Do you want to be more productive and more successful? Happier? Healthier? More energetic? Do you want to feel better or optimize your performance?
Who doesn’t right?
The best way to make sure you are on track to achieving all of these goals is to examine the way you start your morning. More specifically, examine your morning routine.
The first question to ask yourself is does your morning routine consist of tasks that will set you up to have a better day? Or is your morning routine simply jumping out of bed, chugging coffee and racing through rush hour traffic? I’ll be honest, this is how my morning routine used to play out.
My day would start off with “beep, beep, beep” and I’d roll out of bed exhausted. I’d feel that Ambien hangover. I’d immediately grab my phone and start responding to emails, texts and scroll my Instagram feed, sometimes making myself too late to even shower. I’d then grab my coffee and sugary breakfast then head out the door. This all started my day in a cortisol spiked fight-or-flight mode. My epinephrin took over and led to an entire stress-filled and exhausting day. My afternoons were stress-filled as were my evenings and I was completely exhausted by the nighttime.
I did this over and over as I know so many of you do. It’s the grind and I am not a fan of “grind”. I am a “hustle” and “flow” person. Grinding is about heat, friction, things breaking down, breaking off…damage. Being “heads down” and “grinding” is not a way to live life and I want to see this mentality avoided, not pursued like so many social media influencers suggest is the way to be successful. Hustle…yes. That makes sense. Sometimes we have to chase things and be motivated. The point should be we hustle to get to our “flow” states. The state where we have joy at what we are doing. We are “lit up”, “on fire”, “in the zone” and passionate. Hours can pass and it seems like only seconds––this is the flow state. This is where we are in alignment with our creativity and our joy. This is what we should seek and where we achieve the greatest success. There are no awards for grinding. Just medical bills, failed relationships and an early grave. Great success comes from the flow state. So, the point of a great morning routine is to position you for the hustle and the flow of a successful life well lived.
Let’s get into it. We can start by looking at some of the top components of effective morning routines. Which, by the way, Tim Ferriss with all his work on hundreds of interviews of successful people found two overriding commonalties.
The best way to improve your morning routine is by choosing one thing to try. I recommend this for any changes you are making in your health journey. One change at a time helps you make realistic changes and see what actually works for you. Keep it up for several weeks; make it a part of your daily routine. If it works for you and adds benefit, then add that thing as part of your routine. Once you’ve made that practice part of your routine, add other things, one at a time. If you were to try everything at once (e.g. shotgunning), you’d have no idea what’s working and what’s not, and you may actually get stressed from all these things. Try one thing and see what the effect is.
So, step one is ask yourself this critical question, “How do I wake up every morning?”
Is it with something or someone you love, like your spouse, your children or a beloved pet? Do you wake up to sunlight or light that gradually increases or are you waking up to a jarring alarm and blue light from your phone? One way of waking brings you joy and a sense of calm as you wake up and one-way jolts you awake with a cortisol rush, fight-or-flight (sympathetic nervous system), and stress. Choose the best way to start your day.
When designing your morning, think about the light you’re exposed to and whether you wake up and see something that gives you joy; incorporate some type of breathing exercise or meditation. You don’t have to jump straight out of bed – take a few extra minutes. You can use some deep breathing techniques and slow your heart rate, think about your day, and have gratitude. Consider starting a daily gratitude journal. Then begin to map out your day, determine priorities and plan. You can even work backward and ask, “At the end of the day, what do I want to have accomplished?” You may want to plan your day the night before…so you start the day with a plan when you open your eyes.
You want to own the day, not have the day own you.
Waking up five to ten minutes earlier would allow you to try morning blue light during winter or on an overcast day or sunbathing or grounding, by lying or standing on the grass. Taking a walk with your dog or your spouse or significant other is a phenomenal way to start the day with fresh air and sunshine. As you drive into work, listen to some energizing uplifting music or an inspirational podcast that’s constructive and positive to spark your creative juices. Some podcasts are as short as three minutes…get rid of the excuses that are creating barriers.
Scripting your day, both at the beginning and at the end, for the next day, can help you feel successful.
You might try scheduling something for the following day that you look forward to. It could be as simple as scheduling a haircut or cooking out with friends and family. Maybe it’s scheduling a lunch date or phone call with someone you miss or need to talk to.
Setting your circadian rhythm in motion is important both mornings and when traveling. Go outside and get some sunlight! Outside time also aids in melatonin production. Food is an important driver of the circadian rhythm. A good morning ritual is to eat breakfast or drink some coffee to help get that internal clock going. This is especially powerful when traveling. If traveling across time zones, eating breakfast or your first meal of the day at the normal time in the new time zone can really help get your circadian rhythm in the right pattern.
Another way to set circadian rhythm is a cold shower in the morning. Get your head thoroughly wet. Its best to do a full shower, but even going from your warm shower to cold for the last 30 seconds is a good start. You will reduce systemic inflammation and neuro-inflammation (brain fog), feel more alert, increase metabolism via brown adipose tissue, cellular energy with enhanced mitochondrial function, etc. You’ll be able to skip the coffee and feel great!
Writing a hand-written thank you note or email/text tells someone how much you appreciate them. This morning task can set a great tone for your day and make someone else feel good as well!
Relationships are a huge key to a happy, successful life and are critical to your well-being and the feeling like you have a purpose on this planet. Your life will feel a hundred times better if you surround yourself with the right people. Your days will be optimized if you have mentors around you: people who are building you up, people offering constructive criticism to make you better, and people who are honest with you, but who are building you up in the right way.
In the morning, hug or kiss someone that you love. Physical touch is important and validates who we are. Human beings thrive on that! It takes at least 6 touches a day to feel “human” per research. If you are fortunate enough to live with someone that you love, make sure you tell them that you love them each day. Thank them for all the ways they show you love and watch this one habit transform not only your morning but theirs as well! It can become a habit quickly, however, so just be mindful and make sure you mean it. Even though mornings can feel chaotic, you have five seconds to give to the person you love. Research shows that this tends to improve quality of life, so acknowledge those around you and share that gift of touch and gratitude with them. In other words, slow down and communicate!
There are quite a few ideas I’ve thrown out for things to include in a morning routine but here is the most important piece of advice.
KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Your routine does not have to include all these items. It can include two or ten. It can be 10 minutes or two hours. Whatever works for you is fine if it is something that helps put you into a relaxed, parasympathetic state to start your day. Keep the stress at bay. There is enough of that in life without adding to it unnecessarily.
I hope you’ll join me in my ENERGY Formula Facebook Group and let me know what is the favorite part of your morning routine.