Bad habits. Bad feelings. Bad mornings that turn into regrettable days.
Banish them all with simple brain hacks that flip negative thoughts and behaviors into positive, productive ones. Instead of dragging through your day, learn to wake up refreshed, recharge regularly, and live better than ever.
The Morning Mind makes it easy. Based on findings from neuroscience and medicine, the book helps you tamp down on the fear-driven reptile brain and tap into the part linked to thinking and imagination.
With topics ranging from diet and hydration to exercise and meditation, you’ll find ideas for activating your brain—and improving every aspect of your life:
- Restore healthy cycles of waking and sleeping
- Block harmful cortisol hormones
- Boost mental performance
- Create calmer mornings
- Develop self-discipline
- Stimulate creativity
- Improve your leadership skills
- And more.
From the moment the alarm clock rings, The Morning Mind helps you greet each day with gusto.
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About the Author
Kirti Salwe Carter, MBBS, MPH has trained in meditation and breathing techniques, and leads popular wellness seminars. Both authors live in San Antonio, TX.
Read an Excerpt
The Human Body in the Early Morning
"I trust that everything happens for a reason, even if we are not wise enough to see it."
— OPRAH WINFREY
BEFORE YOU WAKE up in the morning, your body is undergoing complex processes of which your mind is completely unaware. The human body is an intelligent organism, made up of trillions of tiny cells each with their own intelligence and responsibilities. All cells in our bodies have their own "cellular clock." These internal clocks are responsible for helping each individual cell to regulate the timing and nature of its functions. For example, they govern such processes like energy use and the repairing or replication of DNA.
Many of the body's primary organs also have their own clock. This timekeeping function plays a significant role in how you think, feel, and perform on a day-to-day basis. Developing an understanding of the inner workings of your body clock is a powerful way to enhance self-awareness and create a routine that will boost you from dark-eyed mornings to establishing an excellent start to your day, every day.
Biological Rhythms Affecting Your Body
Circadian rhythms, also known as the "body clock," refer to processes in our bodies that are governed by 24-hour rhythms. These rhythms also apply to other organisms such as plants and animals. The body of knowledge that exists currently on these rhythms is far from complete, but what we do know is fascinating. Some recent evidence suggests that our biological rhythms may be longer than the previously thought twenty-four-hour cycle. Is it possible that the human body is at a different pace than the planet?
The body clock regulates physiological processes such as waking, eating, sleeping, and the function of the immune system and the major organs. These processes are determined from within the organism but can also respond to external signals such as light, odors, and temperature.
If the natural rhythms of the body clock are disturbed, this can cause various health problems, including increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular problems, and depression. Becoming aware of these natural rhythms helps you work in harmony with your body to get the most out of it at the right times of the day. The more you know about your energy levels and the effects of the circadian rhythms, the more you can make well-informed decisions and plans for your daily activity, especially in the mornings.
Chinese medicine teaches that circadian rhythms determine the health of not just the immune system but also each internal organ. The circadian rhythms identify the peaks and troughs of each organ's function throughout the day. In essence, the circadian rhythms govern the internal attention of biological resources to heal and repair the organs, and each organ gets its own segment of time every day.
Below is a table of the organs and their peak performance time of the day. During this time, each organ system is being repaired.
To find each organ's low-performance time, merely look to the opposite side of the table. For example, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. is the weakest time for the liver, corresponding to optimum functioning of the small intestines. This accounts for the predictable timing of health problems that occur in alignment with each organ's lower-functioning period. The lungs are expelling waste around 3:00 to 5:00 a.m., which results in coughing for some people during this early morning period. The large intestine is in full effect around 5:00 to 7:00 a.m., which is the time of day your body most needs water to help it cleanse and, inconveniently, the least opportune time for your body to take in caffeine, because it can be dehydrating. You will learn that drinking coffee is not the most efficient way to wake up in the morning, but luckily there are some equally compelling alternatives without the adverse effects. However, the aroma of coffee may be enchanting and can have a profound and positive impact on the brain function and mood in the morning. Yes, there can be significant benefit even without ingesting one ounce of it!
Between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., the stomach is doing its thing. Some people believe this is the best time to eat breakfast, while others advise waiting until later in the day to allow the stomach to repair itself, starting the day instead with the unhurried consumption of warm liquids only. For example, water with a bit of ginger or non-caffeinated teas are excellent to help with morning rehydration.
The spleen is cleansing itself between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., the time when people are most prone to flu or allergies. Between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., the "triple burner," based on Chinese medicine, albeit not fully recognized by Western medicine, is in full effect. The triple burner is described in Eastern philosophy as a complex communication and synchronization of the five important organ systems (heart, kidney, liver, lung, and spleen) and is believed to be responsible for overseeing our nutritional health and immune function. Also, it has been theorized that the triple burner plays a major role in sustaining a cohesive dialogue among these organ systems and our external environment. Around mid-morning, after its active role as a member of the triple burner, the heart is "repairing" itself. This also happens to be the time of day when the majority of heart attacks occur, especially among middle-aged men.
From this brief glimpse, we can see the intricate and intelligent relationships that occur through the circadian rhythms overseeing the systematic distribution of the body's resources. It also gives us some insight into how important it is to know what is going on inside your body throughout the day, and when your energy is at its highest and lowest levels.
Control of the Rhythms: Built-in versus Environmental
There are various internal and external factors that govern your circadian rhythms. Internally, the rhythms have a "central clock" that is conveniently located in the hypothalamus, specifically in nerve cells known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN. This is the boss in charge of orchestrating these complex processes through the entire human body.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that each of us has a unique circadian rhythm based on our genetic inheritance. This makes up the built-in element of our circadian rhythms. At the same time, the SCN is affected externally by light from the environment — a collaborative effort between nature and nurture that keeps our bodily processes functioning optimally.
A key element of the circadian clock is the production of hormones such as melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin is produced at night in the pineal gland, because it needs darkness to produce the hormone. Melatonin regulates sleep and reproductive cycles, which can come out of balance if people are not getting the right amount of sleep or their body clock is confused by their schedule, such as working night shifts. Melatonin starts being secreted around 9:00 p.m., which is around the time we would ideally be winding down mentally, turning off our electrical gadgets ("yes, on airplane mode") and preparing to go to bed.
As tempting as it may be to stay up late watching television, this is not what our body needs to function at its best, and the old saying proves true, "early to bed, early to rise." In fact, our family several years ago removed all the televisions, or "time vacuums," from the bedrooms to avoid the enticement of one more episode of our favorite miniseries.
The Best Time: To Sleep, to Eat, or for Physical Activity
The demands of our daily lifestyles often conflict with the rhythms with which our body works best. Fortunately, understanding these natural cycles gives us valuable information about how we can structure the most fundamental elements of the day — eating, sleeping, and physical activity. If you can successfully build your schedule around circadian rhythms, you will reap some impressive health benefits and at the same time maximize your productivity.
Optimum Waking and Sleeping Times
The best time to rise in the morning is different from person to person, yet there are some recommended guidelines based on age. Our circadian rhythms adjust as we mature and accumulate more birthdays, and the optimum time to rise gets earlier. Oxford University researcher Dr. Paul Kelley has studied the sleep cycles of people of different ages, and he came to the following conclusions about the best time for each age group to wake up.
His findings are quite astonishing considering the predominant nine-to-five workday patterns of our modern world. Dr. Kelley commented on this predicament: "We've got a sleep-deprived society. It is hugely damaging on the body's systems because you are affecting physical, emotional and performance systems in the body. ... We cannot change our 24-hour rhythms." When we are teenagers and our bodies are still growing, our circadian rhythms are biologically hardwired to go to sleep late, about midnight, and to wake up late, about 10:00 a.m. This would be the ideal time for us to operate. When we are sleep deprived, we have elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and reduced levels of neurotransmitters, which leads to a decrease in concentration and increase in "moodiness" typically found in this age group.
Our circadian rhythms conflict with the schedules of most academic institutions, which start much earlier. However, the brains of teenagers and young children are just not prepared to assimilate information appropriately at that time. Dr. Kelley was a head teacher at a school in the United Kingdom, and he found that changing the start time of the school to 10:00 a.m. produced a 19 percent rise in the grades of his students. Imagine the implications for personal performance in all areas of your life — you can excel by merely working in harmony with your body's natural rhythms. As we get older, in particular beyond our thirties, we need less sleep. Thankfully, our body clock adjusts so that we profit from our natural rhythms if we go to bed earlier.
Optimum Eating Times
These times give our body the chance it needs to properly digest food before bed. For breakfast, the time of rising plays a big part in choosing when to eat. If you stay up late at night and wake up late in the day, like a teenager, for example, then it can be more beneficial for you to have a light breakfast and focus on lunch and dinner to gather your recommended daily calorie allowance. Conversely, if you wake up early and go to bed earlier, as someone in their fifties or sixties, then a substantial breakfast to fuel you for the day and a more modest meal for dinner will be more suitable for your body to handle.
Optimum Times for Physical Activity
Some of you may be thinking that there is no such thing as an optimum time to engage in physical activity. You might prefer to avoid it all together or somehow outsource it to your marathon-training neighbor. However, the optimum time for you to engage in physical activity is in the afternoon to evening, when several beneficial elements of the circadian rhythms may make this undesirable activity slightly more palatable. At this time, body temperature is at its highest, so the muscles are warmed up and ready to perform. Additionally, testosterone production is at its peak while cortisol production is at its lowest, thus increasing your performance potential. If you are the connoisseur of over-exhausting yourself, then later in the day is the best time to capitalize on this hormonal dynamic, known as the testosterone/cortisol ratio (T/C ratio). This ratio is commonly used to describe efficiency, and a high T/C ratio has been shown to correlate to the time your body is most prepared to train and recover from physical activity. Please note that these guides are by no means definite, and some people will undoubtedly find that they do not fit into this schedule as their unique circadian rhythms march to the beat of a different drum, or at least they think so.
Dodge Bad Timing
Understanding the best time for various activities throughout the day also sheds light on when certain activities are best not attempted. There are some behaviors we exhibit, ingrained in our social norms, which simply do not serve our best interests from the perspective of our biology.
The major external influence on our circadian rhythms is light, and how carefully we align our behavior with the rise and fall of the sun affects how well we function. A significant problem humankind is experiencing involves artificial light from screens and other technological devices because it confuses our body clock into thinking we should stay awake. That's because light inhibits the release of melatonin, the hormone that governs sleep. To make matters worse, this artificial light stimulation usually happens right at the day's end, precisely the time we should be winding down.
A common byproduct of staying up late is the consumption of caffeine in the morning. In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers found that consuming caffeine can also delay the release of the nightly dose of melatonin, creating a vicious cycle of staying up late, being more tired in the morning, and thus increasing the craving for coffee.
Between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., when cortisol levels are at their peak, also happens to be the time of day some people choose to consume caffeine. Cortisol is the body's natural way of becoming alert, so to experience this double dose of stimulating chemicals can increase tolerance and reduce the potency of both. Consequently, if you must have coffee or some other caffeinated beverage, the best time would be when cortisol levels have decreased, after 9:30 until around 11:00 a.m.
Cortisol plays an important role when you wake up via the cortisol awakening response (CAR). The hippocampus is known to regulate the cortisol increase that occurs during the morning, although exactly how this works is still a mystery. Researchers at Dresden University of Technology's Department of Psychology have hypothesized that the mechanism behind CAR is related to the hippocampal ability to communicate information about the external environment to the central nervous system as environmental awareness and directions for how to navigate in the physical world. It is possible that the hippocampus's situational awareness and anticipation of the day's activities play prominent roles in the cortisol awakening response. This indicates a sophisticated and intelligent relationship between the brain and the circadian rhythms that influence our morning activities.
We always have a choice about how we live our lives. Fully comprehending how you can function optimally in accordance with your circadian rhythms means you can create a schedule that opens up space for better performance and more efficient use of energy. If you can eat when your body really wants food, then you will require less effort for digestion and have more energy for life.
What areas of your daily schedule can you change right now to improve your energy expenditure?
The human body is a complex machine regulated by its own internal body clocks.
These body clocks, or circadian rhythms, are governed by external factors like light, and internal factors like genetics.
During different periods of the day, the major organs of the body have a period of cleansing and increased energy.
The production of the hormone melatonin is vital to governing sleep patterns and needs darkness to be produced, so in the hours just before bed, it is highly beneficial to limit exposure to artificial light.
The best times for eating, sleeping, and exercising are different depending on your circadian rhythms, which change with age.
Most of our current lifestyles are geared toward irregular cycles of waking and sleeping that keep us off balance with the cycles of nature and can result in health problems.
We receive a natural chemical boost of alertness from cortisol in the mornings; therefore, the best time to drink coffee is after this natural stimulant has worn off, at approximately 9:30 a.m.CHAPTER 2
A Circadian Clock in Your Nose
"When sleep puts an end to delirium, it is a good symptom." — HIPPOCRATES, THE APHORISMS OF HIPPOCRATES
THE CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS, otherwise known as the human body clock, regulate much more than our patterns of wakefulness and sleep. Scientists are rapidly discovering that these natural rhythms influence a wide variety of physiological processes with a far-reaching impact. Circadian rhythms affect hormonal production, mood, ability to concentrate, and many more critical aspects of our day-to-day lives. Even our senses are impacted by these natural fluctuations linked to day and night.
Until relatively recently, it was assumed that variations in olfactory sensitivity (the sense of smell) depended only on the individual. It was believed that while there was significant individual variability in the sense of smell, each individual had a set threshold in their ability to detect odors unless they have a cold or other condition explicitly impacting their nose. While the emotional state was thought to have some influence on our ability to smell, it was the broad assumption that the sense of smell is fixed.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Morning Mind"
Copyright © 2019 Dr. Rob Carter III and Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter.
Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Brief Summary of Parts xiii
Introduction: The Lizard and the Wizard xv
Part I The Human Body Clock
Chapter 1 The Human Body in the Early Morning 3
Chapter 2 A Circadian Clock in Your Nose 13
Chapter 3 Stress Hormones and Sex Hormones 29
Chapter 4 Your Body Is Taller in the Morning 37
Chapter 5 Your Brain Is Bigger in the Morning 43
Chapter 6 Your Heart and Your Health 51
Chapter 7 The Significance of Body Temperature 57
Part II The Mind and Boot In The Morning
Chapter 8 Creating Self-Discipline 63
Chapter 9 Creating Empowering Habits 79
Chapter 10 Creativity with Writing 91
Chapter 11 Taking Advantage of the Morning 97
Chapter 12 Adopt a Morning-Friendly Posture 103
Part III Opportunities For The Rest of The Day
Chapter 13 Exercise Is Good Medicine 111
Chapter 14 What You Eat Matters 121
Chapter 15 Why Do We Need to Sleep? 129
Chapter 16 Start and End Your Day Like a Chef: The Neuroscience of Expertise 137
Chapter 17 Mind Your Dosha: Ancient Wisdom About Your Brain and Body 145
Chapter 18 Final Thoughts: You Are Prepared to Lead Your Morning and Enjoy Your Day 157
About the Authors 197