Developing a winning morning routine
We all know them, bright eyed and energetic, bubbly even. Ready to take on the day from the word go, morning people. No matter your opinion of these un-caffeinated energizer bunnies, studies have demonstrated that people who establish a morning routine are more productive and efficient throughout the day.
A 2012 study from the National Institute of Health found that, “Morning type younger and older adults are higher in positive affect.” In other words, “larks” or morning people, as opposed to “owls” or night people, are found to be more positive and demonstrate more stable personalities. Like it or not, getting up a little earlier with a set routine is the life hack you’ve been missing out on.
In our lives we are constantly bombarded with responsibilities and events seemingly out of our control. Traffic, an overbearing boss, bills and our crappy fantasy line-up all conspire to drag us down. In these conditions, it is too easy to get caught in a reactive spiral in which we feel at the mercy of things happening around us leading to stress and that overwhelmed feeling. It is important then to be proactive rather than reactive. Dictate the course of your day and the way in which you interpret outside events; be the driver, not the passenger.
A solid morning routine is an excellent way to establish a precedent for proactive behavior that will last for the whole day. Repeat, how you start your day will set the tone for the rest of your waking hours. Does rolling out of bed after hitting the snooze button three times and rushing through a shower and barely getting out the door dressed while running five minutes late to work sound like someone ready take on the day? It’s amazing what waking up even thirty minutes earlier with a routine will do for you’re whole day.
The activities of the day wear away at your will power causing mental fatigue. Think of your will power like your life meter in a video game. Each time you have to force yourself to make a good choice your meter drops a little lower and when it gets low enough you no longer have the power to resist that donut at work or force yourself to go to the gym when you’re tired. A morning routine is a great way to combat this mental fatigue. Routines require little or no will power to complete and establish
Your morning routine should be a microcosm of the three aspects of your life, the physical, the mental and the emotional / spiritual. You must to attend to all three for a balanced and healthy life. For this reason, you morning routine should incorporate some type of activity, even only a few minutes long, attending to each dynamic.
- Stretch or foam roll – Loosen up those stiff muscles and get the blood flowing early. RomWod is a great quick and guided option that includes counted breathing that can double as meditation.
- Exercise – boost your metabolism and brainpower for the day and get the blood flowing with a quick workout or even just a lap around the block. Try to move for at least 10 minutes.
- Feed – grab some healthy calories to boost performance and brain function for the day. Try throwing some MCT oil into your morning java for some brain boosting fats
- Mental Clarity – your brain is uncluttered by the day’s stressors first thing in the morning so take advantage by diving into some creative work like writing
- Create a to do list – Set the events of the day in order and take control by making a to do list for the day
- Read – This is a great time to read for pleasure or for work as your brain is fresh and open to process new ideas
- Make your bed / clean your room – These simple acts power up your left brain getting your mentally organized for the day as well as providing a quick boost of accomplishment to set you off on a positive note (Navy Seal shares why to make your bed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgzLzbd-zT4)
- Visualize – Do some visualization to plan out your day or upcoming activities. Research indicates that a mental walk through decreases stress in real time and can lead to improved performance due to the mind-body connection
Spiritual / Emotional:
- Meditate – 5 minutes per day of meditation can literally change your brain chemistry, relieving stress and leaving you feeling more positive and focused
- Morning pages or Journaling – Take 5-10 minutes to free write whatever pops into your head. This can be a way to unload any emotional stress from the day before or just a way to organize your thoughts for the day.
- Get on social media or email. —This disorganization early in the morning will set a poor tone for the day
- Engage in stressful activities – try to avoid confrontation or tasks that stress you out first thing in the morning
The Night before:
Despite the short burst of our early twenties, you can’t burn the candle from both ends, so getting up a littler earlier means you’ll need to get to bed sooner the night before. Plan backwards from your scheduled wakeup at least the recommend 8 hours and try to start unwinding an hour before then.
- Make a to do list for the next day
- Avoid caffeine and sugar
- Avoid stressful interactions or exercise in the hours before sleep
- Unplug from electronics like phones and tablets at least an hour before bed. Try a book instead or some meditation to unwind
How to get started: Forming new habits can be tough, but stay disciplined until your routine becomes automatic. Sticking with a new behavior for roughly 30 days will turn it into a habit, so stay the course for at least a month before moving on. If even a little change is tough then try habit stacking. Habit stacking is a strategy in which you attach a new behavior to an existing habit. You already brush your teeth every morning (I hope) so why not meditate for 5 minutes beforehand, chunking the new behavior with the exiting teeth brushing habit.
6:00 – Wake-up
-Chug a glass of water
-Turn on Coffee
-Pull together previously prepped meals for the day
6:10 – Foam roll
6:30 – Static Stretch while reading (sometimes RomWod)
6:50 – 5 minutes meditate
6:55 – 5 minutes free-write
7:00 – Pack clothes and food for the day
7:10 – Shower / Brush Teeth, etc.
7:30 – Leave for work / listen to podcast during commute
7:50 – Arrive at work / eat breakfast
*Some variations I will throw in from time to time are taking a walk around the block first thing when I wake up, or if I choose to work out before work I will stick to the basics of water and coffee with a quick bite on the way to the gym and then save mobility and a full meal for after.
**I try to end my night the way I start my morning by spending some time doing mobility work and then reading rather than watching TV to avoid the melatonin blunting effect of electronic screens. I shoot for at least 8 hours of sleep, so my goal is to be in bed by 9/9:30.
Like any change it will be tough to get into a routine at first, but give a new morning schedule a try for at least a week or even better for a month and notice the changes it brings. Change around the order and selection of activities to see what works best for you, and remember that you’re not stuck to the same thing everyday. Switch things up now and then to keep it interesting!
Sources: Check out these additional resources for other examples of popular morning routines.