Our daily morning routines and how we spend the morning often sets the tone for the rest of our day. We all know those days where we’re rushing out the door and everything seems to go wrong, and often this is how the rest of the day turns out too.
I read that as an adult, we have around 25,000 mornings, which actually isn’t that many when you really think about it. Luckily, with a bit of careful planning and some consideration, we can set up morning routines and rituals to allow for our days to run as smoothly as possible.
One thing I’m not going to include in this list is early rising. While previous notions may have been that in order to have a productive day you need to rise at the crack of dawn, what is now showing to be more important is how you start your morning. Of course, if you have to be somewhere by a certain time then it’s important to wake up appropriately to not be rushing (and follow the points below)… and there’s definitely nothing wrong with starting your day earlier. As with anything health or lifestyle based, I always believe that it’s vital to find what works best for you!
1. Plan your day the night before
The first step for this is to know how to effectively manage your time and energy. I plan my days around when I work the best for each task. For example, I’m most creative and focused in the morning and so I’ll schedule in any writing or similar tasks in the morning and then worry about emails and “easier” tasks later in the day when my energy isn’t the same. While I’m lucky enough to be able to plan out most of my day for when I work the best, for those in offices you can still hopefully plan your work day depending on your energy and focus levels too. In general, it’s also a great idea to schedule your hardest tasks first thing so you can simply get them done and then move on with your day.
Once you have a general idea about how to optimise your day, you can then plan it out depending on your current tasks and priorities. When I am extra busy, I like to plan out each task for the day on a notepad app on my phone, breaking down each aspect of the day (sometimes I’ll even include eating times) and everything I want to achieve. I find that creating this structure means I get more done, as I simply work through the list rather than wondering what to focus on next. Even when I don’t physically write this down, I’ll still mentally plan out my day, however I’ve found that physically writing lists is more effective and also helps me to stop overthinking about what I need to do.
If you’re short on time on the morning it’s also ideal to physically prepare for your morning. Pack your bags with anything you may need (gym gear, documents, supplements), plan and lay out your outfit for the day, even set out your breakfast plate and cutlery – anything you can do the night before to save time.
2. Get a good night’s sleep
Once again, a carefully planned night before is so important for how your next morning starts. As someone who has a medically diagnosed sleep disorder, I fully appreciate how this point is easier said than done, however there are things you can control to try and get the best possible nights sleep:
- Set and stick to a good sleep routine, so your body knows when it’s time to start winding down
- Avoid caffeine and stimulants in the afternoon
- Avoid blue light at night, which can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythms and suppress your body’s production of melatonin, by staying away from bright screens or using a blue light filter on your phone if it has one.
- Supplement with magnesium, which among various other benefits helps muscles to relax, reduces stress and assists with GABA levels (a neurotransmitter which promotes sleep).
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible and at a cool temperature.
3. Just breathe
One of the first things I do when I wake up? I breathe! Seems pretty obvious, what I mean are deep, slow breaths and not the usual shallow breathing we do. Deep breathing can help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
Our autonomic nervous system controls our bodily functions which are not consciously controlled, such as heart rate, breathing and digestion, and is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system. The SNS basically prepares the body for a stress response and “ and stimulates the body’s fight or flight response. The PNS has more of an inhibiting role, and controls more of our everyday functions such as “rest and digest” and “feed and breed”.
While you may think that it seems ideal to stimulate our SNS first thing in the morning to get us up and going, aiming to activate our PNS instead leads to a healthier and calmer state, as well as lowering stress hormones and blood pressure. Our PNS helps to stimulate the digestive tract, absorb nutrients and also activate our vagus nerve (a nerve which runs through our body and is also responsible for a number of bodily functions).
So basically, it helps our body to gently start and prepare for the day, instead of starting of in a stressed and rushed state.
4. Make your bed
Admiral William McRaven backs this point so much that he actually wrote a book titled “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Day”.
Why? It’s a simple task you can achieve which also sets you up for accomplishing all of your other ones prepared for the day.
“The idea of making the bed is it’s the same sense of discipline. It’s the same sense that you’re going to get up and do something, but it’s an easy task to undertake. You roll out of bed, you just put your bed, you make it straight. Again, you get it right, too. It’s not just about kind of throwing the covers over the pillow. It’s about making your bed right and walking away and going, “OK, that’s good. That looks good. I’m, as simple as it sounds, I’m proud of this little task I did.”
We lose bodily fluids overnight, mainly from breathing, and so it’s important to re-hydrate once again in the morning. Dehydration can also cause lethargy, so it’s a vital step for also starting the day feeling energised and refreshed.
I tend to cycle my various first morning drinks, having previously started with plain lemon water, with apple cider vinegar or with the Aubrey Marcus’ breakfast cocktail he mentions in his book Own the Day (I’m a huge fan of his FYI – check him out if you don’t already know him) which is a basic rehydration drink of warm water, fresh lemon juice and Himalayan salt. Currently, it’s a blend of pure homemade celery juice, as promoted by Anthony Williams aka Medical Medium (another person definitely worth checking out!)
6. Practice gratitude, meditation or mindfulness
How you mentally start your day is just as important. Practising meditation, gratitude or mindfulness (or all three) are all ideal ways to shift your thinking into a positive mindset. Even if you are rushed for time, this is still something you can add into your morning. I like to practice gratitude in the shower each morning, simply thinking of three things in my life that I’m grateful for.
Starting your day with a purpose and the right mood will help to set the tone for both a happy and productive day.
7. Freshen up
Two things which I find vital for waking me up – freshening up my body with cold showers and also getting fresh air.
I’ve just recently started optimising my morning shower routine even further by making it a cold one which now only fully wakes me up, but also has a range of other health benefits (a longer post on cold therapy to come soon).
Fresh air is also important for waking up and energising your body, and you can also combine this with some more deep breathing!
Whether you have time to exercise fully in the morning, or even just add in a few stretches, movement is important for waking your body up for the day. While my training sessions work best for me in the afternoon, my favourite morning movement is either cardio along the river or simply walking my dog!
9. Get some light
Getting sunlight in the morning helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and signal that it’s time to wake up! Sunlight helps the body to produce serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin later in the day (for sleep), as well as cortisol. While cortisol (“stress” hormone) may often be seen in a negative way, it plays a vital role in waking us up, and only becomes problematic when it’s unbalanced and out of control.
I like to maximise my morning time even further, by often combining the points above. I often re-hydrate first thing while getting fresh air and light on the balcony, and then also getting more light while also moving my body and walking Monty (or myself)
10. Fuel your body
Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, and the most important factor here is what you eat. A breakfast high in protein and fats is ideal for starting your day the right way as it helps to balance fasting blood glucose levels and provide a sustained blood sugar increase (as opposed to a blood sugar spike and then crash from high carb and sugar breakfasts), keep you satisfied and fuller for long, provide consistent and even energy flow and help to avoid cravings.
So that’s it. 10 simple, yet effective ways you can use to create a morning routine that sets you up for success for the whole day!
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you”
– Jim Rohn
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