A morning routine falls into the category of things that are ‘easier said than done’. It's all well and good to plan to do A, B and C upon waking, but with the allure of a comfy bed and a snooze button, it can be a lot harder to actually execute.
As someone who lives with anxiety, depression and ADHD, routine is hard to come by. But when it does, the positive benefits are undeniable. Prioritising my mental and physical health every morning was a foreign concept to me not too long ago, but it is now the backbone of my self-care practice. Ultimately, I am happier, more energised and find it easier to manage my mental health.
Don't just take my word for it; research shows that getting over the hurdle of committing to a morning ritual is worth the reward, as morning people report greater levels of happiness than night owls. A consistent morning routine has science-backed long and short-term benefits, which all add up to a more productive, successful and happy life.
What are the benefits of a morning routine?
Preparing yourself for the rest of the day: Starting your day with a sense of organisation and calm will carry throughout your day. A morning routine will ensure you are in the right mind frame to tackle whatever the day throws at you.
Increases your feelings of control: Making time in your morning routine to breathe and plan will help you feel in control no matter how busy your days gets.
Lowers your stress: Creating a sense of calm and control can also lower stress levels. A morning routine will also give you the tools to tackle stress when it comes your way, whether through mindfulness or endorphins released by your morning workout.
Increases your energy: The act of having a morning routine itself can boost your energy, by going full steam ahead instead of meandering into your day. You can increase the effects on energy even further by including a workout, meditation or a well-balanced breakfast in your schedule.
A pathway to developing healthy habits: Your morning routine is a gateway to developing healthy habits. Some of our worst habits rear their ugly heads in the morning — skipping breakfast or exercise, endless scrolling on social media or snoozing through the morning all together. Including a healthy habit in your morning routine will help those habits carry over into other areas of your life.
Increases your productivity: Taking some time in your morning to schedule will help you better understand what you need to achieve that day and ultimately boost productivity levels. Starting your day with immediate action will also set an energetic tone for the rest of the day.
Gives you a confidence boost: Committing to a morning routine is an act of self-care. Allocating time in a day to love and care for yourself is a sure-fire to way to boost your self-esteem. The calm that comes with a morning routine will also help you feel more confident tackling everything that lies ahead.
Reduces your forgetfulness: A well-oiled morning routine can boost your memory. Forgetfulness is often a sign of rushing and unpreparedness, which your allocated time for quiet planning will be sure to remedy.
How to create the routine that's right for you
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for a morning routine — they can be as long, short, simple or complicated as you like. However, some elements will set you up to get the most out of your day. Choosing just one or two of them will have you reaping the benefits in no time.
1. Wake up at the same time every day
Consistency is key when creating your morning routine. Waking up at the same time every day is the first step to setting aside time for your morning rituals. A consistent wake-up time also has excellent biological benefits. The regulation of sleep hormones that comes with going to sleep and waking up at the same time will help you get better quality sleep and make it easier to get up each morning.
Tips: Position your alarm clock or phone on the other side of the room so you are forced to get out of bed to turn it off. Even better, you won't waste the first 20 minutes of your day on Instagram.
2. Get hydrated
Our bodies need to rehydrate after a long night of fasting. Water is obviously essential to our bodies' functioning, so topping up H2O levels after a long night's sleep allows you to be on the top of your game, mentally and physically.
Tip: Keep a water bottle next to your bed, so it is the first thing you see and do upon waking.
This ancient practice, which was once considered 'new age', is backed by some rather compelling science. Studies show that meditation can change the structure of your brain, increasing the ability to inhibit thoughts and regulate emotion — in other words: deal with life a little bit better. Meditation might seem daunting and foreign to many, but the vast amounts of apps mean every person can find a way to access mediation in a way they feel comfortable with.
Tip: You don't have to start with an hour of perfect practice, just a couple of minutes of quiet reflection each morning will make a positive difference to your day.
4. Read something
Fill the social media hole in your morning with a good book. Reading uses a number of brain functions, as opposed to passively scrolling through social media. Studies have shown that reading can lead to less stress, better memory, and better brain function — essentially a workout for your mind. You will be in good company too, as many of the most successful people in the world pick up a book to start every day.
Tip: Take your book or newspaper out of the bedroom to avoid the temptation of climbing back underneath the covers for a few chapters.
There is no 'best' time to exercise but getting it out of the way first thing in the morning will pave the way for an energised, focused day — not to mention a brand-new healthy habit. The benefits of exercise itself are endless, but morning exercise has been linked to lower the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. Whether it's a morning jog or a bodyweight routine, adding exercise to your morning routine might be the most challenging habit to introduce, but it arguably offers the most rewards.
Tip: Ease yourself into early morning exercise by moving your body for a quick 10-15 minutes.
6. Nourish your body
Give yourself the energy to take on whatever activities lay ahead by eating a nutritious breakfast. It's a great opportunity to pack some veggies and whole grains into your diet, the latter giving you long-lasting energy.
Tip: Start the day with something you enjoy eating and cooking. If you lack kitchen skills, high fibre cereal, yoghurt and fruit is a quick, delicious option.
7. Do something fun
The word routine can have boring connotations, but no one said your morning routine couldn't be fun. Set aside time in your morning do something you enjoy—whether it's an artistic pursuit, dancing to your favourite song or chatting to a friend on the phone. You'll find yourself excited to get your day started and springing out of bed in no time.
Tip: If nothing springs to mind when thinking of fun morning activities, it might be the perfect time to start a new hobby.
Maintaining a habit is the hardest part. Give yourself the best chance of success by removing barriers. Put your phone on the other side of the room, recruit a walking buddy to keep you accountable, and spend some time before bed planning the following day so you can jump right in.
Tip: Don't beat yourself up if it takes a while for your new habits to stick. Some of them might not — and that's ok. After all, creating a morning routine is an act of self-care, not punishment.
For more information on improving mental health, read our 10 easy ways to boost self-esteem at Averee now.