Morning routines are a great way to set the tone for the day. I know it may sound like an impossible luxury, especially if you have kids but the benefits of a morning routine are well worth the effort.
Benefits of morning routines vary but commonly are:
Physical Health: Getting 15-30 min of exercise in the morning can reduce stress & blood pressure, increase blood flow & energy, as well as enhance focus & improve sleep. There are also numerous other benefits exercise in general has on the body & mind.
A morning walk for example can have just some of the following benefits:
Increases blood flow & oxygen making us feel more awake & alert
Reduces stress through a variety of mechanisms physically, emotionally & mentally
Creates ‘optic flow’ as the actual movement of objects passing while we walk quiets some the circuits responsible for stress.
Getting morning light, whether cloudy or not, helps to reset your biological clock, something blue light from our phones & computers is disrupting more & more in our modern world.
If you can get natural light outside all the better but if not try to enjoy if through a window at the very least. The same goes for evening light but more on that later.
Emotional Health: Feeling good physically can enhance how we feel emotionally, which ties in with the mention of exercise above. Checking in with ourselves works as well if you are pressed for time. Try taking 5-10 min to make a “to-do” or better yet a “want-to” list so you can feel good checking things off later. Or write down what you are grateful for, this often makes us feel good & requires very little effort. Breathing techniques can also help to calm the nervous system & boost your mental state, if you even give yourself 5 min to sit and breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose & out for 4 seconds though the nose, the mouth is OK too.
Relationships: When we feel overwhelmed or stressed we often notice our relationships with others can be a bit strained, especially those closest to us. Setting aside some time just for YOU can ease that stress, help you focus on things you are grateful for, improve physical & mental states, as well as assist us to feel more grounded & in control of our own space. Happy in, leads to happy out!
Productivity: Having time to stop & think about your day ahead will help you gain focus & clarity while limiting the stress response that comes from rushing in the mornings. Making a quick “want to-do” list in the morning can help as mentioned. This will get it out of your head & allow you to focus on other areas. The 15-30 min you set aside for yourself in the morning can help you to ‘respond’ instead of ‘react’ to situations later in the day due to a calmer nervous system & more focused mind.
Confidence: Yes, that’s right you will feel better about yourself having taken time for yourself, it’s that simple really. We reward ourselves with dopamine (feelings of happiness) when we’ve accomplished things. So why not start your day that way? Reward yourself for feeling good & taking care of the one person that matters most in this world, YOU! If you don’t look after you, who will?
Side effects of caring for yourself may include: having more energy, patience & ability to help others, being present when needed by children, friends, family, co-workers, mental clarity, focus, improved physical health, motivation, attention, & happiness just to name a few.
“Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a particular situation. Psychologist Albert Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.”
The combination of all of the above will often lead to better dietary choices as well. If you eat out often try using the morning to make a breakfast & lunch instead. Even if you don’t, the positive physical & mental stimulation will often lessen the desire for more sugar based foods & quick fixes but preparation is really helpful here too.
How to get started:
1. Don’t hit snooze, I know it’s hard & I’ve fallen back asleep many times but try counting backward as soon as you hit the alarm…5,4,3,2,1 & launch!
2. Change your first though to a positive one, this is BIG! I know what waking thoughts can be like but try to replace them with simple things like “today is going to be great” “I’m awake” “I feel great” “I’m excited for..” you get the idea.
3. Do not look at your phone for the first 30-60 minutes of the day…it’s doable I promise!! This is YOU time & it does not involve a phone.
4. Stick with it, give yourself time to get adjusted to your new routine & tweak it to make it work. This is an enjoyable part of your day, not a chore so don’t view it as one.
5. Move your body, whether it’s a walk, stretching, yoga or wandering the kitchen making breakfasts & lunches. Aim for 15-30 minutes of dedicated movement each morning. If food prep isn’t your thing in the morning that’s OK, try to do it the night before instead, the benefits are blog post all their own!
6. Get the sunlight in but don’t stare at the sun. Take 2-10 minutes to get natural light into your eyes before any other type, your mind & body will thank you!
7. Drink water in morning to re-hydrate & wake you. Warm lemon water is great for quenching thirst, provides a bit of vitamin C & tastes nice. There is some research to support claims warm lemon water aids in digestion & it may work for some people, no harm in seeing if it works for you.
8. Be flexible, don’t get down on yourself if your morning doesn’t go exactly to plan the first week or even two. You can adjust & change it as often as you need until it works for you. Just be consistent & it will improve with time.
My M-F morning routine as an example for you:
*Note this has changed over the years & I was that person that woke up & ran out the door in the mornings. I use to brag I could go from bed to work in 30 min & that did me no favors I can assure you*
5:35 am wake up…brush teeth, stagger to kitchen & boil kettle for warm lemon water
5:40-6:00 am…Drink lemon water & prep lunches (mostly done the night before, I just need enough time to drink my water so I chop fruit or portion out salads/leftover etc)
6:00-6:45 am…walk dogs, rain or shine (I do skip this if it’s really pouring rain, no guilt either! I enjoy an extra 30 min of sleep & then I do a longer yoga session)
6:50-7:15 am…after returning from my walk I make coffee & do 15 min of yoga & 5 min of meditation, quick mantra of what I’m grateful for to end my practice & put a smile on my face
7:15-7:37 am…wash face, dress, pack lunch, make to go mug of coffee, chat to hubby & race out the door for my 20 min drive to the office…this part still needs some fine tuning but like I said trial & error
I know we don’t all get 2 hours in the day but that’s a choice I make for myself. You can make your own choices & find what works for you!
Additional tips you might try to ease into a morning routine:
Make your bed, so simple & yet effective for setting a good tone in the evening as well
Do some form of exercise while you wait for the kettle to boil or coffee to brew – squats, lifts weights, push ups off the counter, or stretch right there in the kitchen
Wash your face with cold water, this will wake you up & stimulate the nervous system
Get fresh air before you start your day, even just putting your face out a window for a minute or two; plus you may get the morning light at the same time
Play with a pet if you have one, the joy will definitely help set the tone
If you are lucky enough to live in a good climate try stepping outside barefoot & grounding to start the day
Health doesn’t have to be hard & small daily changes can lead to big results. It just takes one step to get started so take yours & if you need help know it’s out there for you.