Many top motivational speakers and world-famous coaches of our time talk about and emphasise the importance of a proper, focused morning routine.
Of course, everyone has some kind of morning routine — you get up, make your bed (or not!), clean your teeth, make a cup of coffee, have breakfast — this is a morning routine.
But what we’re talking about here, is an intentional morning routine that sets you up for a more productive day, a higher level of personal excellence, more energy, a positive outlook and greater level of stress resilience.
I can tell you from personal experience and from the work I do with my clients, that a good morning routine can be a total game-changer in your life. It’s definitely not something to be underestimated.
So why are mornings so important?
Basically, the way you start your day, sets the tone for the rest of your day.
So, if you start off rushing and stressed or anxious, it’s highly likely that the rest of your day will continue that way.
And this is one of the keys to an intentional morning routine — It means that you set the tone for your day rather than starting off by reacting to what life throws at you.
If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your emails and/or look at social media or read/watch the news, then you are priming yourself into a reactive state. Which means you’re essentially on defense mode and your moods are being dictated by what’s going on outside of you.
Whereas, if you wake up and you take some time for yourself before you open yourself up to rest of the world, you’ll create a stronger internal locus of control, which means that you’ll feel more empowered and you’re therefore less likely to reinforce anxious and negative patterns of thinking.
Tony Robbins says how he wasn’t ‘wired for positivity’ due to his traumatic childhood, so he purposely and religiously sticks to his morning routine because it primes him for positivity and gets him in, what he refers to as, a ‘peak state’.
You may notice that you’re more stressed or anxious in the mornings… That’s because our stress hormones are higher first thing in the morning in order to wake us up, also we’ve fasted all night and so blood sugar levels are low when we first wake up and, in some people, this can also cause anxiety until we eat something.
So, a good morning routine can also soothe your morning anxiety and get you in place for the rest of the day.
Here are 7 key practices to build into your morning routine:
- Meditation – If you already have a preferred style of meditation then commit to a daily morning practice soon after waking. Otherwise find a style that works for you – breath awareness, body-scan, mindfulness, kundalini, transcendental, Zen, loving-kindness or one of the many sound frequency mediations you can find for free online. At the very least, regular meditation will make you feel calmer, more grounded and centered. You’ll know when you’ve hit the sweet spot with what works for you because you’ll start to crave it!
- Journaling – There are many ways you can use a journal. You can simply jot down your thoughts and feelings on whatever comes to mind, some refer to this as ‘brain-dumping’. You can also be more specific, for example you could set your intentions for the day or write out a gratitude list. Nowadays there are so many lovely journals on the market, some of which have prompts for what to write down. Journaling has been shown to help with mental health because it can help you understand your thoughts and feelings more clearly, which can then help you gain control of your emotions. There is something incredibly powerful in getting your thoughts and feeling out of you and on to paper.
- Exercise – We all know that exercise boosts the feel-good hormones, yet you may feel that morning exercise isn’t possible due to your hectic schedule. However, just 10 minutes of exercise or even simple stretching still works wonders. Exercise is often a mindful practice, therefore getting you out of your head and in to your body. We also use up some of those early morning stress hormones and shift energy and tension in the body. Psychologically, even the smallest amount of exercise will boost your mood. So, whether it’s a 1-hour workout or 10minutes of simple stretching, you’ll find that it does wonders for you mood, energy and your body.
- Reading – When we’re feeling stressed our brain is wired to look for threats, which therefore means we’re more likely to look for the negatives in life. However, if you start your day either reading or listening to something positive and uplifting you will cut through the negativity bias and condition your brain to start thinking of possibilities rather than lack. You can either set-aside time in the morning to read 10-20minutes of something uplifting and motivational or listen to an inspirational podcast or audio-book whilst getting ready. If you do this every day, you can and will change the lens through which you see the world.
- Prayer – Whether it be a specific religious practice or your own personal ritual, prayer will have much the same effect as the previous suggestion – you are priming your mind for positivity, faith, trust, love, hope and possibilities.
- Gratitude – It’s a fact that you cannot feel fear at the same time as feeling gratitude – try it and you’ll see that it’s true! For this reason, many people recommend that you focus on gratitude first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night. Again, this wires your mind for positivity and in turn calms the nervous system, therefore alleviating anxiety and stress. A simple way to do this would be to think of 5 things you’re truly grateful for every morning as soon as you wake up. Writing these things down makes this practice even more powerful.
You ideally want to take 3 of these and do them well with focused attention every single morning, however if that seems a little too much for you then start with one and keep it up for 30 days.
After 30 days is up, look back and take stock as to what you notice – how have things changed for you, do you generally feel better?
One last tip, if you feel that you don’t have the time – you need to make time, but you can be sure that the benefits will more than outweigh the fact you have to set your alarm a little earlier!