Morning people occupy a certain reputational high ground. They’re often considered more productive and somehow, more virtuous, in the way they go about their days. Research shows there are some mental health benefits that come with naturally rising early, but experts generally agree that the healthiest path is trying to find and match your natural circadian rhythms.
Still, you can thank the good ol’ American protestant work ethic for the “early to bed, early to rise” standard that’s been ingrained in our psyches as the ideal way to structure our days. And because getting up and getting started on a work day is a necessity for a lot of people, being able to tackle the morning in a way that launches you into a productive mindset is aspirational—whether or not you naturally wake up before your alarm.
Hence, the popularity of “morning habit” hacks. Here at Well+Good and elsewhere, you’ll find advice from neuroscientists, blue zone residents, registered dietitians—and yes, morning people—offering to let you in on the secrets of how they rev their engines first thing.
Our fascination with this idea comes from the drive to optimize our days. With work, family, health, community, and so many other concerns vying for our attention, the idea that we can somehow do it all if we only maximize the potential of our mornings is a tantalizing one. It’s also somewhat misleading and potentially unattainable in a society where the responsibility for health and wellbeing falls to the individual, and not the community as a whole.
In reality, mornings don’t generally conform to the soothing smoothie-making, latte-stirring, journal-writing routines that go viral on TikTok. Nope, not even for us wellness editors at Well+Good—a group that knows a lot about the food, workouts, mental exercises, and other habits that are theoretically good for us. Just like you, we’re all doing what we can to show up—and maybe, occasionally, present as our most energized selves when the stars do align—for the job of employee, mom, partner, and human being every day.
So it’s time to pull back the curtain on morning habits. Whatever you’re doing that’s working, keep on keepin’ on. No aesthetically-pleasing smoothie required.
Here are the real morning habits of 5 wellness editors
1. Taking medication
Every morning I take an SSRI pill. I have a form of clinical anxiety that flares at bedtime, and can prevent me from falling asleep in a timely manner. The SSRI I take first thing when I wake up helps me manage my evening so that I get a good night’s sleep. That’s the best thing I can do for a smooth morning and productive day, period. – Rachel Kraus, senior health & fitness writer
2. Making the bed
I personally have to make my bed every morning (fluff up my throw pillows, tuck in the corners of my fitted sheet—really make my bed feel hotel-like) in order to set myself up for success for the day. It’s like I’m accomplishing something straight off the bat first thing. Plus, the less clutter, the more calm I feel in my living and work space. – Gina Vaynshteyn, editorial commerce director
3. Working out in P.J.s
I work out in my pajamas. I do Zoom workouts so I can turn my camera off. But doing the absolute minimum means I know I’m making it to that workout class. – Betty Gold, senior food editor
4. Tidying up
A few of my morning habits are vacuuming my floors, wiping down my counters, and cleaning out my cat’s litter box before starting my day. My mood is influenced a lot by my space, so when my surroundings look clean, my mind feels clear, too. – Danielle Calma, SEO writer
5. Going on a walk with my daughter
Around 8 a.m., I strap my one-year-old in her baby carrier to go for a walk. If we have time, we’ll go the long way to daycare so we can say hello to the crossing guard and the old man who sits outside the laundromat. On days she doesn’t go to daycare, I’ll walk along the river with her, stopping to check out cool plants or to make faces at ourselves in empty store windows. Since I work at home, this little ritual makes me feel like so much more of a real person in the real world. I love that we’re not doing anything “important,” but just taking some time to hang out together and enjoy the neighborhood. – Jenny Heimlich, senior health & fitness editor