We have all heard about the importance of starting each morning in a way that leaves you feeling awake, motivated, and inspired to take on the day.
Some people do this by waking up at 4am to get an early workout in. Others, who are slightly less ambitious, might try to just set their alarms 5-10 minutes earlier just to alleviate that rushed feeling in the morning.
No matter how someone might schedule their mornings, we can all appreciate that those first few minutes to hours are, in fact, very important to framing our mindsets for the day ahead.
I have struggled since high school with having a “proper” morning routine. It has been almost a decade since my high school graduation and I still have yet to crack the code to a “successful” morning.
This isn’t for a lack of trying, although I’m sure I could try harder.
In my personal experience, I have noticed that if I get less than 7-8 hours of sleep, I feel borderline ill when I wake up. My nose gets stuffy and I find myself drifting at various points throughout the day, particularly if I happen to eat a large meal for lunch and follow it up with sitting for a prolonged period in a meeting or at my desk
There’s also the irrefutable fact that no one likes being woken up. This is especially the case when what is waking you up is a very annoying and stress inducing alarm. I’m sure they make them that way to purposefully annoy you into getting up, but it also puts me in a bit of a bad mood from the start.
I also, for whatever reason, have difficulty falling asleep before midnight. It is like my mind became set somewhere along the way that if I sleep before midnight I’ll somehow miss out on important time.
With all of this being said, I still appreciate the need for a solid morning routine. This is why, despite snoozing every alarm, I still fight the good fight.
I know I am not alone in feeling anxiety and almost dread in the morning. Sprinkle in some last minute rushing around because you overestimated your time management skills, and mornings become one of the worst parts of the day.
This is not an ideal way to begin your daily existence in this world. Especially if you have to deal with a long commute followed by work that may not be the most exciting thing to you.
Instead of just complaining and putting up with this way of life, we should all get our acts together and do something about it. I’m not talking about handling the existential crisis most of us seem to go through at one point or another (that’s for another article). But what I am saying is that we can take microsteps to making our lives a bit healthier.
We can take control (some more than others) of our nighttime and morning schedules and calibrate them to offer us some breathing room when we wake up. Literally.
I mention nighttime for the simple reason that the time you go to bed is just as important a factor towards the quality of your sleep as the time you set for waking up. Figure out how much sleep you need to feel healthy and bookend those hours with an appropriate bedtime and wake time.
One thing I have been able to implement into my morning routine is deep breathing. Whether I am laying down or sitting up in bed, seven or move focused and controlled deep breaths has helped me tremendously. By paying attention to the deliberate breathing, we shift our thinking away from the pressing stresses of the day ahead. The increase in oxygen helps clear our heads and wake up our bodies.
Once you are awake, you might want to try a short meditation of three or more minutes. I try to use that time to practice gratitude for having a roof over my head, the chorus of bird chirps, or for another chance at living life as best as I can. This might feel weird to you at first if you aren’t used to mediation or gratitude practices, but after a few days you will notice how it helps you in feeling more positive and open. You can also use this time to set intentions for the day ahead. It could even be as broad and simple as “I am open to what today will bring”.
Once you’re out of bed, try to take a minute or so to stretch different parts of your body. If you sit at a desk for a few hours, it is likely your hips and lower back are tight. Mine certainly are and some basic yoga stretches first thing in the morning really helps in opening those problem areas up while also getting the blood to flow around your body. If you’re feeling up to it, throw in ten to twenty push-ups. You’ll be surprised at how a super basic exercise in under five minutes can leave you feeling awake.
There is one thing that is a must, must, must:
MAKE YOUR BED.
Yes, I put that in all caps, in bold, and italics.
It is a personal pet peeve of mine to walk into a bedroom and see that the bed has been left unmade. It makes the entire room look messy, even if that is not the case. By making your bed every morning (even weekends) you at least accomplish one important task.
So make that bed, open those curtains, and (weather permitting) crack open some windows for a true “coming alive” experience.
After this, have some room temperature water with a fresh lemon slice or lemon juice to wake up your tastebuds and metabolism, while also getting some hydration and grounding accomplished.
We enter the final stages of the morning routine here with some beauty and hygiene.
Brush your teeth, do your morning business, and take a shower. I like to make the water cold at the end and allow it to hit every part of my body to shock away any sleepiness that might still exist. It also helps me feel much more fresh and crisp, especially during the summer months.
It is important to make sure you have enough time to do all of the above without rushing. Be mindful and present while you are doing this and take deep breaths when necessary. Rushing will only increase the stress and anxiety which is what a morning routine is supposed to help us avoid.
I’ll leave the approach to breakfast up to you. I usually have a smoothie on my way to work or a bowl of oatmeal if I am working from home. I can’t force myself to eat first thing in the morning, but I do make sure to have something in my system (along with taking multivitamin supplements) before 10am.
Oh, please make sure to dress if you are leaving the house for work. I’ve also found it helpful when working from home to wear something other than whatever I slept in. Even if it is just a tank top and pair of gym shorts, the change of attire helps me get into a more prepared mental state for the day.
Everything mentioned above is from my own tailor made morning routine. Do some research on your own and devise something that works best for you.
Don’t worry about not checking off every task either. None of us are perfect and mornings, honestly, can be difficult. The important thing is that you continue to try and evolve until you have something that works for you.
The ultimate goal is to be able to take some time preparing for whatever activities await you in a manner that has you feeling centered, peaceful, and maybe even excited.
We got this!