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Morning Rituals that May Be Ruining Your Day (And How to Break Them)

If you're stressed and overwhelmed and it's not even 10, your AM routine could be to blame. Step away from the pumpkin latte and embrace the rise-and-shine rituals that will fuel a happier, more productive day.

Set and meet a goal early on

It’s easy to put off chores till later, but scheduling an activity that’s achievable in the morning hours can help you hit the ground running. “I cannot remember what my mornings even looked like and how I felt before I started doing yoga and dance,” says Tootsie Olan, a New York City-based choreographer, dance fitness guru, and yogi. “As a working mom of three, getting my workout done by 9 allows me to sweat, detox, and strengthen. Then, I can clearly focus on my work and everyone else who needs me for the remainder of the day.” Try these energizing stretches to jump-start your mornings.

Lock in a helpful routine

It’s easy for your day to get off track, whether you sleep in, neglect to fold clean laundry, or just watch one little cat video (and then eight more). The best way to avoid these slip-ups is to ID your potential distractions in advance. “Habits are something you do virtually automatically, but they can’t happen if you are unconsciously sabotaging yourself,” Olan says. “Nail down your schedule and don’t be tempted to veer from it.” Check out the tricks every procrastinator needs to know in order to be more productive.

Stop worrying about what you can’t control

Stuff happens—trains break down, water pipes burst, and keys get misplaced—and the sooner we accept this inevitability, the sooner we can move on and resume being productive. “Throughout the day, I keep at bay the thoughts that are a disservice to me,” Olan says. “I try to plan carefully but sometimes it doesn’t work out. For example, I had a plan set for yoga, meetings, and then work, but my son woke up with a stomach bug and all my plans went up in smoke.” Instead of beating yourself up for the day’s missed opportunities, strive to succeed tomorrow. And seriously, ditch the guilt.

Don’t excuse it, own it

We all have bad habits. To fix them, we have to first recognize and accept them. Olan admits to a bad habit she had to kick: “Looking around and comparing myself—it was just too exhausting,” she says. For Olan, the solution was to get more engaged in the things she’s passionate about. “The more you engage in something you love, the less time, literally, there is to look around.” Here’s how to quit the most common bad habits.

Eat breakfast

Many people who are trying to lose weight think it’s best to delay or skip their first meal of the day, but the strategy will backfire. “When you sleep, your entire body is at rest, including your metabolism,” Taylor explains. “If you wake up and skip breakfast, that’s like trying to start a lawn mower by pulling the string slowly—your metabolism will never fire up.” Instead, eating a healthy breakfast within the first hour of waking will kick-start your metabolism and allow all those daily calories to be burned more efficiently throughout the rest of the day.

Before you go, grab H20

Just like breathing, eating, and even brushing our teeth, drinking ample water is an essential part of healthy living. Allyson Taylor, pharmacist and health and wellness advisor, knows water is the catalyst to all our bodily functions, so she encourages everyone to kick-start their day with a glass of water in place of another beverage, like juice. “Many people think that water makes them bloated, but actually the complete opposite is true,” Taylor says. “Water actually detoxifies your cells, increases oxygen flow, and releases excess fluid retention—hence less bloat.” Check out the genius hacks that help you drink more water.

Make it personal

It’s easy to forget or neglect to take your vitamins or supplements if they’re not tailored to your needs. Which is why it’s key to learn the possible shortfalls in your diet, via a blood test or by talking to a doctor or nutritionist about your lifestyle, so you can make your regimen more personal. “We are each different in our vitamin needs, but many of us fall short on iron, vitamin D, and other key nutrients, such as magnesium and iodine,” say Arielle Levitan, MD, and Romy Block, MD, authors of the award-winning book The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. “We suggest taking a personalized multivitamin that will provide the nutrients you need based on your lifestyle.” Here’s what doctors tell their friends about which vitamins to take.

Keep the tech in check

Technology is addicting: You go to check one email and before you know it, 20 minutes have slipped by. Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email In The Morning, offers this key tip to avoiding chaos: “Reclaim control over your schedule by completely avoiding email for the first hour of every day.” Eliminating this habit will motivate you to become more productive in other ways. Watch out for these signs that suggest you’re addicted to your cell.

Stay positive

Dwelling on disappointments or weaknesses won’t give you the drive to move forward with your goals, whether you’re writing the Great American novel or just crossing tedious tasks off your to-do list. Instead, try centering yourself with a mini meditation that focuses on what will go right during the day ahead. “Just by waking up and being mindful of how you want to feel will help draw those goals closer to you,” Taylor says. Check out the compelling scientific benefits of meditation.

Take baby steps

Big projects can be intimidating, and it’s not unusual to bite off more than you can chew. When that happens, we tend to procrastinate or start making excuses, which is stressful and not productive, obviously. If you’ve got a big day ahead that’s giving you anxiety, take a few small steps toward making that day a success. The confidence you get from those small achievements will motivate you to tackle the tougher hurdles. Enter your day happy and relaxed with these 22 ways to brighten your morning.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest