Virtually all of the leading business and lifestyle magazines regularly report on the critical role the early morning hours can play in determining the outcome of the rest of your day. For this reason, having a set morning routine can literally change a person’s life. While it is true that some things are simply out of our control, we can largely control our mindset and how we respond to whatever our workday or off-duty time with family, friends, and neighbors throws at us. What we do within the first few hours of waking up sets the tone for the rest of the day. Therefore, creating a morning routine and sticking to it is one of the most impactful ways we can set ourselves up for success in every area of our lives.
Beyond Waking Up and Getting Dressed
Some of you may be tempted to say, “But I have a morning routine. I wake up every day. I take a shower, then I rush off to work.” While that series of tasks does, in fact, constitute a routine in the most basic sense of the word, there are ways we can super-charge our morning activities to give us a boost that will last for hours and help us become more patient, more alert, more focused, and ultimately more productive. The morning is also a very opportune time to implement activities that can help us achieve a greater sense of calm and a peaceful disposition prior to interacting with the overbearing manager, annoying coworker, or the digital mountain of repetitive emails that ALL require answers. Think of your morning routine as the moment you look up an address (or find a destination on a map), then enter the address into your GPS and determine how you will get there.
Activities that Create a Sense of Calm
If you suffer from anxiety, the morning may especially be a critical time for you. Getting out of bed is a tremendous feat when you lack a general sense of physical or mental wellness, much less have the desire to leave the comfort and perceived security of your pillows and blankets. People who have difficulty getting out of bed for any reason may wish to begin each day with a combination of activities that both comfort and invigorate the mind and body. Immediately getting out of bed and taking an aromatherapy shower (there are several simple ways essential oils can be used in the shower to produce a fragrant steam) is a very gentle, but effective way to awaken the senses and lift the mood. Setting an alarm that plays uplifting music, then continuing to listen for 15 minutes can also help ease anxiousness and make getting out of bed a little easier. The rule is once you are out of bed, move on to an activity that will keep you out of bed and help you build the momentum you need to prepare for work (or whatever comprises your to-do list). At this point, moving away from the bed to meditate, have quiet reflection, or simply listen to or play music (if you enjoy playing an instrument) can further put the mind at ease.
Some people prefer to exercise in the evening or at lunchtime, but for the first time ever, I (a non-morning person) challenged myself during the month of March to try working out in the morning. As a result of that personal “challenge,” I will likely never go back to p.m. workouts. Working out in the morning boosts endorphins, creates a sense that you have already accomplished something before the day even begins, and is beneficial to overall health. I do 30 minutes of cardio, but each person’s exercise needs and preferences will depend on the individual. Going for a 15-minute walk to get a healthy breakfast can also serve as a lower-impact alternative.
Plan the Day Ahead
I, personally, am a p.m. planner. I feel at ease when I write out my schedule for the next day on the night before (also a very effective way to boost productivity…and also a new habit I developed as a result of a person “challenge” to try a new goal-setting strategy). Nevertheless, some people prefer envisioning the day ahead and writing out a schedule early in the morning. Planning can be incorporated into journaling and doing mindset work to shift from negative thinking to a positive mindset.
People who are very creative may find it helpful to set aside 15-30 minutes to “create” something for the sole purpose of leisure and enjoyment before beginning the day. Anything from drawing and painting to composing music and writing can serve as a vehicle for eliminating anxiety, processing emotions, and building optimism about the day ahead.
Make Your Morning Routine Non-Negotiable
I know what many of you may be thinking: who has time for any of this? Answer: you. You just have to prioritize it. Actively schedule time for your morning routine, even if it means going to bed earlier or managing your time better the day before. Try the morning routine out for a week, and evaluate its impact on how you feel as well as your overall changes in productivity. Most people find the sacrifices (waking up earlier, not staying up as late, watching less TV the night before) that must be made in the interest of sticking to their new morning routine to be well worth the trade-off.
If you need help getting started with designing a morning routine for yourself, join my Facebook group, or send me an email. I’d love to help you get started on the right track!