7 Worst Ways to Start Your Morning for Mental Health

Morning Habits

How we start the morning can set a solid foundation for the entire day—or it can set us up to self-destruct. Our earliest decisions, like skipping breakfast, eating unhealthy foods, consuming too much sugar or caffeine, or fostering a negative mindset all chip away at our brain health. Ultimately, our mental health suffers. These choices can sap our bodies, too, negatively impacting our health and longevity over time.

But it works the other way as well: Making healthier choices in the morning will reverberate throughout the day, keeping our energy levels elevated and helping us make better decisions. And that sets us up not just for the day, but for life.

How we start the morning can set a solid foundation for the entire day—or it can set us up to self-destruct. Click To Tweet

HARMFUL MORNING MENTAL HEALTH HABITS

To make sure you’re primed for all-day success, avoid the 7 sabotaging habits listed below. They’re some of the worst A.M. offenders that can throw you off track first thing in the morning, and we’ll tell you what to choose instead.

1. Drinking caffeine on an empty stomach.

While many people think caffeine is harmless, it’s actually a psychoactive drug that impacts your brain health. A 2022 study published in Nutritional Neuroscience that looked at more than 17,000 participants suggested that heavy coffee drinkers (more than 6 cups per day) experience a greater risk for decreased brain volume, dementia, and stroke.

Plus, coffee can disrupt sleep, lead to caffeine addiction, cause jitters, decrease blood flow to the brain, and set off a host of other side effects. Here’s a tip: If you’re going to drink caffeinated coffee or tea in the morning, do it after eating some food. But be sure to limit your caffeine intake overall.

2. Drinking orange juice before eating.

For decades, we’ve been given the advertising message that orange juice is a healthy component of breakfast. Not so fast. Juices are chock-full of sugar, so guzzling a glass of orange juice immediately spikes your blood sugar. That will only set you up for the resulting sugar crash—with its accompanying fatigue and concentration issues—later on in the day.

Sugar may even affect your cognitive ability over time. And the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada points out that an 8-ounce serving of juice packs in about 30 grams of sugar, on average. That’s almost 8 teaspoons—the equivalent of what you’d consume in a serving of soda.

If you want something sweet at breakfast, you’re better off eating whole fruit instead, so that you consume some fiber and nutrients, with less sugar.

3. Thinking it’s going to be a bad day.

Anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s crucial to keep us safe, alive, and alert as we go about the day. But we also don’t want it to take over our life and magnify every minor inconvenience. Starting your morning with a doom-and-gloom, negative mentality won’t do you any favors. The fact is, if you think it will be a bad day, it probably will be. That’s because your brain will then look for all of the ways that things are going wrong during the day.

Instead, make it a habit to get up and say out loud, “Today is going to be a great day.” What are you excited to do today? What do you have to be grateful for? Bring this practice to the breakfast table with your family and spread the optimism around.

To help make it stick, post this statement on your bathroom mirror so you see it in the morning and throughout the day. You’ll notice the difference when you shift your perspective and start seeing all of the good in life.

4. Loading up on refined carbs at breakfast.

Doughnuts, pastries, croissants, bagels, sugary cereals…breakfast can easily become a real refined-carbs nightmare. Foods like this don’t actually fuel you, they deplete you. And they make you less able to focus, spiking your blood sugar, and causing feelings of hunger faster than if you’d eaten a more well-balanced meal.

Instead, look to combine protein with healthy fats, plus complex carbs sourced through fresh fruit or veggies. Try an omelet with turkey and avocado, or a smoothie with protein powder, for example.

The right breakfast will balance your blood sugar, not throw it out of whack. You’ll feel full longer, enjoy enhanced mental clarity, and boost your energy. Plus, you’ll help reduce your risk for the many chronic diseases that accompany an unhealthy diet, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight control issues.

5. Reaching for your phone first thing.

Too many people keep their smartphones and other mobile devices right next to them as they sleep. But when we launch ourselves right from a peaceful sleep state into the chaos of emails, social media, or the 24/7 news cycle, we overwhelm the brain. Not exactly a great start to the day.

Then, before you know it, you’re responding to “urgent” messages and raising your stress levels before you’ve even left bed! Instead, leave your devices in another room before bedtime and ease into your morning with some mindful and calming practices.

Try a meditation session, affirmations or mantras, prayer, diaphragmatic breathing, or journaling. These will ground you and create a more peaceful mindset—a much healthier position from which to start your day.

6. Skipping exercise.

Without physical activity, you can feel sluggish, physical and mentally, as the day wears on. Get in the practice of moving first thing in the morning to energize yourself and improve your mental health.

Exercise has been shown to combat symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower levels of stress and anger, and prevent memory problems and Alzheimer’s. It’s also a good idea to challenge your brain further through activities that require coordination.

This can be as simple as going for a brisk walk, or as advanced as playing a competitive game of tennis, ping-pong, or pickleball. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, while some of the negative habits above (such as coffee consumption and an unhealthy diet) restrict it. Optimal blood flow is a must to carry nutrients to our cells and remove toxins throughout the body.

7. Forgetting to drink water.

Water is the nectar of life. It makes up more than half of our bodies and the earth—and our brains are about 80% water. So, it’s no surprise that we need to be mindful of ensuring enough H20 intake.

This is especially important to consider in the morning, because after 7 to 8 hours of sleep, your brain may be slightly dehydrated. When you lose more water than you take in, your body can’t carry out its normal functions as efficiently. And you need to lose only about 1% to 2% of water in the body to be considered mildly dehydrated.

This can have mental health effects, including feelings of anxiousness, cognitive impairment (disrupting attention, memory, and concentration), negative mood effects, and fatigue or sleepiness. According to one study, mild dehydration has even been associated with reduced brain volume.

MORNING HABITS FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH

Clearly, mornings are a crucial time to focus our efforts on healthier choices. Leave these damaging habits behind and replace them with positive alternatives. As you start to solidify mind- and body-nourishing habits, you’ll watch your days—and your entire life—unfold with much more energy and ease.

Anxiety, mood issues, cognitive problems, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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