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10 Ways To Have A Refreshingly Great Morning

10 Ways To Have A Refreshingly Great Morning

Ah, mornings. Sometimes we spring out of bed and can’t wait for the day to start, and other days we hit the snooze a few times too many. How can we make it so the former happens more often in our lives?

Jump-starting the day on a positive note not only makes us happier throughout the day but also makes us a pleasure to be around. Here are 10 ways we can all increase our chances of having a refreshingly great morning and wonderful day.

Get A Good Night’s Rest

This may sound easier than it is for some of us, me included. But honestly, good sleep is where it all starts with the added benefit of strengthening your memory. Going to bed early is key, and having a ritual before bedtime can make a huge difference. I like to wind down at about 8:30 p.m. from the day with a cup of tea. Most nights, I journal about my day or write down ideas while enjoying my tea. Writing a to-do list for tomorrow can also be powerful to rest the spinning thoughts in your mind. Then, reading in bed around 9:30 p.m. is always a 1-2 knockout for me. Once you establish your pattern and avoid distractions (especially alcohol), you will be well on your way to a refreshing morning.

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Get Up Early

Since we’re going to bed early, it only makes sense to get up early as well. It might be difficult to spring out of bed at 5 or 6 a.m., but once you start this pattern, you will feel like the day is wasted if you don’t continue getting up early. If you’re having trouble, you can simply set your smartphone’s alarm clock or try one of these alarm apps. Once again, establishing a pattern will help you be on time for the rest of the day.

Get Outside And Enjoy Nature

Nature is so peaceful and it can really awaken our spirits. I take my dog for a 15-minute walk every morning, rain or shine. I often joke and wonder if it’s benefiting my dog or me more? Or, you might go for a jog. Try to be mindful of this great time with nature. Connect and express gratitude in each step.

Don’t Undervalue Meditation

It may sound like some hippie new-age babble, but this works. I recently read “10% Happier” by Dan Harris and enjoyed it thoroughly. The concept of meditation is quite simple. Just choose a comfortable spot and focus on your breathing for five minutes to start. Then work your way up to 15-30 minutes. If your mind wanders away from your breath, and it will, bring it back. I guarantee this will start to have a dramatic effect on mornings and throughout the day. Try it!

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Spend Time With Loved Ones

If you’re married or have kids, be grateful for this time to share with those you love most. Use FaceTime or Skype if they’re not near. If you’re single, call your best friend and chat for a few minutes. The positive voices of friends and family is a sure fire way to have a great morning.

Get To The Gym, And Sweat

Mornings are the perfect time to increase your metabolism and have a killer workout. Switch it up. Throw around weights one morning, get into a hot yoga class another, or do 40 minutes on any machine. You could also mix 20 minutes of cardio with weight training. Staying in the gym for anything more than 45 minutes is just a waste of time. You will feel refreshed throughout the day, and feeling sore the next day is an awesome accomplishment.

Have An Energizing Breakfast

We all know breakfast is the power meal of the day, but it depends on what we eat to make this true. Pancakes, waffles or donuts are junk and will slow you down for the day to come. Instead, choose to make an energizing smoothie with fruits, vegetables and a protein powder of your choice. Another option is oatmeal with blueberries or avocados with eggs, yum. I mix it up every morning while catching up on the news and my favorite blogs. This is also the perfect time to enjoy a good cup of coffee or refreshing green/black tea.

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Tackle The Important Stuff First

It doesn’t matter if you work from home or from the office. Your mind is the most fresh and creative in the mornings before it starts to get drowned by the chatter of others. Use this time wisely to work on critical tasks for your own business or your higher-ups. If you don’t keep a list of important tasks, mornings are a great time to create one. I always say, “If you don’t write it down, it won’t happen.”

Check Your Email

I know most will say checking email is not productive first thing in the morning, but it can work if you’re not entirely reactive to it. Take a look and know which people you need to check in with around you. If however, there’s a critical message, your mind will be clear to respond properly.

Don’t Be Late

I once heard a phrase about being on time, and it has stuck with me since. It goes like this, “If you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” If you’re driving to a meeting, leave early. If it’s a webinar, check in early and minimize the window until it starts. Being early will keep you less stressed and make you feel more productive.

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The most important takeaway is to establish a pattern for your mornings. These 10 ways help me to create a great morning everyday (well, most days), and I hope they help start or re-enforce your morning routine for an amazing day, everyday.

Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mukumbura/ via flickr.com

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Dario Zadro

Web Strategist

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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