There’s nothing worse than the sound of an alarm clock — unless you count actually having to roll out of bed. But according to a study published in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion, early risers tend to be happier than night owls.
If you have a hard time waking up, or you’re always grumpy when you do, a healthy morning routine can boost your a.m. mood and leave you productive for the rest of the day. Internist Radhika Vayani, DO, of Medical Center Alliance in Fort Worth, Texas shares her nine secrets for rising and shining.
1. Skip These Things Before Bed
The best way to improve your morning is to practice healthy habits at night. “Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks and foods at least three hours before bed,” says Dr. Vayani. “Doing so will also help minimize the number of times you have to use the bathroom during the night.” A good night of rest will help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.
2. Brush Your Teeth
The coffee pot may be the first thing you run to in the a.m., but Vayani says that the best thing to do immediately after waking is to brush your teeth. “When you’re sleeping, you get dehydrated, your mouth is very dry. The drier our mouths are, the more bacteria there is in our mouths and on our tongues.” She recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes first thing in the morning, paying special attention to your tongue, too. “Brushing your tongue has been shown to help get rid of the bacteria.”
Related: 7 Bad Habits That Wreck Your Teeth
3. Fuel Up the Right Way
Breakfast revs up your energy levels and may prevent you from eating more later in the day, says Vayani. “Eating first thing in the morning also raises serotonin levels which will alleviate some of the anxiety and stress that a lot of us feel in the morning,” she adds. Aim for a breakfast that includes complex carbohydrates, proteins, and a little bit of fat.
“Coffee is great to have in the mornings. It has antioxidants and the caffeine increases your metabolic rate, causes you to burn more fat, and increases your energy levels,” says Vayani. But don’t sip on an empty stomach. “Coffee on an empty stomach can actually increase heartburn and lead to anxiety.”
Exercising in the morning — even just for five or seven minutes — may help you start your day on the right foot, too. “Just seven minutes of exercise in the morning will increase our endorphins in our brain and elevate our moods,” says Vayani.
And if you just can’t get out of bed in time to exercise, try stretching for a few minutes. Five minutes of stretching will calm your mind and reduce any muscle stiffness you have first thing in the morning. Regular stretching improves your posture and flexibility, reduces your risk of injury, and helps promote good blood circulation, too.
5. Change Your Tunes
The loud, beeping alarm you hear each morning may be causing you some stress. Set your alarm sound to peaceful noises like birds chirping or waterfalls rather than harsh beeps or songs. “These softer, soothing noises have been shown to produce calmness within ourselves,” says Vayani.
And turn up your favorite tunes. Music actually increases antibody levels, which may elevate emotions, improve immunity, and reduce your stress hormone levels. Research has shown that when you’re actively trying to be happier, upbeat music can help. Tune in to your favorite station while you’re getting ready in the morning, and pick happy songs for you commute, too.
6. Try These Scents
Vayani personally recommends scents like mint and peppermint to elevate your mood, increase your attention span, and improve your alertness. And studies show that peppermint essential oil may even help you have a more productive workout.
Essential oils or candles next to your bed, or a stick of peppermint gum after you brush your teeth will improve your attentiveness in the morning.
7. Rearrange Your Nightstand
If you don’t have pictures or trinkets on your nightstand, then it’s time to add some. Your brain and heart will thank you.
“When you wake up, looking at pictures on your nightstand can bring about a feeling of nostalgia and that causes calmness in your brain and may elevate your mood,” says Vayani. Spend some time choosing meaningful photographs and trinkets, and watch your a.m. mood soar.
8. Get Some Sunshine
When you’re having trouble waking up, light can be your best friend. “Turn on your bedroom light, open whatever shades you can and just let the sunshine in,” says Vayani. A walk outside can work wonders, too.
When you’re exposed to light first thing in the morning, your body’s level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that also acts as a hormone, rises. Higher serotonin levels boost your mood, energy levels, and will help you get a good night’s sleep later on.
Remember that mornings can be hectic for everyone. “Try to consciously tell yourself to stay calm and to think of the good stuff in life. Take some deep breaths and smile,” says Vayani. One study found that those who smile in stressful situations tend to have lower heart rates than those who didn’t. And all that smiling may rub off on your family, too.
And whether you just need to vent, or you just want to brighten your mood, take five minutes and reach out to someone who makes you happy in the morning. It’s a win-win for both of you.