15 ideas to create a successful morning routine
The snooze button is calling, phone alerts beckon, and work responsibilities loom. If you start your days tired and stressed, it’s time to rethink what you do first thing in the morning. “A new day offers hope, a fresh start, and opportunity—seizing that can set your intentions for the day,” says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, a registered dietician nutritionist and the author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean.
Transform your morning—and the hours that follow—by doing something that affirms your commitment to wellness. And don’t worry: Even a small change can have a big impact! Read on to learn how to design a morning routine that will help you feel healthier and happier all day long.
Why the first things you do in the morning matter
“Mornings set the tone for the day and prepare you for what’s to come,” says Nora Minno, a certified personal trainer at Daily Burn and a registered dietician. For example, when you fuel up first thing with a healthful breakfast, you’re more likely to keep eating well throughout the day.
Routines can also save time and brainpower. “They leave you fewer decisions to make,” Minno says. And since distractions build as the day goes on, mornings are an ideal time to check important must-dos (like a daily walk) off your list.
Benefits of a morning routine
Doing something at the same time every day makes it easier to stick with a healthy habit. Other perks of a morning routine include:
- A healthier body: If your a.m. plan includes a nutrient-dense breakfast, physical activity, or waking up refreshed after a good night’s sleep, you’re giving your body a boost. Also, research suggests that people who exercise at the same time every day (such as first thing in the morning) get more physical activity overall than those who don’t have a consistent schedule.
- A calmer, happier mind: Checking something off your to-do list early decreases stress. Plus, morning routines that include activities like exercise, meditation, or gratitude journaling can help you feel happier.
- More confidence: “It’s motivating to make healthful habits part of your morning routine,” Bazilian says. And sticking with one new habit can make you more confident about adding another, leading to more success.
15 ideas for the best morning routine
To create your a.m. routine, choose something that supports your personal wellness goals, and then do it every morning. Need some inspiration? Here are 15 ideas:
1. Don’t hit snooze.
Wake up at the same time every day, and you’ll likely start going to bed at a consistent hour too. That’s important because an irregular sleep schedule not only affects your energy, it also increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure, according to research.
2. Practice gratitude.
“Sometimes we just plow through our day and forget to reflect on the positive things that happened or what we accomplished,” Minno says. “Writing down a few things you’re grateful for first thing in the morning can set a positive tone for the rest of the day.” Don’t overthink it: You can be grateful for something as simple as a sunny day or making it to a yoga class.
3. Drink water.
Having a glass of water as soon as you wake up helps rehydrate your body after a night’s sleep. And that’s important, since dehydration can cause headaches, increase fatigue, and even make it tough to concentrate. Keep a water bottle by your bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning, suggests Bazilian.
4. Have a healthful breakfast.
Load up on nutrient-rich food in the morning and you’ll be motivated to eat well all day long. “Come up with two go-to breakfast options, so you don’t have to think too hard about what to have,” Bazilian says. Include healthy fats (like those in olive oil, avocado, and nut butter) as well as fiber (from whole grains, fruits, and veggies). And don’t forget protein: A breakfast that contains this key nutrient—think Greek yogurt or eggs—helps control hunger throughout the day.
5. Don’t look at your phone.
If you start the morning with social media and news, you’re overloading your mind and likely beginning your day in a negative headspace, Minno says. Charge your phone in a different room than you sleep in (so it’s not the first thing you reach for when you wake up) and commit to waiting a set amount of time before you check it.
6. Repeat a mantra.
Write down an affirming phrase, post it somewhere you’ll see often (like on your coffee maker or bathroom mirror), and say it out loud. “Instead of a to-do list, it’s a who-you-want-to-be list,” Minno says. For ideas, think of phrases from inspiring songs and poems, or check out your favorite Instagram pages. Two of our favorite mantras: “I will find joy in everything I do” and “Slay today!”
7. Open your drapes.
Light is proven to affect your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels, which help regulate your sleep. “Natural light flips your body into its wake cycle,” Minno says. Can you get outside for those morning rays? Even better, since as little as 10 minutes in nature will boost your mood and decrease your stress, according to one study.
8. Listen to a pump-up song.
Play an upbeat tune while you’re brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Music can boost your mood, helping you start your day happy and energized. Choose any song you love—but you can’t go wrong with Happy by Pharell.
9. Make your bed.
“A tidy space can help you feel in control of your day,” Bazilian says. “And fixing your bed lets you see the results of one good thing you’ve already accomplished.” Want to take the morning tidy-up a step farther? Wash your breakfast dishes, hang up your bath towel, and put your pajamas in the hamper.
10. Get moving.
Whether you take a walk or crank out a strength-training session, starting your day with activity is one of the smartest healthy habits you can adopt. Exercise boosts your energy and decreases symptoms of depression, and a morning bout significantly improves your memory and decision-making, research shows. Plus, people who work out in the morning lose more weight than those who exercise in the evening, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity.
Spend five minutes just sitting still and breathing. Meditation can make you feel happier, lower your blood pressure, and even improve your focus and concentration. To start meditating, simply sit or lie down and breathe normally, focusing on each inhale and exhale. For guided practices, check out the Headspace app.
12. Put on a happy face.
It might feel silly at first, but look in the mirror and smile at yourself. “Smiling stimulates the release of endorphins, which make you feel good,” Bazilian says. This two-second habit can provide just the mood boost you need to start your day with a positive mindset.
13. Make a list.
A written plan of action can make you more productive, according to research. Jotting down a to-do or grocery list helps free your brain from worrying about unfinished tasks. Take a few minutes to write down what you hope to accomplish during the day and plan what you need to buy for upcoming meals.
14. Check in with yourself.
Before you even get out of bed, try this exercise to get in tune with how your body is feeling, Bazilian says. Tense up and then slowly relax each part of your body, starting with your toes and moving up to your legs, torso, arms, and neck. Finish with three deep breaths, inflating your belly as you inhale and then flattening your belly as you exhale.
Instead of scrolling through social media at breakfast, pick up a book. Reading reduces your heart rate and blood pressure to help you feel less anxious and more relaxed. In fact, reading relieves stress as well as yoga, according to research published in the Journal of Teaching and Learning.
Tips for successful morning routines
Ready to improve the way you start your day? These strategies can help you stick with a new healthy habit:
- Start small: Add one thing to your routine for a week or two, see how it works, and then build from there. And if you find that something isn’t working for you, let it go and try something else.
- Get prepared: “Mornings can be hectic, so anything you can do ahead of time will give you a head start,” Minno says. In the evening, make sure you have everything you need to put your a.m. plan into action. (For example, set out your workout clothes or gather all the ingredients for breakfast.)
- Ask for help: Can your partner watch the kids so you can meditate? Or maybe your best friend is up for a morning walk? Your family and friends can provide the practical support you need to stick with a morning routine. Plus, telling someone about a new goal can help you feel more accountable.
- Be patient: It takes people at least 18 days to form a healthy habit, so give yourself time to get used to a new routine. And don’t get down on yourself if a morning doesn’t go as planned—focus on progress, not perfection, and get back on track the next day.
Can morning routines support your weight loss and wellness goals?
Absolutely! Think of a morning routine as a kick off to your day. When you start with a healthy habit you’ll be more motivated to stick with other wellness goals too, Bazilian says. Plus, routines eliminate the guesswork of exercising and eating well, so they can help you stick with weight-loss strategies.
The upshot: It’s time to create a morning routine!
If you want to start your day with a positive mindset, a little movement, and a lot of nutrients, try creating a morning routine. Choose healthy habits that make you feel good, and that also fit in with your schedule and goals. It might take some time and practice to design your ideal morning, but the pay-offs are worth it.
Mallory Creveling is a freelance writer and personal trainer based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Shape, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Reader’s Digest, and Men’s Journal.