What is it that you do from the moment you wake up, to kickstart your morning routine? Do you get right up, drink a glass of water, shower, and get dressed? Maybe you reach right for your phone and scroll on social media for a little before making your breakfast. Your mornings probably look a little different during the week than they do on the weekend. However, what you do to start your day is usually pretty similar every morning. This is a morning routine. You may have one and not even realize it, or you may be looking for new ideas to include in your early morning ritual. Whichever it is, there is always some room for a little self-improvement.
Why Is a Morning Routine Important?
Morning routines set the tone for your entire day. It allows you to take control from the moment you wake up, to ensure you are well-equipped to have the best day possible. I think we can all agree that how you start your morning can really affect the rest of your day. Do you ever notice when you have a good morning like you “woke up on the right side of the bed” that the rest of your day is a little easier? Then there are those days when you don’t have the best morning and the rest of the day reflects that as well.
What Can I Incorporate Into My Morning Routine?
There is power in adding just one mindfulness practice to your daily ritual, and how it can positively impact the rest of your day. Let’s go through some morning routine ideas that may be beneficial to you.
Waking Up Early
Remember the saying “the early bird catches the worm”? Waking up early may look different for different people. It may be setting your alarm 10 minutes before usual or an hour earlier. Either way, you are allowing yourself more time to wake up more gradually. The idea is to be able to roll out of bed at your own pace and not jump up abruptly like you’re running late. With some extra time before your day, you can brew your delicious morning coffee and actually enjoy it. Take it outside and breathe in the fresh air while watching the sun comes up.
If waking up early is a challenge for you, start with just 5 extra minutes. See what you are able to do with just that little extra time. Maybe 5 minutes is all you need to do your hair before work to make you feel more confident and productive for the day. Make a plan to set your alarm a little earlier than normal, and decide what it is you would like to accomplish during that time to make your morning, and day, that much better.
Opening the Blinds
Exposing your eyes to natural light when you wake up is an easy and important step to add to your morning routine. Morning light is critical for producing hormones and regulating your circadian rhythm. In the morning your body produces natural cortisol, telling you that it is time to wake up. It then signals the pineal gland in your brain to begin producing and secreting melatonin. This hormone is secreted at a slow rate throughout the day to prepare your body for a good night’s rest in the evening. This is a natural process that can be properly regulated simply by opening your blinds first thing in the morning. The natural light will help wake you up, get you out of bed, and even prepare you for a good night’s sleep ahead.
Staying Off Your Phone for the First Hour
For many, reaching for your phone first thing in the morning has become a habit. Most alarms are on our phones, so it is easy to get lost in social media, emails, and news articles just as we open our eyes. Physiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, notes turning to your phone when you wake up not only increases cortisol levels but hinders your ability to manage tasks. This is due to overloading your brain with a lot of information when you are not fully awake. Your mind can get scrambled leaving you feeling overwhelmed and less focused for the day.
To avoid your phone sabotaging your day, try leaving your phone on the other side of the room and using an actual alarm clock. This can help avoid notification distractions and leave you more time to focus on your morning self-care.
Doing Yoga or Going for a Run
Starting your day with moving your body has a myriad of benefits. It helps wake you up by increasing circulation, releasing endorphins, and increasing the alertness and mental clarity needed to complete your to-do list. Exercise stimulates the production of growth factors that affect the growth, survival, and health of your brain. If going for a run isn’t your thing, try laying out your yoga mat and follow a practice to help get you in the right mindset for a positive day.
Drinking a Big Glass of Water
Keep a full glass of water on your nightstand before going to bed so you can rehydrate and kickstart your digestive system right when you wake up. Proper hydration is necessary for digestion and elimination of waste products, keeping you feeling alert, increasing focus, energy, promoting a clear complexion, and even helping maintain healthy cortisol levels. Aim to consume half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should consume at least 80 ounces of water per day.
This recommendation increases based on your activity level and how much you are excreting through sweat, in addition to caffeine and alcohol consumption. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics meaning they increase the amount of fluid you excrete through urine. This can lead to dehydration, so you want to make sure you are replenishing what was lost.
Reading a Book
Taking a moment to read is a gentle way to wake up your mind for the day. Find something that sparks your interest and is enjoyable for you. This can be a book, magazine, poem, or anything that inspires you for the day. Try choosing something with actual pages as opposed to reading on your phone or tablet to avoid distraction. You can set a page count or 10-minute timer, and dedicate that time to relaxing and focusing on just reading.
Stretching is calming for the mind and beneficial for the body. It releases stagnation or “chi” built up in the body by promoting circulation and blood flow. It also just feels great! Taking frequent breaks throughout your day to stretch your legs and back is super helpful to relieve pain and tension from sitting for long periods of time. Once you get out of bed try a few of these stretches to get your body loose and energized for the day.
Enjoying Your Coffee Outside
Imagine waking up making a fresh pot of coffee and sitting on your porch watching the sunrise. Talk about relaxing. Enjoying your coffee outside is one of those morning routine ideas that seem too good to be true. Most days you may be running out the door bringing your hot mug in the car, or you probably don’t even have the time to make your morning joe. Choosing to wake up early avoids all of that, and simply gives you the permission to sit and enjoy the one thing that you look forward to each morning.
Making a Nutritious Breakfast
You heard it a million times, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Kick start your day by fueling your body with a nutritious breakfast. Some great options include:
- Vegetable omelet with a side of sliced avocado and whole-grain toast: This is a balanced meal containing adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
- Mixed berry protein smoothie: Mixed berries are high in antioxidants important for protecting the body from oxidative stress. Add non-fat Greek yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, or almond butter for added protein.
- Blueberry chia pudding: One serving of chia seeds provides 4767 mg of omega-3 fatty acids necessary for brain health, and 6 g of protein. You can add them to smoothies, oatmeal, or make a pudding for the extra nutrients.
- Chickpea or black bean muffins: I know muffins made with beans don’t sound appealing but don’t knock it until you try it. Beans are high in fiber and protein and a healthy alternative when baking.
Taking a Shower
Having the time to take a shower helps you wake up and feel refreshed to start your day. If you want to take it a step further, experience the benefits of a cold shower. Cold showers have been gaining a lot of attention recently and rightfully so. Your natural response to wanting to step away or tense up when the cold water hits you is your body turning into survival mode. The cold water brings a shock to your system creating an increase in blood flow to your whole body including your brain. This can increase your level of focus, mental clarity, improve your skin and hair health, as well as release endorphins to support a better mood. A cold shower can also boost your immune system by producing leukocytes that fight off illness.
Taking a freezing cold shower may not sound appealing to most, although it will wake you up and feel more energized to start your day. You can start by taking a normal shower and turning the temperature down for the last 20-30 seconds to still experience its benefits.
Writing in a Journal
If you haven’t journaled before, you should try it out. Journaling is a great way to relieve stress, practice gratitude, and set your daily intentions. Set your notebook or journal next to your bed and write down 3 things you are grateful for each morning. This promotes feelings of positivity and boosts your overall mood.
Journaling can also be helpful when you are feeling anxious or experiencing any negative emotions. Do you ever have days where you are so overwhelmed with a million thoughts swirling in your head? A mind dump is probably just what you need. When you have a bunch of built-up thoughts grab a pen and paper and free your mind by writing down everything that is going on in your head. Releasing negative thoughts that weigh you down is liberating and can promote a more peaceful mindset.
Applying an adequate skincare routine is a great moment to practice some self-care. Creating this time for yourself with no distractions is extremely relaxing and important to begin your day with a sense of calm. Take your routine to next level using a gua sha tool. Gua sha is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to stimulate lymphatic drainage by releasing stagnation or “chi”. Apply a light oil or serum and gently glide the gua sha tool in an outward motion on your face. You can start gently stroking downward on your neck, moving to your jawline, cheeks, and forehead. Following a video on YouTube for your first time may be helpful. It is like a mini facial every morning and very relaxing.
Crafting Your Daily To-Do List
Making a list of what it is you want to accomplish in the day will help lower stress and keep you stay organized on your daily tasks. You can make two columns, one being “must-do” and the other “would like to-do”. From there you can plan your day accordingly based on the tasks that must be completed today and those can wait. This is also a great way to ensure that you are not forgetting anything that needs to be done. With your busy schedule, you are bound to forget a thing or two. Prepare yourself for a successful day first thing in the morning by crafting your to-do list.
Repeating Some Affirmations
Morning affirmations are mantras or phrases that you repeat, think or write daily to put your mind in a positive state. These are meant to uplift you and can rewire your brain to increase positivity and optimism. Affirmations can really be about anything such as something that you are proud of, what you like about yourself, what you wish for in the day, etc. Some examples are “Today is a good day”, “I am strong and capable”, “I will look for happiness in the simple joys in life”.
Have you heard the quote “the body hears everything the mind says”? It’s true! You want to be careful that you are speaking to yourself kindly and not in a negative way. Even if you aren’t having the best day, saying some positive affirmations can remind you of all the things you have to be thankful for and can promote a good mood.
Throwing in a Load of Laundry
Rising early gives you time to get a head start on house chores like laundry. Tossing in a load before you head out the door is easy and enhances feelings of accomplishment and productivity. Who doesn’t want to knock those pesky tasks off their to-do list first thing in the morning?
There’s a reason why mediation is recommended for every morning routine. It’s a great way to be present and for you to check in with your body before getting caught up in your day. It allows you time to focus on your intentions for the day ahead, and ask yourself what it is that you want to accomplish. The beauty of meditation is that there isn’t a wrong way to do it as long you are able to remain still and really focus your awareness inward. It can as short as 5 minutes or 30 minutes. Ask yourself how much time you need at that moment.
Meditation puts you in a parasympathetic state so you are able to go into your busy day ahead with a clearer mind. You can follow a guided meditation with an app on your phone. Through the app, you are able to set notifications as a gentle reminder for a time each morning that works for you. This way you will never miss out on your morning zen.
Running the Dishwasher
The last thing you want to do after a long day of work is to come home to a sink full of dirty dishes. Taking that extra time in the morning to run the dishwasher before you start your day relieves you of one less task you need to do when you get home. This task normally doesn’t take long, so getting up a few minutes earlier is plenty to check this off your to-do list and optimize productivity.
How Can I Start Healthy Habits?
Start small. When implementing new habits, start with the one that is realistic for you. Once you decided, think of the reason why you want to start this new habit. Maybe you want to feel more alert when you wake up, or you wish to lower your stress levels to feel more relaxed. When you have your why, think of what it is that is making you desire that feeling. You may have remembered a time when you weren’t so easily distracted and were more productive or a time when you didn’t have as many daily stressors weighing you down. Then you take action toward satisfying your want.
This could be opening your blinds when you wake up to let in sunlight, not reaching for your phone first thing, or practicing morning meditation. The reward is the motivation to keep your habit going. You are now experiencing some of the benefits that you desired and your new habit is becoming a lot easier.
Can a Morning Routine Boost Energy Levels?
The short is yes. Waking up earlier and having a morning routine that supports you, can increase focus, improve your mood, and promote circulation, all of which boost your energy. Try adopting one or more of the ideas above that will lead you to accomplish your goals.
What Should I Avoid Doing in the Morning?
Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
We all just want 5 extra minutes of z’s in the morning. Although, those 5 minutes may be what is interfering with you having the best morning. If getting out of bed is most challenging for you, set your alarm on the other side of the room. This way you have to get up to turn it off and are less likely to snooze it.
Don’t Check Social Media Right Away
Making a conscious effort to not reach for your phone right away may be challenging at first, but you will thank yourself once you do. Try it out for 5 days and use that time to get a workout in, make your favorite breakfast, or read. See how your mood and overall course of your day improve.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to get the fuel and nutrients your body needs by skipping breakfast. You will feel more energized, focused, and will be able to efficiently burn more calories. If you find yourself feeling heavy and having a lack of energy to make it through the day, try regularly consuming breakfast.
The Bottom Line
Forming a routine in the AM that works toward supporting your goals will help generate feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment. It is beneficial to follow a daily rhythm that best suits you and your lifestyle. Following a rhythm will not only set you up for success toward your goals, but it is key to balancing your hormones and aligning your body. Try by adding one or two of these morning routine ideas, and take control of your day.
Sara Chille See all the author’s articles