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How to be a Morning Person

How to be a Morning Person

For the original unedited article, visit Greatist.

At 6 am, we’re lucky if we have the energy to reach for a cup of coffee. Mornings may be rough for some of us, but hold off on sleeping in: There are perks to waking up with the sun. (And we have some tips to make it easier, too!).

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SNOOZE AND LOSE — THE NEED-TO-KNOW

The old “I’m just too tired” complaint may be more than a sorry excuse for waking up late. Research suggests there are biological differences between early larks, who wake up at the same time every morning and feel most active around 9 am, and night owls, who get more sh!t done once the sun goes down. One survey found more than half of Americans fall into the morning category, saying they’re at their “personal best” from 5 am to 12 pm. And it may get easier to greet the day at dawn as we get older, thanks to body clock changes as we age.

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It turns out the early bird may get more than the worm. According to self-reports from college students, those who wake up earlier feel more optimistic and proactive than those who rise later. Other studies have found morning larks tend to be harder working and conscientious than night owls. (Still, it’s not clear whether waking up early actually makes someone more productive or optimistic.) And perhaps the secret to a 4.0 isn’t only hitting the books: Another study of university undergraduates found those who said they function better in the morning received higher grades than those who preferred the evening. That’s possibly because morning risers are more likely to get to class on time or to forgo late-night partying. Researchers also suggest memory may improve during sleep, so getting to bed earlier in preparation for a morning alarm could help those exam notes soak in.

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Being a morning person may actually be good for our health, too. When UK researchers questioned adults about their sleep habits, they found people who stay under the covers on the weekdays until 9 am are more likely to be stressed, overweight, and depressed than those who get up at 7 am. Another study found teenagers who went to bed and woke up late were less inclined to hit the gym and more likely to be overweight than those who went to bed and woke up early. Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. (Again, remember it’s not clear that waking up early causes stress, depression, or weight gain.)

GOOD DAY SUNSHINE — YOUR ACTION PLAN

But night owls aren’t totally out of luck. One study found evening lovers are more productive than morning people are at night. Still, being a morning person may be more advantageous for most people’s work schedules and routines, since the workday typically starts around 9 am and the office is (usually!) not open at midnight. Regardless of the situation, there are ways to reset the body clock and happily greet the day:

  • Get enough sleep. It may seem obvious, but getting those recommended seven to nine hours will make getting up earlier easier. Pro tip? Keep the laptop and other work out of the bed to sleep soundly.
  • Stay consistent. Try to set the alarm clock for the same time every morning —including weekends. A constant wakeup call may make it progressively easier to jump out of bed.
  • Start slowly. Pick a new wakeup time and gradually work towards it. Want to wake up at 7 am but stuck at 8 am? Start by setting the clock for 7:45, and move down in 15-minute increments until that new time goal is reached.
  • Skip the snooze. Disrupting sleep an hour or so before actually getting out of bed may disturb our REM cycle, which helps stimulate brain regions linked to cognition. Don’t want to mess with that (or bug a roommate with multiple alarms!). Set one alarm for when it’s time to rise — and maybe another a few minutes later in case you snooze through!
  • Set some happy sounds. Skip the beeps and blares and set an alarm tone to something soothing or fun.
  • Let in the light. Research shows a little light may be all we need to reset the body block. A simple solution is to keep the blinds open during the night. Orgreet the day and brush your teeth outside! (While waving to the neighbors…)
  • Eat breakfast. Sleepiness doesn’t disappear just from drinking a cup of coffee. Having enough time for some green eggs and ham (or maybe just a yogurt parfait) will also provide energy, not to mention it’ll boost that brainpower, too.
  • Hit the gym. Those tired eyes may go away once a morning workout routine is in order. Exercise will definitely boost energy — give these early-bird exercises a try!
  • Treat yo’self. Have a reward waiting in the a.m. to motivate climbing out of the covers. Dive into some freshly baked fruit and nut bars, or slide into a warm bath instead of taking a quick shower.
  • J.F.D.I. Sometimes we need to bite the bullet and “just f’ing do it.”Researchers have found that creativity may flourish when we feel groggy, so don’t let a little drowsiness interrupt seizing the day!
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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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