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    Self-Optimization — Fitness

    12 Habits to Create Your Optimal Morning Routine

    12 Habits to Create Your Optimal Morning Routine

    Taking charge of your life begins with establishing your best morning. 

    Some people wake up groggy and sleep too long. Others wake up, eagerly anticipating the promise of a new day. 

    They exercise, read something inspirational, or they eat a healthy breakfast. 

    Set a routine for yourself and follow it like a ritual. 

    Stick to it. Conquer your morning. Take charge of your life.

    Here are some great, effective ways to have an optimal morning routine and set the stage for the rest of your day:

    Supercharge with Coffee

    Drinking coffee before a morning workout will increase your performance. It also increases adrenal levels in the blood. Your adrenals activate your body’s fight or flight response, which helps prepare you for physical exercise. 

    One of our favorite ways to prepare coffee is to mix it in with a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of coconut oil. This keeps the appetite under control before and during your workout, while it increases the coffee’s caffeine absorption.

    Coffee also helps you focus on the tasks at-hand and stay mentally alert throughout the day. Studies have shown that a moderate amount of coffee, between 2-4 cups a day, can have numerous benefits [1], [2], [3]:

    • Coffee antioxidants help eliminate free radicals which damage cells
    • Coffee may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and lower the risk of dementia 
    • Coffee has been shown to improve mood and reduce the risk of depression  

    Give yourself 30 minutes after your cup of coffee and then witness your increase in productivity. 

    Take Nootropic Supplements

    Taking metaFOCUS as part of your morning routine will help prepare your brain for a day of maximum concentration, mental energy, and productivity. Later in the day, perhaps after lunch, you can recharge your body and mind with metaDRIVE.

    Stretch in the Mornings

    Daily stretching can improve your posture, reduce aches and pains, increase blood flow, and increase energy. 

    If you work at a computer most of the day, your posture is suffering. Stretching will increase energy by loosening up your tight muscles, keeping you flexible and preparing you for an active day. As we sleep, the body is static. Stretching in the morning warms up your joints and eases aches and stiffness. 

    Meditate

    Regular morning meditation is an important habit to form. Consistent meditation has been shown to have many benefits such as improved concentration, emotional intelligence, and reduced stress.

    One of the most common ways to get started with meditation is through guided meditations centered around mindfulness of breath. Essentially you focus on the sensations in your nostrils as the breath goes in and out. In the beginning, you will probably have what’s known as the “monkey-mind.” 

    Thoughts will distract you from concentrating on the breath but as you keep bringing your attention back to the breath each time it happens, your mind will continue to strengthen.

    If you find yourself dozing off because you meditate immediately after waking up, try drinking some tea or coffee before doing so.

    Experiment with different methods and find what works best for you and your body. Don’t force yourself to sit for longer than necessary. Allow your body to adjust to the natural progression of your meditation. Start with just a few minutes a day and build up, but the most important thing is to be consistent.

    A morning meditation routine of just 10-15 minutes per day has been shown to have lasting benefits after a couple weeks. 

    Plan Your Next Day Before Going to Bed

    You don’t want to interfere with your morning routine, so prepare for the next day by organizing your clothes and your lunch items. 

    Don’t leave important decisions for the morning. Make them the night before when your mind is clear.

    Don’t Pick Up Your Phone

    Don’t get seduced by your phone or your laptop in the morning. Begin your day with positive activities. 

    Focus on preparing yourself to be energized and productive. The news, your email, and social media accounts can all wait. 

    Don’t be a slave to your phone. Turn it off from time to time or put it on Do Not Disturb, especially in the morning. Begin your day being mindful and present.

    How Important is Breakfast?

    Some experts say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You should eat a good, nutritious breakfast. But there are others who claim that fasting first thing in the morning helps give you more energy and clarity.

    Drinking your coffee or tea with butter and coconut oil will help activate your brain into a ketogenic state without having a full meal.

    It will suppress your appetite throughout the morning, promote alertness, and help your brain function at peak levels. It will also help keep your weight in check for a longer period each morning.

    Music to Get You Pumped

    Listening to music in the morning helps you get inspired and motivated. 

    You can enjoy rising every morning to your favorite song on your phone by setting it as an alarm. It’s much better than waking up to an obnoxious buzzer or some broadcast of bad news. 

    Music in the morning will help set your mood for the rest of your day.  

    Water is Life

    Drink water and splash it on your face in the morning to rise with vigor and get your day going. 

    Everyone should drink up to 16oz. of water every morning, depending on your weight, to boost your metabolism, flush out toxins in your body, hydrate your body, and fuel your hungry brain. Your body slowly dehydrates when you sleep, so you need to restore that water loss when you wake up. 

    All of our body’s tissues need water, including our brains. When you don’t drink enough, you feel mentally fatigued and can have mood fluctuations. Drink water and start kicking butt from the second you wake up. 

    Get in Nature

    Get some air and enjoy nature in the morning to help gain a positive perspective on your day and center yourself. 

    If you have the luxury of living close to nature, go for a short walk. Breathe deeply and enjoy the clean morning air.

    Wake Up Early

    Take over the day by waking up early. Don’t hit the snooze button in the morning.

    Take charge of your day and get up with tenacity. Try waking up before sunrise, if possible, to jump-start your day. 

    Pre-dawn stillness and calm prepares you for kicking butt the rest of the day. It’s important to work with your sleep cycles as well. 

    Know your body and how much sleep you need to stay productive and in a healthy mood throughout the day. Don’t forget to stretch and drink water in the morning after you get up. 

    Focus Inwardly

    Try being a bit antisocial in the morning right after you wake. Journaling can be extremely therapeutic especially in the morning. Get all those thoughts out onto paper (or digital notes) so that you'll have a clear head when you get the day started.

    Make Your Morning Routine A Habit

    Find your best morning routine. Set a plan, experiment a bit, and make it a habit. This way you have consistent motivation throughout the day and you function optimally.

    Some people don’t have a lot of time in the morning, so you can experiment with adding some of these habits slowly to find your optimal routine.

    This will get you moving in the right direction by taking the bull by the horns. Set some time aside for yourself and start your day the optimal way.

    How to Sleep Better: A Guide for Insomniacs

    How to Sleep Better: A Guide for Insomniacs

    Sleep is a vital component of our daily lives.

    However, most individuals cannot pinpoint the key reason why it is important and thus, tend to engage in poor sleeping habits and patterns that eventually lead to ill health and general inefficiency. This is because sleep functions as the body’s safeguard that protects both our physical and mental well-being.

    Unfortunately, the current harsh economic climate often undermines the quantity and quality of sleep that we get on a daily basis.

    This has been attributed to the fact that most of us have to work particularly hard to meet our financial responsibilities and have to put in vast amounts of time at the workplace, and still keep up with our daily chores at home. 

    As a direct result, recent studies conducted on the impact of inadequate sleep indicate that over 30% of the adult U.S. population suffers from insomnia and 35% of adults don't get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

    The Price of Poor Sleep

    It is worth noting that lack of adequate amounts of quality sleep tends to affect the way our bodies and brains function while we are awake. While one is asleep, both the body and brain both get some rest to prepare for the next day’s activities.

    The quality and quantity of sleep one obtains affects how well you can react, think, learn, and ultimately, interact with others because the act of sleeping works to reduce the hormones and chemicals that are commonly associated with increased stress.

    Sleeping naturally works to increase the human growth hormone, improves performance, and ultimately, enhances the brain’s and body’s recovery rate.

    It is, therefore, vital that individuals understand the importance of sleep in order to further learn how to optimize their sleep schedule to improve their mental and physical capabilities during the day.

    The Science of Optimizing Sleep: Getting Rid of Sleep Debt

    Feeling sleepy during the day is a sign that you are either not getting enough sleep (quantity) or not getting good quality sleep.

    Simply laying on your bed for a couple of hours with your eyes shut cannot fool your body into believing that it is rested. More often than not, most individuals are actually unaware of the fact that they are sleep deprived. 

    If you require an annoyingly loud alarm to ensure that you wake up on time, heavily rely on your alarm’s snooze button, feel sluggish throughout the day, or fall asleep soon after you go to bed (typically 5 minutes), chances are that you are suffering from sleep debt.

    Sleep debt refers to the difference between the length of time (quantity) of sleep your body requires each day and the actual number of hours of sleep that you get each day. Each time you sacrifice your sleeping time to perform any activity, you inadvertently add to the sleep debt you eventually have to pay in order to function at optimum levels. 

    Unfortunately, you cannot repay your sleep debt by sleeping in on your weekend days off, because one or two nights of solid sleep is not enough. Although, your body and brain may temporarily gain a boost of energy after your weekend of sleep, this energy will drop off as your work week progresses.

    Considering the negative impact that sleep deprivation has on both our mental and physical abilities, it is only logical that we learn a few tricks that will work to help us sleep faster in order to obtain longer sleeping hours. However, longer sleeping hours should not be the only element of sleep you should strive to obtain. The quality of sleep also plays a major role in how we tackle day-to-day stress. 

    After all, what is the use of a long, low-quality slumber that does not work to help the body and brain rest and recover from the entire day’s activities?

    Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule

    One of the most destructive misconceptions about sleep involves the amount of sleep time that a person requires to feel rested and refreshed. Although the most recommended length is between 6-8 hours each night, the truth is that you are the only person who can accurately judge how much time you need to spend sleeping in order to keep feeling refreshed, happy, and alert throughout the day.

    That noted, the best way to get rid of sleep debt is by optimizing your sleep schedule. This is a 3-phase process which requires dedication and patience to see results.

    Phase 1: Preparation

    Tips and habits that help you sleep better and longer

    During the preparation phase in optimizing your sleep schedule, you will learn the basic techniques that will help you develop pre-bedtime habits that will help you sleep faster and longer. 

    The Stages of Sleep

    According to sleep.org, there are four stages of sleep as well as a fifth one known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep:

    “Stage One: Within minutes (sometimes even within seconds!) of nodding off, your brain produces what are called alpha and theta waves and your eye movements slow down. This introduction to sleep is relatively brief, lasting up to seven minutes. Here, you are in light stage sleep, which means that you're somewhat alert and can be easily woken. It’s during this stage of sleep that people often indulge in brief “catnaps.”

    Stage Two: During this stage, which is also fairly light, the brain produces sudden increases in brain wave frequency known as sleep spindles. Then brain waves slow down. If you were to schedule a “power nap” you’d want to wake up after this stage of sleep.

    Stages Three & Four: This stage is the beginning of deep sleep, as the brain begins producing slower delta waves. You won't experience any eye movement or muscle activity. At this point, it becomes a little harder for you to be awakened, because your body becomes less responsive to outside stimuli. The brain produces even more delta waves and you move into an even deeper, more restorative stage of sleep next. It's most difficult to wake up during this stage. This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.

    Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep: You generally enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after initially falling asleep, and each REM stage can last up to an hour. An average adult has five to six REM cycles each night. During this final phase of sleep, your brain becomes more active. This is when most dreaming occurs, your eyes jerk quickly in different directions (hence, the name!), heart rate and blood pressure increase, and breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow. REM sleep plays an important role in learning and memory function, since this is when your brain consolidates and processes information from the day before so that it can be stored in your long-term memory.”

    Exercise Regularly

    According to research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, the aim of exercising is not to wear your body out in order to “crash sleep” afterwards. Instead, taking part in regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, will greatly improve one’s sleep in the evening because your brain will have less trouble calming down.

    It is worth mentioning that exercising just before going to bed has the opposite effect because the exercise stimulates both your brain and body. Thus, if you cannot afford to engage in some afternoon exercises, it is advisable that you find time to do so in the morning.

    Reset Your Alarm Tone

    Most individuals who are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation heavily rely on incredibly loud alarm tones because they need a quick jolt to get them out of their slumber. Unfortunately, this only temporarily shocks the brain and body into action, and once this initial shock wears off, you will become groggy and tired. 

    Instead of using an annoying alarm tone, it is best to change your alarm tone to soothing music or sounds.

    This will make it easier for you to naturally and gradually wake up because your body and brain will take the necessary time to slowly adjust to the fact that it’s time to wake up.

    Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine Before Bed

    Although alcohol intake is noted to induce a relaxing feeling and assist in the process of falling asleep, the general consensus among sleep studies is that alcohol consumption before bed eventually wreaks havoc on your overall sleep cycle. As such, you are more likely to have a night full of restless sleep that is characterized by frequent moments of being awake.

    Caffeine lengthens your sleep cycle’s 2nd phase, or stage. This is great for naps, as the brain has adequate time to process the day’s events and reorganize itself. However, whilst the 2nd phase of sleep is lengthened, the 3rd and 4th phases are shortened.

    This has the negative effect of making you wake up feeling physically tired and sleepy.

    Nicotine is also noted to negatively affect one’s sleep cycle because it stimulates the brain’s cells and entirely prevents you from falling asleep.

    Phase 2: Create an Evening Ritual

    Get Rid of Attention-Grabbing Electronic Devices in the Bedroom

    Numerous studies conclude that attention-grabbing devices such as a cell phone, TV set, computer or laptop, work to harm your sleep cycle by negatively affecting the quality of sleep you achieve each night. This is because the light emitted from the device screens confuses the brain and tricks it into believing that it is daytime rather than night-time.

    Even if you are able to fall asleep with these devices on, your sleep quality will be compromised because the brain remains highly active and sensitive to your surroundings.

    Due to this increased activity, the restorative power that sleep has on the brain and body is lost because you can be easily roused from sleep, and your body tends to move around while you are asleep.

    Improve Your Evening Ritual

    The value of creating a calming evening ritual before going to bed must not be underestimated, as it is the key controlling factor that affects both sleep quality and quantity.

    The best evening rituals that are known to assist in the process of falling and staying asleep throughout the night include taking a relaxing bath and meditating when you get to bed.

    The best sleep-oriented meditation technique requires that you actively visualize a dream you would like to have that specific night. This meditation technique is highly effective in eliminating any negative thoughts that may unintentionally keep you awake for long periods of time.

    It helps to mitigate the effects of feelings of anxiety produced from negative thoughts and images that you may have experienced during the day. In addition, meditating using this sleep-oriented technique, reduces the likelihood of experiencing nightmares that abruptly interrupt sound sleep.

    Phase 3: It’s All About Timing

    Timing your sleeping hours is the most recommended method of permanently getting over any sleep debt that you may have accumulated over time. As such, one is advised to ensure that you wake up and fall asleep at the same time, or at least within the same hour, each day.

    Moreover, the entire concept of sleeping in on your weekend days off should be eliminated.

    Rather than continuing to sleep after your scheduled wake-up time, it is recommended that you wake up at the same time as you do on weekends and perform one or two light activities in the morning hours.

    After the activity/activities, you can take a one or two hour nap to get the extra hours of sleep your body craves. This will allow you to pay off some of your sleep debt without compromising the sleep/wake schedule (created in phase 1’s Timing process) that your body needs to slowly get rid of the accumulated effects of sleep deprivation.

    Bonus: Use Natural Sleep Remedies

    Melatonin

    This is a natural hormone which assists in the regulation of one’s sleep/wake cycle. It works by enhancing the quality of sleep you achieve and also assists those suffering from insomnia in the process of falling asleep.

    Chamomile Tea

    Chamomile extract is noted to have a tranquilizing effect on the body and the brain. It assists in the process of falling, and staying, asleep.

    Valerian Root

    This herb is noted to contain sedative properties that work to reduce the amount of time you need to fall asleep.

    L-Tryptophan

    L-Tryptophan has been well studied through the years with regards to its positive effect on mood and relaxation. Your body converts L-Tryptophan to serotonin through a complex process, ultimately improving your mood and positive outlook. L-Tryptophan has also been shown to improve memory, feelings of happiness before bed, and reducing stress, allowing you to get a better rest.

    L-Theanine

    As a natural, active component contained in Green Tea, L-Theanine promotes relaxation by reducing one’s stress and anxiety levels to prompt quick sleep at bedtime.

    Phase 4: Wake Up Refreshed and Alert

    The Benefits of Using Blue Light when Waking Up 

    Spending a lot of time sleeping does not necessarily mean that you will automatically wake up feeling fully rested and refreshed because this particular aspect of the sleep/wake cycle is determined by the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. Simply explained, when we see light in the morning, a signal is sent down the optic nerve to the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus where the ‘body clock’ is synchronized to early morning light to prompt the body to wake up. 

    Thus, waking up in a dark room does not trigger your body clock into acknowledging that it’s time to wake up and makes it hard for you to actually get out of bed.

    Blue Light in the Morning

    Combining a soothing alarm tone with a blue light wake-up lamp has been indicated to have a similar effect as taking a cup of coffee in the morning. This is because blue light triggers the hypothalamus into action and signifies daytime. It functions as a natural alarm that alerts the body that it is time to get out of the sleep state.

    Blue light not only improves alertness and your executive functioning, but it also enhances your cognitive ability throughout the day.