The first few moments of the morning can really set the tone for your whole day... and they can have a huge impact on how healthy, productive, and even how happy we are.
I've been making some adjustments to my morning routine in the hopes of starting my day "bright-eyed and bushy tailed" while ensuring I actually put first things, first. I've settled into a routine that makes me feel great, keeps me out of the experience self-care guilt, and I'm about to share it with you!
I know for me personally, I am an "Obliger" as per Gretchen Ruben's book The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) (<< a highly recommended read BTW!). This means that it is very easy for me to neglect my personal goals (i.e. self-care) in an effort to meet others expectations. In the mornings, this looks like blasting through my morning in a rush because I've caused myself to be late by checking/responding to emails or social media on my phone instead of using my time to get the day started on the right foot. It's so easy to do this! I've found that having a morning routine in place helps me avoid that trap and allow me to start my day in the right headspace and not feeling rushed.
In an effort to build the best routine, I've researched how others have done it over the years. I found inspiration in all sorts of practices from yogis to business tycoons. At one point I tried to do ALL of them - that morning took like 4 hours! Totally not feasible on a daily basis.
What I've learned is that you have to find something that works for you... consider how your brain works, what suits your body, and of course, adjust for your family commitments. AND for goodness sake, treat it all like an EXPERIMENT! Your perfect morning routine is about knowing yourself and the things that help you start your day on the best foot possible. That takes some trial and error.
For your consideration, here are some of the top morning habits touted by successful people:
As a young adult, I would have totally balked at this one. That said, if you can get to bed a little earlier and wake up a little earlier (even just 30 minutes!) it can make a huge impact on your day. I admit when I first started doing this, I just took the extra 30 minutes to open a window for fresh air and then snuggled back in bed to luxuriate. Over time, I've added other routines and practices beyond crawling back under the covers... but I think the point is that when you wake up a few minutes early, you get to have more control over the beginning of your day, rather than being a frenetic rush to begin "a day of drudgery" at 9am. It's strange, but that little bit of extra control can really make a difference to your mindset and your happiness! Who doesn't want to feel like they have more control?
Overnight our bodies are slowly losing water and we breath and sweat through sleep. Starting the morning with hydrating yourself well can really make a difference in how your body functions throughout the day. Good hydration levels lead to better nerve and muscle function, brain function, daily detoxification pathways, and of course better skin too. One of the best benefits of being hydrated is gives you better energy throughout the day as well. If you're not sure how much water you need to be drinking throughout the day, see this post.
Everyone knows how good a simple morning stretch can feel! You body was meant to move, especially first thing in the morning after a long sleep, it can really get your system energized and booted up efficiently for the day. Morning movement can look like just about anything you enjoy - from a morning walk around the neighbourhood with the dog, to a gentle yoga session to a full blown workout. If you get your exercise out of the way first thing, even if its only 10 minutes in your home, it can get your day started on the right foot. If you're not currently doing any movement in the morning, start slow. A leisurely walk for 10 minutes in the fresh air can be enough to wake you up and give your body the kickstart to get your juices flowing.
I like to start and end my day by listing 5 things I am grateful for. The deliberate practice of gratitude has been shown in positive psychology research to be one of the most healing emotions we can trigger in our bodies and minds. To get the benefit of it is really easy... you just set your mind to finding something that you are grateful for and focus on it until it makes you smile a bit. Regardless of whether you think life is going well or not, you can always trigger gratitude with a little intention.
This practice is much like gratitude, in that it is about mental health and wellness. But the practice is quite different. People always think that meditation is about stopping your thoughts and achieving a monk-like zen state of peace, or you've failed. Or they think that it's some kind of foreign non-christian religious practice. That's not right at all! First, you cannot stop your mind from thinking any more than you can stop your heart from beating. So stop trying. The idea with meditation is simply to find a way to slow down your thoughts. There are all kinds of techniques of meditation, and I encourage you to find one that suits you. I've sampled dozens of kinds, some work for me, some don't... and I don't usually stick to the same technique every time. If you'd like to know more about meditation, and a technique to try, read this post.
Many people swear by doing it first thing in the morning during the quiet hours. Personally, after experimenting with it, I find meditation works the best for me right after lunch, before I start my afternoon's work. The key is to try it.
Humans are social creatures. Needing meaningful relationships with others is hardwired into our DNA. In putting first things first, ensuring you've connected with your family and loved ones in some way shape or form, are baby steps that lead to longer term big impact. It can be as simple as a hug or a text message, or it can be more involved like making a healthy breakfast and sharing it together. This practice is allowed to be flexible...
I admit, that as an individual with a tendencies for over-achieving and focussing on getting tasks done, I sometimes miss the nuances of this. (Don't judge me, but YES, I do put connecting with family on my to-do list. It's simply to ensure that I make time for it and keep it on the front burner of my mind. I've learned it's just how I function best, and that's okay.) My personal way of doing this is to put a smile on someone's face each morning.
Whether you keep an agenda, a to-do list, or have a more deliberate process, knowing what your schedule and goals are for the day make a huge difference in how successful and in control you feel. When you make a plan for the day, keep it flexible, but know at the beginning of the day what you deem is "a successful day" can really make a difference in actually making progress towards your key goals, as well as ensure you don't over-commit yourself. This practice in particular has helped me to say NO to things that might side-line my day and throw me into overwhelm.
Before I share my current morning routine, please understand I am not saying this routine is the healthiest morning routine - or that you should mirror it as is!
For me, I'm so very grateful to have 1-2 hours, mostly to myself, in the morning to make this happen. I also find that, for me, putting the important pieces of my self-care first thing means that they don't get "pushed off" and ultimately forgotten. Also, my morning routine has changed over time. It did not always look like this, and it will not look like this forever.
My current morning routine looks like this:
Notice two things...
So... what is YOUR morning routine? Did you create it thoughtfully or is it total chaos? Is it working for you?
As always, I hope this information has helped/served you in some way. Any questions can be left in the comments section down below this post.
Dr. Laura Nurse, BBA, ND
PS. If you are looking for some guidance on creating your own morning routine, check out this book by Hal Elrod. I recommend it to new patients all the time: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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