As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. You might be inclined to grumble or press snooze when the alarm goes off, but we suggest hitting the ground running – at least figuratively.
That’s because you can accomplish so much if you open your mind as soon as you wake up. Aside from an increase in productivity that can come with an early start, the morning is an ideal time to sharpen your brain. Add one or more of the following seven habits into your routine and reap the benefits of an energized, brighter and full brain.
1. Eat Something Healthy
A donut sounds so good, but the energy burst you get from sugar is a fickle friend. Instead of experiencing the highs and lows of eating something so sweet, opt for a balanced breakfast instead.
With a plate full of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, you’ll have the energy you need to power through the morning – and soak up all the knowledge you can.
My favorite? Plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries or a spoon full of peanut butter and a banana (or granola).
2. Watch Something Educational
Your morning routine might have you switching on the TV – or maybe pulling up a silly cat video on YouTube – to watch while you get ready. While the literal or figurative fluff is entertaining, it’s not doing much to exercise your mental muscles.
Instead, opt for something educational, like a TED talk. These particular speeches are designed to be engaging and easy to digest so you’re sure to take away something from each one you watch.
Here’s a list of fifteen inspirational talks that will get you pumped for work.
3. Tackle the Crossword
As tempting as it might be to fire up a game of Candy Crush while you take the train or bus to work, this and other entertainment-based cellphone games won’t do much to make you smarter.
That’s where an old-fashioned crossword comes in: You’ll draw upon knowledge you already possess and learn new factoids as you fill in your puzzle. If you can’t get your hands on a paper, you can probably find an app filled with challenging crosswords.
4. Crack Open a Book
There’s no debating the fact that reading makes you smarter: One study showed that children who read became more intelligent adults. Of course, the benefits of reading continue to flow when you’re grown up, too, since it introduces you to new ideas that cause reflection and self-awareness.
In order to stoke your own reflective fire while reading, choose books with subject matter that’s intricate, interesting and unique. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction or fiction, either, since fictional stories can still give you pause as you consider different ways people might handle life. Reach for a paperback or e-reader on your public-transit commute, or listen to a book on tape while you drive.
5. Sweat It Out
There are noted benefits to sweating it out in the morning, including bragging rights that you exercised before some people even got out of bed. It’s also worth noting that long workouts give you plenty of time to think and sort through your thoughts.
A distance run or hour-long weightlifting session leaves you alone with your thoughts, but in a good way. The quiet time can allow you to work through a difficult decision at home or at work – the ability to handle these types of situation with grace is certainly something that will make you smarter in the long run – you can thank your long run for that.
6. Learn a New Word
Whether you download an app, have an email sent to you each morning or invest in a daily word calendar, there are countless ways to ensure you are learning some new vocabulary words well into adulthood.
At the very least, you’ll sound brainier when you talk to friends and colleagues. Best case scenario is that you’re prepping for a big exam, such as the GRE, and this simple addition will make you even smarter and more ready to tackle that test.
7. Meditate Away Your Anxiety
Finally, it’s best to take on your day with a completely clear head. If a morning workout isn’t for you, then perhaps a daily meditation session will be. All you need are 10 minutes to devote to just being and breathing.
You’ll learn to eradicate stressful thoughts from your mind and you’ll walk away feeling energized and more productive. In other words, no one ever lost their intelligence by starting the morning with such positive vibes.
Whether your alarm goes off at 9 a.m. or 4:30 a.m., you can incorporate at least one of these habits into your routine so you start the day on a better, brighter foot. A mindset like that will only inspire you to get out there and get what you want – and to look pretty darn smart while you do so.