How To Become A Morning Person (Without Coffee)

Posted December 12, 2016, by Zahra Campbell-Avenell

Mornings are the worst.

Am I right or am I right?

It’s 6.30 am. Are you hitting snooze for the 11th time, or have you already vacuumed your whole house, completed an hour-long CrossFit workout and eaten a nutritious breakfast comprised almost entirely of egg whites and kale?

If you’re a night owl that shudders at the light of day, the idea of becoming a morning person probably seems perverse. Laughable. Impossible. 

Full disclosure: I used to think so too. For most of my adult life, in fact.

I know how it feels: you’re on your third cup of coffee and still struggling to keep your eyes open, while you’re surrounded by chirpy people who’re just ready to carpe that diem.

How do they do it?

And frankly, is it worth it?

Well, for starters, the science suggests that morning larks are happier, healthier, more agreeable and more proactive than night owls.

Plus, who couldn’t do with an extra jolt of energy in the morning?

Here are 14 research-backed tips on how you can go from bleary owl to bubbly lark – without your trusty cup of coffee:

1. Go to sleep

Research suggests that sleep is even more important than food! Allow yourself a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night – and try to keep to the same schedule each day (yes, that includes weekends). Bonus: a benchmark study of elite performers found that they slept an hour more each night than their less accomplished peers – and this was the only factor other than long hours of deliberate practice that reliably improved performance. 

2. You snooze, you lose

As tempting as it might be to set your alarm 20 minutes earlier to squeeze in an extra forty winks, it just ends up leaving you groggy and more tired than if you hadn’t snoozed at all. Bonus: Make the temptation to hit the snooze button easier to resist by moving the alarm clock to the other side of the room. This is particularly good for those of us who manage to turn off the alarm in their sleep!

3. Make Future You ♥ Present You

Plan out everything you can the night before: breakfast, the outfit you’ll wear tomorrow, anything you’ll need to pack (work bag/diaper bag/gym bag), and even a To-Do list. This will dramatically reduce your ‘decision fatigue’ first thing in the morning – leaving your brain room to focus on more pressing things.

4. Have a (cold-ish) shower

As soon as your eyes open, zombie-march yourself to the shower. Trust me: nothing wakes you up faster than being drenched. Bonus: gradually reduce the amount of hot water you’re using to get an extra boost of energy (science says so!)

5. Get moving – for just 7 minutes

Exercising for just 7 minutes a day can have immeasurable health benefits – yes, really! Bonus: you’ll start off your day with an extra kick thanks to the feel-good endorphins that moving generates (not to mention the holier-than-thou feelings of having completed your exercise routine while everyone else is still in Snoozeland).

6. Go outside (and get some sun)

Whether you have your breakfast on the balcony or choose to do your 7-minute workout outdoors, research has proven that being outdoors and getting some sunshine gives you energy and helps improve your sleep patterns. Bonus: early morning sun exposure is correlated with a lower BMI (Body Mass Index).

7. Have breakfast

There’s a reason why they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast makes you cranky (hungry judges dole out harsher sentences, for example) and unproductive (no surprises there). Bonus: eating breakfast encourages weight loss and reduces the risk of diabetes in women and heart disease in men. If you can’t stomach the thought of a full-on brekkie in the morning, have a protein shake instead.

8. Sit up straight

Yep, your mom was right about this one (and probably about most other things, too, let’s be honest!) Having good posture can help you feel more positive, confident and ready to take on the day. So whether you’re on the train, at your desk or just going about your day, don’t slouch!

9. Jam to an uplifting playlist

A number of studies have demonstrated the impact of music on productivity, mood and exercise endurance. Listening to music you love can help release dopamine, the ‘happy hormone’ that will make facing the day a whole lot easier.

10. Chew gum

Scientific research suggests that chewing gum improves alertness by as much as 10%! So if you’re not feeling your best in the wee hours of the morning, get a caffeine-free pick-me-up by chewing some sugar-free gum. Bonus: freshhhhhh breath and healthy teeth!

11. Go on a 2-hour screen fast 

I know the call of your Insta feed is enticing, but don’t give in! For the first and last hour you’re awake, say no to screens. I promise you can get your “news” and other-people’s-vacation-pix-fix later. For those of you that check their social feeds first thing, know that social media use has been associated with depression, so it’s probably not the best way to start or end your day. And if you like to read at night – it’s better to go old school, because the blue light emitted by electronic devices can have adverse health effects, including sleep issues. To feel your best, try giving yourself a screen-free break for at least an hour when you wake up and before you go to bed.

12. Practise mindfulness

I know this sounds a bit hippy-dippy-trippy, but bear with me – this is all science, baby! Psychologists have found that even novice meditators show immense improvement in critical cognitive skills and attention by practicing mindfulness. So set aside some time for meditation in the morning to get energised!

13. Think fast!

Multiple studies have shown that simply increasing the speed of your thoughts can result in higher energy levels, greater creativity and a more positive mood. So try to schedule creative pursuits like brainstorming meetings in the morning for a lift in both your energy and your spirits.

14. If you must have coffee, save it for later

I know, I know – I said no coffee. But some of us find the allure of coffee hard to resist – and for us, there’s a ‘perfect’ time to drink coffee. No, not first thing when you wake up (you’ll be in the shower, remember?) but between 9.30 am to 11.30 am or 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm if you wake up between 6 am and 8 am. These times are optimal because that’s when your cortisol levels (that’s the hormone that makes you feel more awake) begin to drop. A word of caution: if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you might want to skip the afternoon coffee.

If you think many of these tips are near impossible – I promise, they’re not! Having tried every single one of them myself, I can attest to the fact that they work. While I can’t say I’m thrilled to hear my alarm go off each day, I’ve definitely mastered the art of making mornings a little less painful, and you can too!

How To Become A Morning Person (Without Coffee)
Zahra Campbell Avenell
Zahra Campbell-Avenell

Zahra started writing at the age of 6, and hasn't stopped since. When she's not creating content about careers, learning and personal development, you can find her researching her next travel adventure, bingeing on Netflix or shopping online.

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