in Boulder, Colo. He says that another good way to wake your body fully is to stimulate your circulation and open your energy channels by dry brushing your skin with a natural bristle brush.
“Begin at your feet, and use long strokes to brush up your legs toward your heart,” explains Douillard. “Next, brush your belly, hips and buttocks, always moving in an upward direction. Brush the arms from the backs of the hands toward the shoulders, and the upper chest downward toward the heart. Follow this by massaging a natural, organic oil into your skin, following the same general pattern as the dry brushing. Use long strokes except around joints, which should be massaged gently in a circular pattern.”
For an added benefit, blend a few drops of a pure essential oil with your base oil before applying to your skin, choosing an invigorating scent such as peppermint, pine or cinnamon. Remember that artificially scented oils don’t offer the same benefits—go for the good stuff.