How do you wake up in the morning? Do you hit the snooze a few times, instantly look at your phone, and shuffle around getting ready, breakfast (maybe?) and hustle in a frazzle to get the kids, the dog, yourself all out the door in the morning? We all have our routines, for better or for worse, and you’ve probably heard how a good morning routine can really set up your day for success.
That’s because it is true. And even if your life is a chaotic swirl of kids and pets under the haze of super business you can make positive changes.
In the morning humans are naturally designed to be more active. Cortisol, a natural hormone in our bodies, rises as the sun does – to wake us up and get us moving into our day. Many people who report feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and burnout also report feeling sluggish and rushed in the morning. They hit the snooze, they skip breakfast or eat drive through fast food on the go, they rely on coffee to power through the morning.
A look at the yin yang symbol. It is a representation of the natural rising of energy in our bodies. The top (Zenith) of the symbol represents noon time, the bottom (Nadar) is midnight. The color black is our yin energy (quiet, resting and relaxing energy) and yang (action and movement energy) is white. At noon we are at our highest peaks of energy. The sun is at its highest, our bodies are also filled with the most energy. But in the morning that energy is still rising, we still have a lot of yin energy in us. As the yang energy rises we need to use it carefully so as not to burn out. A gradual calm morning where you slowly prepare your mind and body for the day, instead of a rapid fire rushing around, is the best use of our bodies natural energy.
Here are some ideas to develop a morning routine that will set your day up for success.
Give yourself more time
If you are the kind of person who hits the snooze button a few times then jumps out of bed and races off to work – stop. Figure out a way to give yourself more time in the morning and give it to yourself. Can you try going to sleep earlier? Can you put the alarm clock on the other side of your bedroom so you have to get up when it rings? You need time to mentally and physically prepare yourself for your day.
Yes, it is the most important meal of the day. Yes, it is best to not skip breakfast and wait until you are starving at 10:30 and eat something sugary at your desk. This triggers your body to continue pumping out cortisol, wasting physical resources, and eventually leading to feeling much more reactive to stress. I don’t think I need to repeat all the other reasons to eat breakfast. I’m just going to remind you again. Eat breakfast.
Get your mind settled
Call it meditation, or mindfulness or setting an intention, the point is to calm your mind and focus on yourself and your intention of the day. What do you need to do? What do you want to do? How are you going to do it? Check out some different breath exercises and test out starting your morning with 10-20 minutes of calm, breath work.
Not all of us will run 5 miles before going to work (but if you do, awesome!) Find something you like to do and do it. Basic stretching, walking the dog, spinning around the block on your bike. You’ll feel more refreshed and focused the rest of the day if you add some movement in the morning.
Wait to check email
When you check your email first thing, work is now interfering with your personal time. Work encroaches on our personal lives more as we as a culture embrace technology. Make a commitment to not check work email and messages until your work day starts, you need to separate at home time and work time.
Especially if you struggle with anxiety, stress and/or depression practicing gratitude is a way to feel more connected with the world. This exercise is intended to foster a sense of gratitude, called Love and Kindness Mindfulness. By focusing our attention outwards beyond ourselves we foster a feeling of compassion and kindness that mentally prepares us to be our best selves throughout the day.
Start by thinking of a few things you are grateful for that are close to you, your spouse, your dog, indoor plumbing, chocolate. Focus on these people/things and imagine sending them love and kindness.
Then think of those farther away from you, the nice waiter at the restaurant, the person who let you go first in line, the guy who let you merge into traffic and send them love and kindness.
Then take it even further away to maybe a famous person you admire, the unknown person who keeps your favorite park clean, the unknown people who worked for a cause you support. Send them love and kindness.
Lastly think of yourself. Send yourself love and kindness.
People who feel more connected and practice gratitude regularly report feeling less depressed and anxious. This exercise is even taught with great success in mental health facilities for those who have severe depression.
An affirmation is a short positive phrase that a person says to calm and center yourself to set a positive intention. Athletes often have affirmations when competition or training gets tough. It is a way to mentally focus yourself on the positive and keep going. Affirmations can be used by everyone. Some examples are:
“I am enough.”
“I am strong and capable.”
“I am worthy of love.”
Keep your affirmation positive. Avoid saying “I’m not weak” or using a negative. Mental health research has shown the brain responds differently to negative phrasing in an affirmation,
If you are having a hard time writing an affirmation, just Google it! The internet is full of positive affirmations and it’s totally fine to use someone else’s and make it your own!
Remember the morning routine is all about setting yourself up for the best day possible. Take advantage of your bodies natural rise in yang energy. Like the sun you are not shining at your brightest until noon, take time to build up to that high point in the sky. By preparing yourself mentally and physically you can walk into your day with confidence and shine all day long.