Master your winter mornings
If the mere thought of waking up while it’s pitch black and freezing outside sends you crawling back to bed, then read on to discover how you can tackle every morning and get more out of your day.
10pm: Have a good night’s rest
It’s no surprise that a decent night’s shut-eye leaves you feeling refreshed, but did you know it’s essential for brain and metabolic function? According to sleep researcher Dr Chin Moi Chow from The University of Sydney, sleeping less than six hours a night puts you at an increased risk of weight gain, diabetes and a weakened immune system. “Sleep loss leads to increased appetite and a preference for energy-dense carbohydrate foods,” says Dr Chow. “It can also lead to deficits in decision making, attention and memory.”
Take advantage of the shorter (and darker) winter days and try to get to bed a little earlier - sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule is essential for establishing healthy sleep patterns. “Do your brain a service by giving it a good rest,” says Dr Chow. “You’ll perform much better the next day.” You can also boost your chances of enjoying a solid 7-8 hours of sleep by avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine six hours before going to bed. Instead, opt for caffeine-free herbal tea or a glass of hot water if you need a cold winter’s night pick-me-up before bed.
6am: Get energetic with exercise
You don’t need to attend a 5am boot-camp in the winter chill to feel energised. Whether it’s a 30-minute power walk or a slow, hot yoga class, just choose an exercise that generates positive emotions, says exercise physiologist Dr Adam Fraser. “Exercise dramatically improves mental health and brain function, so by exercising early in the day, you’re setting your brain up to be at its best,” he explains. Always set yourself a specific plan, for example, say, ‘I’ll swim at the pool at 6am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 30 minutes’, not just, ‘I’ll exercise more’. Boost your success rate by removing potential roadblocks. Pack a gym bag, lay out some warm workout gear out the night before or recruit a fitness buddy, for some added motivation.
7am: Eat a good breakfast
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast every day are at a healthier weight than those who skip it – and the benefits don’t end there. Eating breakfast improves concentration, memory and mood, adds accredited practising dietitian Lisa Renn. “People who don’t eat breakfast run the risk of not consuming an adequate number of nutrients each day. Skipping breakfast can also lead to weight gain.” Why? When you skip a morning meal, you’ll be more tempted to grab a quick fix, like a sugary snack, when hunger hits later in the morning. In winter, opt for some heart-warming porridge or for a balanced start to your day try a quick scrambled eggs with vegetables on toast.
8am: Reduce your stress levels
Why? “Feeling stressed can often lead to choosing quick food fixes, instead of nutritious meals,” says psychologist Maria Scoda. To combat stress, try the following:
Make a plan:
Plan your day the night before, including choosing meals and your outfit, so you don’t feel rushed.
Ready, set, go:
“Lazy mornings tend to lead to lazy days, so get out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off,” says Scoda.
Find your passion:
Working on the next great Australian novel? Churn out a few pages. Love cooking? Make a tasty breakfast. Try and set aside at least a small amount of time each day, to do something that you enjoy. “It’s invigorating and also helps reduce stress levels.”