Ep. 43 – Your First 30 Minutes: How to Boost Your Brain for the Day

A quick check in before we dig into this topic. How did you spend the first 30 minutes of your day today? I mean the very first 30 minutes, not when you decided you were officially awake. 

Did you wake up to an alarm? If so, did you snooze that alarm? 

Did you get out of bed right away? Feet on the floor out of bed.

Did you reach for technology within 30 minutes? Was that technology already within arm’s length? Be honest!

Did you consume any calories? How about caffeine?

Pardon my personal questions. They are all related to the science and psychology of the critical early decisions we make in our day and how those micro choices are key turnstiles for action (or inaction) over the rest of the day – or days. 

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that how you start is how you continue. You can have the habits, systems, and reminders in place for your day and still be overlooking a key amplifier. And that’s the critical few inflection points you make in your morning that can maximize momentum. 

There is a lot of research from the biological, neurological, and psychological camps about the different elements that can boost or drain your day. All that aside, you are the best expert of you. And you know what your resistance areas are and where you’re more willing to try. 

This conversation offers three quick boosts to see where you feel a lift + one bonus boost for the brave. 

Let’s start with the quick. There are three actions to take within 30 minutes of waking up that research says can have immediate & ongoing impact on your day:

Get sunlight. Getting direct exposure to sunlight triggers the first dopamine release of the day. This is about resetting your cortisol clock, says Stanford University professor and neuroscientist Andrew Huberman (he also has an amazing podcast). Aim to get 2 to 10 minutes of sunlight-direct sunlight  (without sunglasses) in those first 30 minutes. This hormone release early in the day can help with alertness, mental wellbeing, and even getting more restful sleep later that evening. 
If you are up before the sun is, then swap this step and get fresh air for that same amount of time. Actual air on your head, not cracking open a window in your kitchen. This stimulates the brain and body, increases your alertness, and disrupts the fuzzy sleep hangover to get you going faster. Try to get those 2 to 10 minutes of sunlight later when the sun is up. The vitamin D infusion will be a welcome treat to your brain at any time of day. 

Drink water. Hydration and brain function are directly linked. The human brain is 80% water so even minor dehydration can increase stress, disrupt memory and attention, and set you on a path to sluggish. Some studies have shown that if you are only 1 percent dehydrated, you will likely have a 5 percent decrease in cognitive function. It only magnifies from there. Drinking water in the first 30 minutes of the day helps improve brain function, takes the edge off of hunger, and kickstarts your physical energy. 
Quick note for all you counting coffee as your water intake. This is a Yes And. Have that coffee, and have water (within 30 minutes). There isn’t a mandatory number-of-ounces requirement. Anything is better than nothing when it comes to water. Hack your morning by having an extra bottle or glass set in a visible spot. Drink it, done. Move on. 

Speaking of moving, number three is move for a minute or more. This isn’t about focusing on a specific exercise or amount of time. This is an effort to flip the On switch in your actual body. Pick one thing and do it for a count of 10, or set a timer for 60 seconds, or whatever amount of effort feels available to you. This isn’t about the length, it is about the consistency of the action. It can be deep breaths or stretching your muscles, jumping jacks, or even walking outside to take out the trash – that gets you fresh air on your head and movement. Double win! Doing some physical effort that slightly increases your heart rate revs the biology engine. Just enough to activate blood flow more than sitting and scrolling through your phone. 

Speaking of getting the blood flowing, the bonus mental kickstart is to end your shower with a cold rinse. Stay with me here. Hydrotherapy has been used since ancient times as a naturopathic remedy for physical issues such as inflammation or fighting fatigue or increasing energy. 

Having a cold water blast ignites your nervous system and the effects of those chilly seconds start ramping your energy before you can even reach for the towel. This is a very quick hit and a direct message from your body to your neurotransmitters and it says  it’s time to release happy hormones and those hormones go directly into your bloodstream. You have an alert body, and an alert brain. And studies have shown that this system boost happens from even just a few seconds of that cold jolt. So give it a try-you might be surprised.

In summary, a few tweaks to your morning routine could potentially boost your performance and mood throughout the day. The three quick efforts to do within 30 minutes of waking up are to get direct sunlight and/or fresh air for 2 to 10 minutes, drink your first water of the day right away, and move in some way for a minute. Add a shot of cold to the shower and you’re on your way to a power day. 

So sleep well, wake well, and – as always – take care to take good care. 

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.