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Start Your Day the Right Way

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by Janet Ungless

The way you start your morning can set the tone for the rest of your day.

See if this scenario rings a bell: The alarm goes off. You hit snooze once or twice, then rush to get ready for work, swigging some coffee on your way out the door. You hit the road cranky, maybe hungry, with those stress hormones revved up before you've even set foot in the office. By the time the afternoon rolls around, you're off your game.

Now imagine this: You wake up naturally, a few minutes before your alarm. You have breakfast, maybe a workout, and time enough to get ready without a rush. You walk out the door, grounded and calm--ready to meet whatever the day brings.

Sound too good to be true? Simple morning habits can boost your emotional wellbeing and resilience. "A morning routine can be anything you want it to be," says Dr. Adam Perlman, meQ's Chief Medical Officer. "And it can help fuel you through the day." Here's how:

1. Give Thanks
Before you get out of bed think of three things in your life you're grateful for. Expressing gratitude--whether for the brilliant fall foliage out your window, quality time with your family, or the smell of coffee brewing--boosts self-confidence, strengthens resilience, and improves overall health. People who express gratitude for what they have are also more hopeful. Plus it sets a positive tone for the day: "The mornings can be a great time to get your thoughts out and on paper before the craziness of the day begins," says Dr. Perlman.

2. Make Your Bed
Yes, really. Here's why: Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says that while making your bed might seem like a small thing, research shows that a tidy space is calming. And there's more: At a widely quoted commencement at the University of Texas, Austin, Naval Adm. William H. McRaven told graduates that making your bed every morning encourages you to complete another task, and then another, paving the way for a productive day. "Making your bed also reinforces the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right," he said. "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed!"

3. Meditate
Do a short meditation before you leave the house, however it fits into your routine. Recent studies show meditation and mindfulness alleviate stress and help you start your day feeling calm. Not only will meditation improve your emotional wellbeing, it can also strengthen parts of the brain involved with focus and self-control. A consistent meditation practice enhances awareness by teaching you how to let go of the mental chatter. At work, this can mean more creativity, productivity, and the space for new ideas to bubble up.

4. Stretch or Do Yoga
Start your day with some type of physical movement. "It gets your blood and oxygen flowing and warms up your body, which increases mobility," says yoga instructor Stefanie Eris Often, we stifle yawns and other natural stretches because the moment we wake up our brain goes into overdrive, focused on the day ahead and what we have to do. "Yoga and stretching encourage strength, stability and centeredness," says Eris.

5. Practice Visualization or Read Affirmations
Read a daily affirmation or look at a visualization of your goals as a means of reaffirming how you want to live each day. By visualizing your goals, says Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, you imagine what it will look and feel like when you reach them. "If you visualize the day going well, see yourself enjoying your work, smiling and laughing with your family, or your significant other, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy." So the saying goes--when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Choosing to start your morning with healthy, grounding habits puts you in the driver's seat, and in a good place for owning the rest of your day.

Janet Ungless is a New York-based editor and writer with expertise in wellness, health and fitness. She developed the content strategy for the launch of aloha.com and has managed content creation for several other startups. She's written for Prevention, More, Livestrong, and Everyday Health and also worked at exhale mind body spa. Find her on Twitter @jungless