I’m always looking for short and quick energy-starters to begin my day and help it unfold with ease. These small but mighty daily habits help me feel grounded and centered, despite my work schedule, tasks, or unexpected errands. And making room for them every day makes me feel energized enough to carry this momentum in my professional and personal life.
Practicing these small habits on a consistent basis can have long term implications for your entire day. And the good news? These tiny habits take less than five minutes, but can impact your day in unexpected good ways. Here are 10 little habits that can transform your morning for the better.
Time Spent: Two minutes (or less!)
I’ve always made it a habit to make my bed after I wake in the morning. It typically takes less than two minutes to complete, and this one act helps to create a productive start to my day.
“Making your bed in the morning lets you know your day has truly begun,” says Diane Quintana, a certified professional organizer and a co-founder of Release Repurpose Reorganize. “And your bed welcomes you when you’re ready for your day to be over.”
To make the process a little easier, you can incorporate convenient hacks for easy bed-making. I keep only a fitted sheet and comforter for my bed. In the morning, I only have to lay out my comforter and arrange my pillows.
Before your feet hit the floor, Cory Halaby, a certified mindfulness meditation teacher, recommends a breathing routine. “Deliberate, conscious breathing, first thing in the morning, gives you a moment to clear any funky feelings you wake up with, and remember your intention to have a good day,” she tells Apartment Therapy.
If you’re new to breathing techniques, Halaby recommends a simple formula to start: Inhale for three counts, pause, inhale for three more counts, pause, exhale for six counts. Repeat this pattern three to five times.
Prior to the pandemic, I practiced mindful breathing and it pushed me to pause and reflect and have a single moment of stillness. I found myself returning to this feeling when I felt restless or anxious. It creates a sense of grounding yourself that you can reach for no matter what happens throughout your work and home life.
Time spent: Fewer than 15 seconds
Sometimes I reach for my phone first thing in the morning and the stream of missed texts, unanswered emails, and notifications cause immediate anxiety. During the weekend, I purposefully keep my phone off in the morning and I’ve noticed a difference in my outlook.
Life coach Leigh Cambre encourages people to say no to the phone first thing in the morning if they don’t have to. “Don’t look at it. Don’t pick it up. Don’t touch it,” she says. “Those notifications nearly always fall under the ‘urgent but not important’ category. In fact, a tip here: put something on top of it before you go to bed as a little reminder to not pick it up.”
Some strategies that work for me are keeping my phone on airplane mode or keeping my digital device in another room. I also try to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour in the morning eating breakfast, exercising, or journaling before I reach for my phone.
4. Look in the mirror and smileTime spent: Fewer than 10 seconds
Searching for an instant mood booster? Look in the mirror and smile. “Research shows that smiles are contagious. Even your own,” adds Cambre. “But you have to make the conscious effort to do this and pay attention to yourself doing it. Even better if you can make yourself laugh.” According to a February 2016 study published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences studied the way people “try on” or mimic the smiles of the people around them; the benefits of such mirroring extend to when you’re literally looking in a mirror.
I sometimes catch myself smiling in the mirror when I’m in an extra good mood. It is an instant boost and although it can sometimes feel a little strange to engage in this kind of self-love, the energy of that moment can carry me through the rest of my day.
Time spent: Fewer than two minutes
I’ve kept a gratitude journal for several years. Every morning, I jot down five things that make me feel grateful in my journal. They can be anything — a chance to go on a morning run, or listening to my daughter laugh with her friends. Focusing on gratitude means acknowledging the small and big moments. This practice came in handy during the pandemic.
Sarah Makin, a licensed therapist and the founder of Makin Wellness, suggests “writing down three good things that you are looking forward to that day. This helps us go through the day focusing on the positive instead of the negative.”
Time spent: Fewer than five minutes
After sleeping for several hours, your body might need a couple of minutes to move into a routine. Sometimes I find myself stretching my legs and arms to shake off some of that mid-life stiffness. You can stretch while you’re in bed or stand to do a couple of quick poses.
“Reach your hands up (as if to touch the stars), take a big inhale, do a swan dive forward, [and] exhale as you bend over, reaching for your toes,” says Quintana. “Do this three times. It will put a smile on your face.” You can use equipment like foam rollers to help you stretch. The stretches don’t have to be complicated — check out this guide from the New York Times to help with easy stretching.
7. Notice what feeling good feels like Time spent: Fewer than 30 seconds
I’ve found a rhythm with my morning routine that includes breathing, journaling, and my gratitude practice. If for some reason I miss a chance to complete these rituals, I certainly feel the cadence of my day feeling different.
“If you have a morning routine that’s working for you, remember to savor the parts you really enjoy: The first sip of coffee, the warm shower, the pet snuggle, the great playlist or podcast for your commute (if you have one),” says Halaby. “Tune into all of your senses to savor every ounce of pleasantness available. Stay with the feeling of enjoyment for an extra breath or two.”
8. Start your day the night beforeTime spent: Fewer than two minutes
For the last few years, I’ve always composed my to-do list in the evening. It helps me prepare for the next day with a purpose. If something unexpected comes up, I still manage to complete the tasks on my list, and I’ve found that “starting” my morning the night before can help my day run more smoothly than days I didn’t plan in advance.
Cambre suggests setting up some things at night so that you don’t have to do it in the morning. “If you work out first thing, prepare your gym bag the night before,” she says. “Pull out the clothes. Fill up your water bottle. Fill the bag. Bonus: your partner will thank you for less morning noise.”
Time spent: Fewer than five minutes
Research supports that even meditating for a few minutes can have a lasting positive impact on your life.
“You can start your day by sitting and meditating for five minutes,” Katie Ziskind, a family therapist, tells Apartment Therapy. “You can listen to a guided meditation that offers you a visualization or a body scan on YouTube. You can [also] just sit in silence and put a timer on your cell phone to vibrate after five minutes.” She adds that you can create a pocket of peacefulness that you carry with you no matter what challenges come your way.
“Taking five minutes for yourself every morning for meditation can be a great way to transform your morning and start your day on the right foot,” Ziskind says.
Time spent: Less than one minute
Want a super quick boost in the morning? Hydrate. Research shows that sleeping fewer than six hours can cause dehydration. Late nights and interruption in your sleep can also cause you to feel parched in the morning. Family therapist Megan Harrison recommends drinking water infused with a bit of citrus for a nice touch.
“A glass of drinking water with a slice of fresh lemon can do wonders for improving your health and vitality in the morning,” she says. You can put a pitcher of cold water or a small water bottle in the refrigerator before you fall asleep so you don’t have to worry about pouring it in the morning. It’s cold and readily accessible and that prevents you from making excuses.
Rudri Bhatt Patel
Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former attorney turned writer and editor. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Saveur, Business Insider, Civil Eats and elsewhere. She lives in Phoenix with her family.