What Can You Do First Thing In The Morning to Ensure Optimal Brain Health?

You can practice a few morning rituals that boost productivity.

For me, productivity rituals are habits that not only boost my concentration and focus so I can do more in less time, but they’re also activities that give me pleasure. I enjoy structuring my day in a certain way because this adds certainty to my life. I don’t ask myself, What should I do now? Which goal will I work towards? What’s important to me? Instead, I know what I’ll be doing and in what order I’ll be doing it.

Here are five productivity rituals that I’ve been doing regularly for a few years now.

1. I start each day with one question to boost focus.

This is the question that I have on my wall so I see it in the first 5 minutes after I wake up: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? It stands next to several photographs that I like to look at and that make me happy.

What’s the benefit? Chances are, I know I’ll have many meetings throughout the day, multiple projects to work on, emails to write, and other daily tasks. This question keeps me grounded and focused. It keeps me accountable and forces me to prioritize what is the most important thing for me not just to do, but to actually finish. That way, even if I don’t actually accomplish every single thing on that day, I will still check this item off my list.

2. I wake up my body and my brain with a short yoga routine.

It’s such a great way to ease into the day and it feels great. My session of morning yoga takes about 15 minutes, depending on which workout I’ve picked for that day. One of my favorites is Rodney Yee’s A.M. Yoga, and I like to sync it up with some upbeat music that I play on YouTube. I open the window to let fresh air in, put away the phone, and stretch out on the yoga mat. What’s the best part about this ritual?

Time stands still. There may be a long list of things I’m going to be working on throughout the day, but in those moments, none of that matters. It helps me focus better and remain calm, and it sets an optimistic tone to the day.

3. I dedicate 5 minutes to expressing gratitude.

Practicing gratitude may sound abstract to you, and if you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve wondered if it’s something you need to devote a long stretch of time to. Not really. A gratitude practice means that you dedicate a few moments of your day to bringing awareness to the good and positive things you have going on in your life. For me, it takes less than 5 minutes after my yoga session, so I just like to sit quietly on the yoga mat with my eyes closed. I think of waking up to a sunny morning, having food in the fridge so I can prepare a good breakfast, looking forward to a walk in nature later in the afternoon, or taking a few hours to just play music and write. And the benefit? It trains my brain to focus on positive things instead of negative or stressful ones. This is so important!

4. I prepare breakfast to give me energy.

Sure, the goal is to have a healthy breakfast, but for me it’s also about making something that’s tasty and pretty to look at. Some of my breakfast favorites include a bowl of oatmeal with flaxseeds and chia seeds, blended with some peanut butter, or Greek yogurt with granola.

The most important part of my breakfast, no matter what I pick, is adding fresh fruit on top: strawberries, raspberries, banana, peaches, mango or papaya. I usually add walnuts and almonds because they’re good brain food. The best part? It’s not just fuel to start my day, but it takes only 5 minutes to prepare and it makes me happy to look at it before I dig in!

5. I allow my analytical brain to take over.

This is what writer and professor Cal Newport calls deep work, and it’s usually work that requires analytical thinking, reading a really dense chapter from a book, problem-solving, or working on a project that requires undivided attention. I’ve researched this topic for quite a while, and concluded that for my brain the peak performance time happens about 2–4 hours after waking up.

On some days this is a challenge, especially if I have early meetings to attend or afternoon deadlines I need to work on. In that case, I put away my phone, avoid checking emails for a while, and get straight to work. It’s been a game changer for me because I accomplish much more when my day is just beginning and my mind is ready to absorb whatever comes my way.

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