My mornings used to be chaos. Like a sloth, I’d hit the snooze button on my alarm again and again. Then at the last minute, I’d roll out of bed and start a frantic rush to work. I did this for many years until I designed and implemented a regimen.
Morning routines are fashionable these days. It’s not just a fad though – many high achieving leaders and creative people from history had similar practices as well. While the actual activities might change according to one’s unique personality or situation, everyone could benefit from some wellness habits to start the day.
By setting intent when the sun is young, you control the day rather than the day controlling you. The morning is often the time you have the most energy, so keeping that for yourself is great. By adopting a regular practice, you can boost happiness, reduce stress levels, increase productivity and center yourself.
Don’t forget the domino effect. When I rushed my mornings, I’d show up to work grumpy. Then I’d get an extra-large ice coffee from Dunkin with a large dollop of heavy cream and Splenda, making the situation worse. I was not setting myself up for success.
So does that mean you have to be like a Zen Buddhist monk, wake up at the crack of dawn every day and eat only fruit? Absolutely not – think of it as a menu you pick from. Just try things, and if you “fail” it just means it didn’t work out for you. Here are some activity ideas:
1. Set goals
Many people get lost in email or admin tasks as soon as they get to work. The need to feel busy makes them lose track of the big picture.
One great technique is to take three post-it notes and write your three big goals of the day. Three is a manageable number and you’ll be staring at the post-it notes throughout the day. There will be a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you peel each one off your desk.
To keep your brain active, you have to constantly feed it stimulating food. Many people read the newspaper first thing in the morning. But there are many other options. Take a fiction book – even if you only read 10 minutes a day, that’s 60 hours a year. That surely beats mindlessly scrolling social media.
3. Express gratitude
Many psychology studies have discovered numerous health benefits of gratitude. It improves our friend and family relationships, our physical and emotional health and our sleep. You can achieve this in multiple ways. You can just pause for a moment and think of all the things you are grateful for. Some people like to have a journal and write down a list of 3-5 things they’re thankful for. Do what works for you.
Exercise is hard to do when you are balancing work and family life. Often it’s the item that gets put off to tomorrow repeatedly and never gets done.
Working out at the beginning of the day prevents you from putting it off. But you will also get the benefit of endorphins, which will put you in a good mood. It will also help you wake up. So think about going for a run, hike or a yoga session.
5. Quality breakfast.
Instead of running out the door with a breakfast bar, you can get real food. Think of something nutritious and filling such as greek yogurt with granola or oatmeal with strawberries.
6. Make your bed.
Former US Admiral McRaven, who served 37 years as a Navy SEAL, once famously said in a university commencement: “If you want to make a difference in the world, start by making your bed.”
Why make your bed? 59% of Americans don’t feel the need to. McRaven wrote in his book that it gets you on the right track of achieving things, and things snowball from there.
If you’re having trouble, try guided meditation videos on YouTube. Or apps for your phone. Your mindfulness practice can start with as little as 5 minutes and you can increase it from there. The health benefits of meditation – from stress reduction to enhanced self-awareness, are well documented.
8. Be in nature
Weather permitting, consider spending some time in nature. It’s a great way to refresh your senses. According to a study in Finland, spending just 15 minutes in nature made people feel psychologically restored. Multiple studies have linked nature walks with improved mental health.
The benefits of journaling are multifaceted. You can make long term plans, it’s a form of creative expression and it’s very therapeutic to put your thoughts to paper. You can buy an old fashioned notebook or set up a blog online and set it to private.
Morning routines are awesome. Get one today and start the day on the right foot.