What did you do the moment you woke up this morning? Did you immediately switch off your alarm and get straight into your morning routine? Did you reach for your phone and scroll through your social media feeds for 20 minutes? Or did you settle back in for a few more precious moments of sleep — only to wake up with a foggy head an hour later?
As the school year begins in the UK, and as the health and economic impacts of the covid-19 pandemic continue to take their toll on our wellbeing, I wanted to share some of the benefits why a morning routine can help us navigate these stressful times, along with seven simple tips to help you establish one that you will actually want to stick to.
“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day,” British psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers recently told HuffPost. “A worry-filled morning will often flood into an anxious afternoon.”
From reducing stress to encouraging us to eat more healthily, the benefits of a morning routine have been firmly established by wellbeing coaches and psychologists for decades. With Covid-19 leading to unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, maintaining a morning ritual is now more crucial than ever.
Business coach Ashley Good writes that “your emotional, mental and physical state determine the way you perceive, experience and respond to life on any given day.” She goes on to explain that “the purpose of a morning routine is to create a specific state that gives you the best possible opportunity to experience and create the results you want in your day.”
Even if you do follow a regular series of rituals each morning, the following suggestions can help guide your efforts to start your day in the most positive and productive way possible.
So whether you’re looking for tried and tested habits for establishing a routine, or in need of inspiration for something new to add, read on for a range of helpful ideas and tips to ensure your first moments set the right tone for an emotionally, mentally, and physically stronger and healthier day.
1. Rest well, eat well
We’ve all heard or read about the habits of highly productive people. A uniting factor among their habits is often a morning routine that enables them to operate at their most productive level for the rest of the day. But these habits don’t just begin the moment they open their eyes — good sleep hygiene and a balanced diet are just as important.
“You need to maintain a consistent sleep and meal pattern, otherwise your body just loses its habitual hormone fluctuation, thereby adding to its stress and decreasing its ability to fight off infections,” explains Dr Gladys Pearson, Director of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Research Centre. Diet, exercise and routine are the three pillars of Dr Gladys’ advice to help people stay healthy during lockdown.
2. Identify how much time you have
Depending on your personal circumstances — whether you’re single, have young children, keep regular office hours, or work on a freelance basis — the amount of time you can dedicate to your morning routine will vary greatly.
If you can only set aside a very short amount of time — less than 30 minutes — consider ways in which you could create more time by completing regular tasks the night before. Select your outfit for the next day or do some simple meal prep for breakfast. Productivity professionals recommend aiming for at least 30 minutes, but they also suggest that you should “listen to yourself and know what would be realistic for you to do and keep up with.”
Once you’ve identified the amount of time you can realistically carve out for yourself in the morning, completely free of distractions, set your alarm and try your best to stick to it — even on weekends.
3. Keep it simple
Resisting the urge to reach for our phone and open social media or even email has become a significant challenge for countless people, especially as so many of us use our phone for an alarm. Using an alarm clock and placing your phone away from your bed are two simple acts that will help you resist the urge.
We recently shared this short video about the “wisdom of a simple act,” and why just making your bed in the morning can be the simple act you need to maintain momentum and achieve increasingly demanding tasks throughout the day.
“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives,” Lee Chambers said. “They are not about completely changing what we do, but adding small, positive changes that compound together.”
“There is no better way to quiet the mind than by practicing meditation,” says psychotherapist Renato Perez.
While for some getting a morning routine started requires immediately bouncing out of bed, for others starting with a short meditation is the most effective way to ensure they stick to their routine.
The Raw Horizons YouTube channel features guided meditations of varying lengths for a range of purposes, such as gaining clarity and insight, emotional balance, and courage. For those new to meditation, I suggest our Back to Basics video, which could actually be the world’s simplest meditation!
5. Get moving
It’s safe to say that most of us want to be physically fitter, more focused in our work, more emotionally balanced, and to sleep better. Exercise can help all four of these areas, which is why it should form part of your morning routine. A recent survey from FitRated even found that exercising in the morning before work not only elevates productivity, but creativity too.
“Exercise is a really big one, because it is a mood booster, so you’ll immediately feel more productive. Doing it in the morning is also a good idea because life is less likely to distract you at that hour,” explains international recruitment expert Lois Freeke.
Morning exercise doesn’t need to be intense for it to be beneficial. Productivity coach Jim Collins says that any movement is helpful, and that stretching, yoga, and walking are good examples.
In the Covid-19 era, YouTube is flooded with home exercise videos produced especially for navigating these challenging times. For a quick 3 minute yoga practise to enhance your overall wellbeing, try Dr Claire Maguire’s Sat Kriya. If you have longer, then this 45-minute yoga class allows you to access breath and movement to release tension and energy from the comfort of your own home.
6. Connect with the earth
Who doesn’t love the feeling of sand between their toes or lying down on a patch of soft green grass?
The practice of consciously and intentionally connecting directly with the earth, known as grounding or earthing, is currently an under-researched topic and there are few scientific studies on the benefits, according to nutritionist Eleesha Lockett. “However, the most recent scientific research has explored the effects of grounding on inflammation, cardiovascular disease, muscle damage, chronic pain, and mood,” she notes.
Although it is still early days in terms of knowing the full breadth and depth of mental and physical benefits of grounding, business coach Ashley Good writes that along with meditation, grounding is what’s missing from the morning routine of most professionals.
“With regular and consistent practice of grounding, you get more in your body and less in your head, you feel more spacious, you slow down, solutions become clearer and more readily available, you begin accessing more of your intuition and you have more energy,” she explains.
7. Practise gratitude
I’ve written previously about the mental health benefits of gratitude, and some of the most popular ways to cultivate your own gratitude practice.
Similarly, psychologist Dr Roxy Zarrabi says that, “a regular gratitude practice can contribute to a lot of benefits like an increase in wellbeing, improvement in mood and strengthened relationships.”
During these challenging times — when you may be facing job insecurity or myriad other highly stressful experiences that have been triggered by Covid-19— it can be especially difficult to practise gratitude. However, it’s at times like these that acknowledging what we are grateful for can make the difference between succumbing to negative thoughts and feelings or remaining resilient and positive about the future.
We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about things, no matter how bad they are, take a few moments in your morning routine to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life, and one of the most powerful ways to set your pattern for the rest of the day.
The most important thing to remember when you first start implementing your morning routine is to acknowledge that there will be some days when you simply don’t have the motivation or energy to bounce out of bed — and that is perfectly ok. You might have had a poor night’s sleep, or it might be bucketing down with rain outside. Whatever the reason, these days will almost certainly occur.
Remember that there are some elements of your routine that you can engage with from your bedroom, such as meditation and practicing gratitude, so perhaps try and practice these longer than you normally would. Even some simple stretching is possible without getting on your yoga mat.
The ultimate goal of your morning routine is to help you enter the best possible state to face the day ahead, so if you have negative thoughts about neglecting your routine, this will only put you in a negative state. So, don’t beat yourself up and remind yourself that there will be many other little moments throughout the day during which you can practice parts of your routine.
Here’s to getting off to a good start, every day 😊