If the thought of rising with the sun and working out before 8 a.m. makes you want to barf, that’s okay. The healthiest and most helpful thing you can do—no matter who you are—is be aware of what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. This way, you can devise a practical long-term routine that works with your natural tendencies, not against. Feeling healthy shouldn’t feel complicated—it’s all about supporting yourself. Here’s how to set up a healthy routine when you can’t tear yourself away from the snooze button.
Devise an evening wind-down routine
A study that compared night owls with morning people found that the former were more than twice as likely to have metabolic syndrome (which is characterized by high blood sugar levels, excess body fat and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels). Scientists say this could be due to the habit of consuming more calories after 8 p.m. and exposure to artificial light at night, both of which can affect metabolic regulation. So: create a nightly routine for yourself that doesn’t involve working online or Netflixing until the wee hours, and unplug an hour before you go to bed. Even if you go to bed at 2 a.m. some nights, having a routine that helps your brain and body wind down for sleep at least an hour before bed will help you stay on track.
Prep a good breakfast the night before
If we regularly don’t “break the fast” in the morning, it makes us more likely to succumb to late-night munch-fests, which can result in a self-perpetuating cycle that doesn’t do anything to help our metabolism function. Also, skipping breakfast regularly can put a strain on the body that over time can lead to some serious conditions like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and blood pressure problems. Stock your fridge with something you know you’ll want to eat in the morning, and eat within an hour of waking (no matter how late it is) to wake up your metabolism for the day.
Get your kitchen on board
Even if your sleep schedule is perpetually wonky or you’re totally exhausted, eat right, and eat regular meals every three to four hours. Whole foods, fruit and veggies and enough water will always make you feel better than if you eat crap. Make it super easy for yourself to make good food choices. Organize your kitchen and cupboards and fridge. Make a master grocery shopping list. Don’t ever let your fridge get totally empty so you “have” to grab something somewhere. Get into cooking with seasonal produce and whole foods.
Keep your fitness routine interesting
Research has shown that night owls have a tendency to be more novelty-seeking, “with a higher tendency to explore the unknown.” If this is you, keep your fitness routine fresh and change it up regularly. Alternate between group classes and solitary activities, high impact and low, outdoor or indoor. Take control of the month ahead—plan out a month’s worth of classes and activities that excite you and write them on your calendar so you always have an option at the ready. Avoid exercise getting monotonous or boring.
Create an energizing morning ritual
Make mornings better for yourself by streamlining them. Anything you can do the night before to make it easier for yourself will spare you the added annoyance of being pressed for time. Drink water first thing too (lemon water for bonus points), which helps jump start the metabolism and re-hydrate the body. Also, if possible, get outside in the morning sun, which can help to reset your circadian rhythm and cause you to feel more alert. If you can muster it, start your day with a quick workout which will help you feel more alert and awake.
Practice mindfulness daily
Adopting a daily mindfulness practice will help make you feel less stressed out day to day, more likely to make healthy food decisions, and it’ll also help you sleep better. It’s a secret health weapon many highly productive and focused peeps swear by – even ten minutes a day can make a huge difference. Sitting on a pillow and Om-ing not your style? There are active ways to practice mindfulness—check out four here.