Countless books, articles, and influencers have talked about the power of morning routines—but they never quite sound realistic, do they? From waking up at 5 a.m. every morning to dedicating time to yoga, meditation, cardio, reading, and whipping up decadent smoothies, morning routines tend to sound extravagant and impractical. Still, it is true that certain morning routine practices can benefit heart health.
For example, research shows that morning exercise can positively impact blood pressure, particularly among older adults managing their weight. The workout doesn’t have to be super intense, either. When done consistently, yoga—especially when combined with meditation and breathing techniques—has been associated with reductions in blood pressure as well.
Bottom line: While there’s no doubt that a good morning routine can really set the tone for the day, you don’t necessarily have to do all the things in one morning, every morning, to put your heart health first.
“Although we know there are benefits to focusing on activity, mental health, and nutrition when it comes to heart health, it just may not be doable for most to include them all in a morning routine,” explains One Drop coach Danica Crouse, a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) and certified nutrition support clinician (CNC).
More often than not, setting yourself up for success in the morning is simply about being prepared and having a goal for what you want to get out of your morning routine—whether it’s a sense of peace or a kick in the butt. Here’s what Crouse recommends to craft a heart-healthy morning routine that works for you.
Narrow Your Focus and Meet Yourself Where You Are
“Some people just don’t know where to start,” says Crouse. There’s so much information out there about what a healthy morning routine can look like, but, of course, what works for one person may not work for another.
So, if you’re struggling with where to start, meet yourself where you are, says Crouse. In other words, start by focusing on achieving the bare minimum of what you need or want to get done in the morning (taking medication, making breakfast for the family, etc.).
Then, ask yourself: What is a realistic next step I could add to enrich my morning routine?
For example, maybe you tend to skip breakfast, or you resort to fast-food options because you don’t feel like you have enough time for anything better.
“There’s a common misconception that eating healthy takes a lot of time or is inconvenient,” says Crouse. But, in reality, she continues, you can experiment with healthy food in pretty simple ways. For instance, instead of picking up a fruit-flavored yogurt at the store, grab plain yogurt and throw a handful of berries on top. Another quick and easy snack: hard-boiled eggs. If you hard-boil a batch over the weekend, you have them in the fridge to grab and go at your leisure throughout the week.
These small steps don’t really take that much time, but, when done consistently, they can make a big difference in your health.
“It’s all about figuring out realistic options,” says Crouse. Talk to your One Drop coach about your own unique barriers and what you want to accomplish.
Let Yourself Start Again When You Lose Momentum
And, in a way, habits are lifelong works in progress; it takes daily commitment to sustain them. With that in mind, you’ll probably encounter ups and downs as you try to find a morning routine that works for you. Maybe you’ll go on a vacation and have a hard time getting back into your routine, or your kid will wake up early feeling really sick one morning and you’ll need to put your routine aside to take care of them. When those challenges come, says Crouse, allow yourself to start over without carrying any lingering guilt or shame. That one “off” day doesn’t have to define you.
“Each day is a chance to start over,” she explains. “Sometimes it’s easy to beat yourself up about how you ‘didn’t do the right thing’ or ‘fell out of your routine.’ Whatever the situation is, life happens, and people often don’t give themselves enough grace to try again next time.”
Indulge In Instant Gratification
Whether you’re carving out five minutes in the morning for a brief meditation session, or you’ve started opting for yogurt parfaits in lieu of breakfast sandwiches, chances are, you can see how those lifestyle choices affect your health in real, measurable ways.
For instance, you’ll likely notice not only an improvement in your mood and energy with these types of changes, but if you’re regularly measuring your blood pressure, you’re bound to notice positive changes there as well.
“When you see that for yourself and realize it wasn’t that hard to do, that fuels the fire and helps you get a little more excited about continuing to make more changes and go with the progress you’ve already had,” explains Crouse. (Here are more ways to reward yourself when you deserve an extra pat on the back.)
So, maybe your morning routine began with just taking your heart medication and walking the dog because, at the time, that’s all you could handle. But, after noticing positive changes in your blood pressure numbers from those small, simple steps, perhaps you feel motivated to add a quick total-body workout to that walk. Why not, right?
This article has been clinically reviewed by Rachel Head, MPH, RDN, CDCES, clinical operations manager at One Drop.