What’s the deal with morning routines?
I’ll let you in a little secret.
All of the people I know who are successful have some kind of a morning routine. I’m not kidding, ALL of them. Even if it’s something they do every morning for only 5 minutes, it’s a ritual that can take various forms, and it has become automatic to them as soon as they get out of bed.
Many of us struggle with having a morning routine, because we are running around gathering what we need for a day at the office, but developing a morning routine can change the entire tone of your day. Otherwise it feels like you are playing catch up all day, and I’ve never heard anyone say that they enjoy having a rushed morning. Some people might work best under pressure, but very few people truly enjoy being hurried and frazzled, especially first thing in the morning when you might still be half asleep.
(By the way, kudos to all the parents out there who manage to get tiny humans ready for the day as well as themselves. I struggle to get ME out the door some days, I have a huge amount of respect for all of you!)
Let’s take a closer look at this for a moment. One of the biggest struggles I hear from the women I have talked to is consistency when it comes to their health. The reason I want to talk about developing a morning routine is because by creating a set of rituals that you control to start your day, they will become routine and automated. This reduces mental fatigue, and that’s important.
Mental fatigue is real, and is strongly related to how we eat and treat our bodies. If we’re making decisions all day long including unnecessary ones when we set a rushed an anxious tone for the day, we’re going to be more mentally fatigued at the end of the day and be much more likely to reach for the closest fast food we can get our hands on, or absent-mindedly binge on that tub of ice cream in the freezer.
The more you develop habits and routines so that your decisions become automatic, the less decision fatigue and more willpower leftover. This consistency in your morning routine can have a major effect on the other areas of your life and help you to feel more centered, better organized and focused. Sounds like a win, right?
Moreover, I know that starting the day rushed tends to put me in a bad mood and make me cranky with others, especially loved ones first thing in the morning. I noticed that this was happening a lot, and decided I needed to take responsibility for making a change, even if that meant getting up a little earlier to squeeze in a few simple, small rituals that would centre me for the day, not to mention making me much more pleasant to be around – including for myself! Sometimes I might have a full hour to myself, other days it may only be 5 minutes, because this is real life. Making space to centre yourself and starting the day even with a very shortened version of your routine can help immensely.
Not a morning person? Totally ok! You can take small, actionable steps towards building whatever morning routine suits you and your schedule, regardless of what time you get up in the mornings. Taking tiny, actionable steps in that direction one at a time and finding what you enjoy the most is the important part.
By far the biggest benefit of a morning routine is stress reduction. Reducing stress will not only make for a much more pleasant start to your day, but will also improve digestion. Here’s a tip on a deep breathing exercise you can try anytime during the day, but is especially beneficial as an addition to your morning routine:
- Take deep breaths with longer exhales than inhales. For example, try breathing in for 4 counts, out for 5 counts, and repeat for anywhere from 10 breaths to several full minutes if the time is available. The longer exhales, even for a very short period, will send signals to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which signals the body to rest, relax and digest. It lower blood pressure, heart rate and breathing as well as aiding digestion. The sympathetic nervous system on the other hand triggers fight or flight, which is an enormous stress on the body. Think of being chased by a lion; your body would be flooded with adrenaline and the fight or flight response would be triggered immediately.
- Deep breathing also a form of meditation, as you can focus on each breath
Morning Ritual Ideas
Some tips for better morning (might look different depending on your schedule or if you have kids, etc.)
- Make lunch night before. Often, I use leftovers from dinner to make tomorrow’s lunches in order to save time.
- Movement. This could be a morning walk on your own or with a loved one to connect before starting your day. This could be 5 or 10 minutes of yoga in your living room, some light stretching or foam rolling, a minute or two of jumping jacks or air squats, or maybe it’s a full workout, depending on your schedule, interests and body. Keep in mind early morning workouts don’t work well for everyone, but if your body is happy doing an early morning workout it’s a great way to make sure you fit it in.
- Read. Enjoyment, and depending on what you’re reading it might be inspiring or helpful as well. I especially enjoy The Daily Stoic, a book of philosophy with a single page for each day of the year. You can find it here.
- Journal. Try a gratitude practice, goals to accomplish for the day or simply how you are feeling.
- Hydrate. Specifically, water with lemon, followed by another beverage of choice. Herbal tea is a personal fave.
- Contrast shower. I cannot recommend this enough. A contrast shower is when you stand in the shower under water as hot as you can stand it for at least 30 seconds. Then turn the hot completely off so you are in freezing ice cold water for at least 10 seconds before turning the hot back on. Do this at least 3 times, and I guarantee you won’t need your morning java to wake up. Not only that, but it is incredibly invigorating first thing in the morning.
- Contrast showers do more than energize. They also stimulate the cardiovascular system and blood flow, along with giving your immune system a boost as the lymph in the body is also stimulated. Muscle recovery is improved and cold water is much better for your skin and hair than hot water.
- Also a great way to head to bed! Our body temperatures drop when we sleep, so speeding up that temperature change right before bed is a great way to relax and fall asleep more easily.
- As a side note, I participated in Tough Mudder (18 miles obstacle course that while fun, I would not recommend, more on that another day) two years in a row, and one of their obstacles is called the Arctic Enema. They usually place it around the halfway point, and you have to jump into a dumpster full of ice water and climb out the other side. Freezing water terrifies me after an experience going through ice on a lake, but I made it through and have never felt better or more energized in my entire life! Cold therapy is becoming a big hit with many athletes.
There is one activity that many of us (including me) are guilty of which can completely derail our entire morning routine. Do everything you can to avoid social media and email until AFTER your morning routine is already complete. It’s tough, because for so many of us the first thing we do every morning is check at our cell phones, but delaying this is the most beneficial change I have made to my morning. Try putting your phone on airplane mode at night so that you won’t wake up to notifications, and resist turning it back on until after you have completed your routine. Social media and email are very reactive, and choosing to control a small portion of our day to start off on a more focused and balanced note is worth delaying any technology interaction. All of that will still be there when you are finished, and you will be in a better mental space to handle whatever the day throws at you by then.
I’m not suggesting you fit in all of these suggestions at once, or even that you will likely have time for all of these every day. Simply find what you like the most and what is the most doable and beneficial for YOU, and give it a try. Even if it’s only a few minutes each morning, you will be creating a habit that can help to boost your overall mental energy and consistency in other areas of your life.
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