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  1. Wake up on time. Rise at the same time every day — or close to it. This is crucial to setting your circadian rhythm. Use an alarm if you must, but if you can, awaken with the light, either the natural sunrise or a dawn simulator. Sleeping in, even for an extra hour, can push back the timing of your melatonin release that night.
  2. Make your bed. Studies show that making your bed each morning improves the chances of a good night’s sleep by nearly 20 percent.
  3. Get outside for some sun. Humans evolved to be attuned to light and dark cycles, so try to bathe yourself in bright light every morning, preferably within an hour or two of waking. This helps regulate your melatonin cycle, improving your chances of feeling sleepy at the right time of night. If you can’t get sun first thing in the morning, or if it rises too late (as in the winter), use a bright-light device with plenty of blue-spectrum light.
  4. Eat breakfast. It aligns with nature, and our cortisol levels, to eat most of our calories early in the day. Make breakfast and lunch your biggest meals. If you’re a caffeine drinker, sip your coffee or tea in the morning. Caffeine is basically a plant version of adrenaline. (For more on caffeine, see “How Does Caffeine Really Affect Your Health?“.)
  5. Exercise early. Work out in the morning, when energy levels are naturally at their highest. If you can’t fit in exercise early, afternoon is fine, but try to finish three hours before bed. This will suppress stress hormones and keep your body cool at bedtime. (Morning is often the best time for strenuous mental work, as well.)
  6. Take a breathing break. Spend a few moments focusing on your breath. Awareness of breathing can coax your autonomic nervous system to “stand down” and turn off your stress response. This is a great way to start your day.

This was excerpted from “Fresh Start” which was published in the September 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Henry Emmonds
Henry Emmons, MD

Henry Emmons, MD is an integrative psychiatrist and the author of The Chemistry of Joy, The Chemistry of Calm, and Staying Sharp. He is the cofounder of

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