2 Morning Life Hacks: and the science behind them
Happy New Year!
We hope that you have enjoyed a wonderful, restful, and covid-free holiday period. That strange, formless, yet amazing and often-times necessary week between Christmas and New Year is a great time to do absolutely nothing, guilt-free. But, alas, that has come and gone, and we must cast our eye to 2022 - a year of optimism.
Naturally, there are New Year's Resolutions aplenty flying around. Some will be kept, lots will be forgotten, which really begs the question:
Why do we struggle to incorporate healthy habits into our lives?
There is a myriad of reasons for this, and a strong and foundational body of literature on the neuroscience of habit formation to go with it. So, to save you the trouble, we will detail for you one key component of habit formation, and elaborate on 2 morning habits that we intend on incorporating in 2022. Let's go.
New habits should be meaningful
We all know that exercising more is good for us - but why is it good for us?
We've all been told that we should eat healthy - but what happens when we do?
We've all heard that meditation is good for you - but what actually happens?
This is a key dilemma in habit formation. People arrive at December 31 and think - what will be good for my life in the New Year? - without actually grounding the decision to undertake and incorporate that new habit into their life on an understanding on how it will affect them internally.
They focus on the outcome, rather than the (internal, often-times complex) processes that are happening behind the scenes.
So, with that in mind, we have chosen 2 key, basically effortless morning habits that we will be implementing in 2022, with a bit of science to back it up. Let's walk through the morning routine:
You've just woken up, it's 6:30-7:00am, from here:
1. Start the day with 2 glasses of water
We all know that we should drink water - but why first thing in the morning?
While we sleep, our body naturally loses fluids and electrolytes through various avenues such as breathing and sweating. As we are not replenishing the lost fluids throughout the night, we can often-times begin the day in a state of mild dehydration.
Dehydration is a state in which the amount of water that you lose outweighs than the amount of water that you consume. Water is crucial for basically all of the body's internal processes. Without water, we cannot exist.
But what is actually happening?
A low amount of water in the body results in a low blood volume. Our blood becomes thicker and, resultantly, takes a lot more effort to pump around the body. So, not only is the heart required to work harder to achieve a given output, there is also a reduced amount of blood arriving where it needs to go - the skin, the muscles, the brain.
Less blood means less oxygen, and less oxygen means that the important internal processes that we rely on to function cannot work optimally, or in severe cases, cannot work at all.
This will manifest as feelings of lethargy or fatigue, difficulties with concentration of focus, grumpiness or general irritability, just to name a few. Moreover, chronic under-hydration has been linked to reduced physical performance and an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression.
By rehydrating the body first thing in the morning we give ourselves the best chance to dodge some of the very-much avoidable issues associated with dehydration.
Start the day with 2 glasses of water
2. Take a cold shower
We have all heard that cold-water exposure is good for us - but what actually happens?
Admittedly, cold water exposure is not very comfortable. Let's get that out of the way early. But, if you slow down your breathing, then take the plunge into the cold (bath or shower are both fine), it will begin a cascade of positive physiological benefits. There are several claimed benefits of cold therapy. Here, we'll unpack two:
Improved immune function
As you step into the water, your body clicks into gear immediately. The cold water acts as a stressful stimuli, which causes the body to react in somewhat a fight-or-flight way. In response to the stressful stimulus, important immune cells become more active and more readily available, thereby increasing your immune system's readiness to respond. It is somewhat primed and ready for action.
In addition, your blood vessels temporarily constrict, redirecting your blood to your vital organs (heart, lungs, kidneys, brain) and away from your arms and legs. Once you leave the cold, these vessels relax, allowing blood to flow freely. This intermittent redirection of your blood improves your overall blood flow circulation.
Now, if we put those two together, we have an immune system that is not only more active, but a circulatory system that is better at delivering the immune cells to locations in the body where they are needed, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the immune system.
Reduced anxiety & depression
Again, in a response to the stressful stimuli, the brain also up-regulates the production of your brain's happy hormones - dopamine, serotonin and noradrenalin. You'll likely be familiar with these, but to recap - they are the important neuro-chemicals that play primarily roles in our mood stability and happiness/ reward neural pathways.
Without a well-regulated release of these important hormones, we struggle to operate day-to-day. But, when they are operating well, it manifests in us as motivation, joy, excitement, alertness, clarity, and increased energy levels. All of the good stuff.
Take a cold shower - 30-60 seconds should do it
So there it is. Two quick, easy, and effective New Years Resolution habits to incorporate into your morning schedule. In our opinion, these two things, next to exercise - which is truly the most transformative thing you can do for your brain and body (and by extension - life) - are two of the easiest life hacks that you can use to make yourself feel significantly and noticeably better.
Give them a try, and let us know how you go - we'd love to hear from you.