If you feel a twinge of jealousy each time you read about another successful person who wakes up at 4 a.m. to meditate, jog, read a novel, and eat two grapefruits, take heart.
You don’t have to add three leisurely hours to your morning routine to be happy or productive.
In fact, plenty of the habits that can help you start your day take five minutes or less.
Several of those habits are listed under the Quora thread, “What can I do in 5 minutes in the morning to make my whole day better?”
Below, find some of the simplest routines to start your day feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever challenges come your way.
1. Write down three things you’re grateful for
Quora user Nela Canovic suggests writing down three things you’re grateful for every morning.
“Think about what you already have in your life,” she writes. “Don’t focus only on material things (such as a car or computer), but rather think in more simple or basic terms.” For example, you might express gratitude for friends, family, or your education.
This strategy is similar to the “three good things” exercise recommended by Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the founders of the positive psychology movement.
Seligman and colleagues advise people to take time each night to write down three positive developments that happened that day, along with an explanation for why they did. You can, however, easily adapt this exercise for the morning and think about three things you’re grateful for in general.
2. Think about what would make today great
Canovic recommends another, more prospective exercise: “Write one sentence about something that, if it were to happen, would make you feel like today will be a positive, productive, unique day.”
It can be something as simple as going to bed before midnight or spending an hour doing something you love, she says.
Once you figure out exactly what would make you feel happy and accomplished, you can go about making it happen.
But meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in silence for hours on end. As Ariel Banayan points out, “sitting for five minutes to detach from the thoughts of your mind will have a profound impact on your day.”
If you’re unsure how to get started, the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offers some free guided meditations, some of them five minutes or shorter.
- Flickr/Barney Moss
Minh Killy Le recommends five minutes of exercise right after you wake up. His favorite is planking, which is similar to a push-up.
Research suggests that working out before you eat breakfast can help you lose weight and boost your energy levels – though the workouts in these studies lasted about an hour, or until the participants had burned 400 calories.
Regardless of how long you choose to exercise, be sure to warm up beforehand, since your muscles will likely be stiff from sleep.
5. Make your bed
Raviteja Chirala says he loves coming home to a neatly made bed.
Meanwhile, journalist Charles Duhigg writes in his book “The Power of Habit” that making your bed can help increase your productivity for the rest of the day. That’s because it’s a “keystone habit” that can “spark chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
Chirala also suggests writing a list of things you want to accomplish that day. That way, you’ll have a clear set of priorities to guide your work for the next few hours.
Psychologist Travis Bradberry says this kind of careful planning boosts your chances of achieving your goals. He personally likes to set his daily goals after his mindfulness practice.
7. Visualize the rest of the day
Harrison Thorne recommends a morning visualization routine: “Simply picture your short- and long-term goals, and affirm your abilities to complete these goals.”
In his second book, “Smarter Faster Better,” Duhigg outlines a similar technique: Tell yourself stories about how the day will unfold.
Duhigg writes about researchers at MIT who studied the most productive people at a recruiting firm and found that they were “obsessive, in fact, about trying to explain the world to themselves and their colleagues as they went about their days.” For example, they might ask colleagues to help them imagine how a future conversation or a pitch meeting might go, so that they were more prepared when the events actually happened.
He recommends making a habit of this strategy by spending your morning commute telling yourself a detailed story about the rest of the day.
8. Use the ‘Five Minute Journal’
Chris Remus recommends using the “Five Minute Journal,” which is a specific journal that comes with inspirational quotes and thought-provoking questions: “You’ll feel more positive and happier when you use it. Your whole day will be better as a result.”
Author, investor, and podcaster Tim Ferriss says he uses the Five Minute Journal every morning. As Business Insider’s Richard Feloni has reported, you can order the journal online.
9. Drink warm water with lemon juice
Kelin Doan drinks freshly squeezed lemon juice with warm water every morning.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, lemon water has multiple benefits, including aiding digestion and supplying vitamin C, which protects you from cell damage.
10. Don’t check your phone
This one’s more of a non-routine. Matt Sandrini advises against picking up your smartphone within the first five minutes of waking up: “You start working on someone else’s behalf, before you even had the chance to set your own schedule and priorities for your day.“
“Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless,” she said.
In fact, she recommends holding off for a full hour. “There is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”