I've never been a morning person. Equipped with a gene found in nocturnal animals I would float during daytime hours only to amp my production after sundown.

But then I had my daughter.

The first time I tried to pull a late-nighter post-baby I ended up a curled-up heap under a comforter. And the kicker: I had to cancel the dinner party that I had worked so hard to prepare for.

But over the past few years I've discovered a few things that have helped me evolve into a creature more like my species: A morning person.

Now, you may jest that these 5 things are almost too easy - but I dare you to try them. They might just make you feel less zombie and more happy in the A.M.

First things first: smile

Believe it or not, when you smile it transmits a message to your brain. And you know what the message says? It says, "I'm happy!" (Go figure.) The research of the late psychiatrist Dr. Robert Zajonc suggests that the act of smiling can contribute to your feelings of happiness. But don't take my word for it - once you hear your alarm go off - smile. (Cajole it out with memories of your favorite comedies if you need to - it will eventually become more natural.)

Second: pray or verbalize gratitude

Once I've smiled, I really do start to feel happy. And once I start to feel happy, I begin my next step to waking up on the right side of the bed. At this point in my morning regimen, I pray or verbalize gratitude. Note: It's important during the wee hours of the morning to not just "think happy thoughts" of gratitude in your head because if you're like me your gratitude stew will simmer your mind to sleep. So say what you're thankful for. Be sincere. And, be real. Speak of your gratitude that you got to sleep in until six. (Yesterday you had to get up at five.) Declare the goodness of having a bed. (Some people don't.) And if you're brave, express thanks for the things you're learning from your struggles.

Third: drink lukewarm water

It doesn't matter if you add a lemon or not. Drinking warm water first thing in the morning is a surefire way to rehydrate your body after a long night (yeah, we might be sleeping, but our body has been busy fighting off bugs, viruses and other body invaders. Let's give it some love.) Plus, water (and especially easily-absorbed warm water) helps with tummy stuff. And when your digestive tract is working as it should, you're less likely to feel sluggish, and you'll start the day with more energy.

Fourth: get outside

I know, I know. Some of you live where it's super duper hot in the morning. Or super cold. But unless the air quality is extremely poor, the benefits of two minutes of fresh air will change your perspective of morning - bringing fresh oxygen to your bloodstream and making your mind feel more awake and alert. And there's also something centering about being able to see a bird fly by or the wind move through the leaves that elevates the loveliness of morning.

Fifth: move your body

Even if you don't have tons of time to spend on a full-cardio workout, consider some gentle stretches. Reach your arms up. Do some sun salutations. Rotate your ankles in circles. Whatever movement feels comfortable. Gently let your body know that it's time for it to move.

With all of these things, remember to give yourself ample time. Schedule your wake up time at least 15 minutes earlier (or more to fit in a full-workout.)

As you smile, pray, consume warm water, inhale fresh air and stretch, keep your breath smooth and steady. You are calibrating your body for the day. And you want to put code into your body that says: It's OK to not move too fast. It's OK to notice things. It's OK to take care of myself.

Because as we all remember in the old Aesop's tale - the winner is not the person who gets there first (or even gets up the earliest), but the person who consistently keeps going.

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