I happen to be a morning person by intention. There is something inspiring about starting my day in the dark, and secret found-time that occurs before the sun rises; where the hours are slow and the day is filled with infinite possibilities. But to be honest, it wasn’t always like this. There were years when I was literally dragging myself out of bed; and my first thought was:

“I can’t wait for this day to be over, so I can go back to bed.”

This is when I became dependent on caffeine.

So what changed? How did I go from hitting the snooze button to hitting the gym at 5am? I changed my habits.

Habits are incredibly important tools that can be used to help us create and curate the lives we want to live. We often go through life on autopilot; not paying attention to habitual behavior, or understanding how to harness the power of behavior patterns to achieve different outcomes. Your habits are either helping you or hurting you. As we age, our bodies and brains need more help to do their thing. Remember when you used to be able to eat and drink anything you wanted and never gained a pound? You didn’t need to go to the gym to stay fit and trim? Our metabolisms change, our lives get busier, and we develop detrimental habits that can sabotage health, wellness and happiness goals. One day you wake up and wonder WTF happened.

What happened is that we forgot to be the masters of our own destiny. At any time we can decide to change that, and take back control of how we are living.

I didn’t particularly like the way my story was going, so I took a long look at the things in my life that I could control. “This is just the way things are” had to become “this is the way things can be.” I needed to set some new priorities and harness the power generated by putting goals into words – and asking the universe for a little help. Where were my habits in all of this? Were there little patterns of daily behavior holding me back because I simply wasn’t paying attention to them? There were many things in my environment that I could not change; however, I could change certain habits, and by doing so could make every day a little better than the day before. This is how I became an intentional early riser, made my physical health a priority, and started a process of transformation that literally changed the course of my life.

How you start your day sets everything in motion for the way the day will turn out

Being intentional about what you want to accomplish in your day is the first step toward harnessing the power of a morning routine. Here are 6 simple things you can do to make every morning the catalyst for productivity and happiness.

1. Set your day in motion the night before.
Lay out your clothes for the next day, prep your breakfast, lemon water and vitamins, and create a priorities list. People who write down their intentions have a higher success rate of accomplishing them than people who don’t.

2. Get off your gadgets and other electronics an hour before you want to fall asleep.
We live in a world of distractions, and putting healthy boundaries on the worst offenders will give you a competitive edge. Your phone, computer, and television all light up the neurons in your brain, making it harder to get your brain the detoxifying rest essential for productivity.

3. Start every day by taking a few moments for gratitude and some form of meditation, prayer or journaling.
This simple practice sets up conscious and subconscious expectations to help you have an amazing day.

4. Rehydrate after the fast that occurs during sleep.
Start your day with warm lemon water. 8oz of warm water with the juice from half a fresh lemon will help to rehydrate your body, aid digestion, prevent oxidation, stimulate your metabolism, and supply you with healthy doses of vitamin C and potassium.

5. Make exercise a non-negotiable activity.
The thing that fit people and out-of-shape people have in common is regular exercise is NOT their favorite thing. But fit people regularly exercise anyway. Exercise can jump start your day with feel-good endorphins, and will give you a great sense of accomplishment. Working out first thing in the morning also avoids the conflicts that often arise with trying to exercise later in the day.

6. Stay off technology and social media for an hour after waking.
Nothing will derail your high-productivity waking hours faster than getting sucked into low-priority social media or checking your email. Optimize your morning with a strict policy for making sure your first hours are focused on gratitude, exercise, and some form of mindfulness. Do not confuse being busy with being productive.

Make this year great by using the power of routine to start each day with intention and purpose.

Be committed to the mindset that your new patterns of behavior will make you more focused, productive and happy.

Hold yourself accountable to doing these 6 simple things every day until they become your new habits. You can start tonight and proactively change the rest of your tomorrows.

Be sure to read my other inspirational articles to learn strategies for living an inspired and healthy life.