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8 Real People Share the Morning Health Rituals They Never Miss

By Steph Eckelkamp
June 1, 2021
Photo Credit: Jamie Grill Atlas

Many of us wake up without much of a plan. Often, our morning routine goes something like this: Roll out of bed after hitting snooze 2-3 times, turn on the coffee maker, quickly check email and social media, maybe scrawl out a mile-long to-do list (in no particular order of urgency), and—once amply caffeinated—frantically attempt to tackle everything on said list. Rinse and repeat.

But winging it isn’t necessarily the most effective way to start the day—and it can often leave you prone to burnout or feeling like you’re constantly playing catch up. That’s why productivity experts are consistently extolling the virtues of creating a sustainable morning routine.

Morning routines can be the perfect opportunity to create a sense of balance and control before you officially start work—setting the tone for a productive and rewarding day. They don’t have to be complicated or time-consuming either. It could be as simple as stretching, showering, or reading 10 minutes of fiction. The only real “rule” is that your morning routine be intentional, relatively consistent, and leave you feeling better than you did before.

Need some inspo? We asked eight of the best, brightest, and busiest health and nutrition pros to share their indispensable morning routines. One thing that’s consistent throughout? High-quality supplements.

We love to start the day with adaptogens, especially ashwagandha. When taken regularly, it supports the body’s response to stress and promotes calm and mental clarity throughout the day. Youtheory® Ashwagandha is powered by KSM-66® – an organic full-spectrum ashwagandha extract. Clinically-supported KSM-66 is the highest potency ashwagandha on the market sourced only from the root. Since every person is unique and has different nutritional requirements, the dosage of this daily stress formula can be customized for your personal needs.

Design by Zoe Burnett

Jolene Brighten, ND

Jolene Brighten, ND, is a naturopathic physician, women’s health and hormone expert, and author of Beyond The Pill.

“I aim to start every morning with a deep breathing exercise that focuses on extending the exhale. I do this before I even sit up. It’s super simple and takes less than 5 minutes, which means I can stick with it, and it helps set the tone of my nervous system for the day.

“I expose myself to sunlight by opening my curtains first thing in the morning to help begin the process of increasing cortisol and decreasing melatonin, which supports my circadian rhythm and hormones for the day.

“Currently, I’m 7 months pregnant, which means supplements are a definite must as part of my morning routine. Prior to pregnancy, I took a prenatal every morning with breakfast to ensure I started my day with a little nutrient boost and enjoy the extra energy the B vitamins provide.”

Design by Zoe Burnett

Uma Naidoo, MD

Uma Naidoo, MD, is a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist, and the author of This is Your Brain on Food.

“Most weekdays my eyes open naturally between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m.. From there, I aim to do Sun Salutations with the sunrise, and morning meditation helps me center myself before I look at my phone or check email. I also practice writing down a combination of gratitudes and affirmations.

“The most important part of my morning is the ritual of making my grandmother’s recipe for golden milk. She taught me this as a child and it connects me with tradition, my cultural roots, and my joy. As a nutritional psychiatrist, I know the anti-inflammatory power of homemade hemp milk, fresh grated ginger, some turmeric and a pinch of black pepper, a drop of Manuka honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, which are great for my brain. That’s my happy place, and it starts my day with a smile and a warm feeling. It’s also great for my gut—and because of the importance of the gut-brain axis, I always say that a happy gut is a happy mood.

“I also do my best to spend a few minutes outdoors before my day starts. Ten minutes in the sun is great for my vitamin D levels. Plus, a breath of fresh outdoor air before hopping on Zoom helps my mindset for the day ahead.”

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Maya Feller, RD

Maya Feller, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist, national nutrition expert for Good Morning America, and author of the Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook.

“My morning routine is always the same, and I find that it helps to ground me for busy days. Recently, I’ve found it more important than ever to have routines that feel good.

“After I wake up, I head downstairs and have a glass of water and a cup of Black Acres Coffee with lactose-free milk, or a combo of lactose-free milk and oat milk. I’ve always started my day with coffee, mostly because I enjoy it. Then I’ll make breakfast—these days I usually make an egg and some veggies. I enjoy savory breakfasts with a healthy dose of vegetables and protein.

“Next, I take my supplements with a glass of water and boil some more water for a cup of herbal tea—either lemon balm tea or tulsi tea, both of which have a great taste and calming properties. Then I’ll head back upstairs for a shower. My shower is a ritual that signals the start of my day. I brush my teeth and wash my face in there, then when I get out, I start the process of oils and lotions. From there, I get dressed and start my work day.”

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Amy Shah, MD

Amy Shah, MD, is a double board certified physician, intermittent fasting expert, and author of I’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life.

“I practice circadian fasting [a type of intermittent fasting], so when I wake up, I’ve typically been fasting for 12-15 hours, starting the night before. When I wake up, I like to give myself at least 15 minutes of no screen time. On most days I get a fasted workout in—this could mean a 30-minute walk or a higher intensity workout. I always get outside for morning sun, since it has a direct impact on our brain and circadian rhythms.

“I break my fast every morning with chai (spiced tea) with a splash of almond milk. It has ground ginger, turmeric, and cardamom. Spices have so many benefits—they fight inflammation, boost immunity, support gut and hormonal health, and are full of antioxidants, which help your body fight stress. When consumed daily, it makes a huge difference. About 30 minutes later, I’ll have a plant-based breakfast or lunch, depending on the day. This could be a tofu scramble with berries and nuts on the side, or a smoothie with plant-based protein.

“Every day is different, but I try to keep specific things like fasting, sunlight, and chai a standard practice 90% of the time.”

Design by Zoe Burnett

Tiffany Cruikshank, LAc, MAOM

Tiffany Cruikshank, L.AC, MAOM, is the founder of Yoga Medicine, a community of expert yoga teachers fusing the best of western medicine with the traditional practice of yoga.

“There are a few aspects of my morning routine that have stayed the same for the past 20 years. First thing, I always hydrate with a full glass of room temperature water. It’s a great way to jump start the digestion and elimination in the morning, especially when done regularly. Sometimes I’ll add a squeeze of lemon and/or a pinch of Himalayan sea salt.

“Next, I’ll usually make some type of tea mixed with collagen, MCT oil, and ghee. The fats support my energy levels and cognitive function. This step is critical when I’m working from home, since my brain is usually at its peak in the morning and I like to make good use of that.

“A green smoothie is always my first meal of the day, regardless of what’s going on in my life. I make them for the nutrients—not the flavor. Often, they include a variety of fresh veggies from my fridge with a protein source that I rotate and some fats, usually avocado. Then I’ll add in supplements such as vitamin C, glutamine, spirulina, collagen, probiotics, glutathione, turmeric, vitamin D3, bone broth, and adaptogens.

“Movement is another morning requirement, sometime after my smoothie. Most of the time, I find myself going to the Yoga Medicine site to practice from our weekly class lineup.”

Design by Zoe Burnett

Joyce Moran

Joyce Moran is the Training and Education Manager for Youtheory®, as well as a Certified Health Coach, IIN, studying Functional Medicine Coaching, and a busy mom of five.

“I naturally wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 am. First, I drink a cup of French press organic coffee. I add a scoop of Youtheory® Collagen Powder to support my hair, skin and nails as well as joint flexibility and anti-aging benefits. After my coffee, I generally only have water until around 12 or 1 pm because I practice intermittent fasting.

“Making time to meditate every morning for a bit is really important to me. Then I head to the gym for a 30-minute workout. I also love to practice hot vinyasa yoga when I can. Since I live near the beach, I often go straight there to see the sunrise and walk, earthing on the beach and in the ocean water.

“I like to start work early, after taking my Shilajit and Ashwagandha – I never miss these! I only take a multivitamin a few days a week, so I love the Shilajit because it is rich in fulvic acid, trace minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients. It gives me great energy to work out as it improves nitric oxide production, plus it really is considered a panacea for keeping people healthy.

“Ashwagandha has literally changed my life… it helps me feel balanced, energetic and calm. Since I know adaptogens become even more effective with consistent use, I plan to take it for the rest of my life so I can always feel this amazing.”

Design by Zoe Burnett

William Li, MD

William Li, MD, is a physician scientist and author of the New York Times bestseller Eat To Beat Disease.

“My morning routine is fairly simple. After I get out of bed, I like to start my day by stretching. It’s a great way to limber up the muscles and get circulation flowing. It feels good, helps clear my mind, and it’s rewarding because I know I’ve done something physical as my first activity of the day. It only takes a few minutes, so it’s easy to stick with.

“Next, I brush my teeth—oral hygiene is critical for so many reasons, and research suggests the oral microbiome is actually important for long-term brain health. It sounds basic, but it’s an important part of my daily self-care routine, before I start working on things for everyone else.

“Finally, I make sure to incorporate berries into my breakfast. Berries are full of natural bioactive compounds that support angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels), DNA protection, immunity, the health of the microbiome, and more. Plus, having my first meal of the day be a healthy one gives me mental and physical energy.”

Design by Zoe Burnett

Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN

Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, is a nutritional energy practitioner, in which she fuses her expertise as a celebrity chef, certified nutritionist, and reiki master to serve her clients.

“A morning routine can really set up the rest of your day, so a practice that feels in alignment with you is the first step towards success. The first thing I do every morning before I even get out of bed is my gratitude practice. I start off thanking my angels and my guides, then I connect to a short list of things I’m grateful for. I create an energetic connection between my thoughts and physical body and perform reiki on myself, which helps ground and center me for the day.

“Then I have about 24-30 ounces of warm water with fresh lemon. As we sleep, we can lose up to a liter of water, from simply breathing! The water hydrates my body and works to cleanse, detox, and wake up my digestive system. About 20 min after my water, I’ll have some fresh squeezed celery juice. In between, I’ll do some light movement, stretching, walking, or use a rebounder, followed by 8 minutes on my PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) mat.

“Then I take a variety of supplements to support my adrenals, balance my stress, calm my mind, and help bring focus to my brain and energy to my body. I also make matcha to sip as I tackle my communications (emails, texts, DMs). It’s warming and comforting, and I love that it contains antioxidants and calming L-theanine.”

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