Have you ever wanted to improve your morning routine?
Do you believe that starting the day with healthy rituals can set you on a fast lane to personal fulfilment?
Do you often feel sluggish during morning hours?
Is there any positive habit you would like to establish before going to work?
If your answer is YES to any of these questions, read on! This post might be just for you. On the other hand, if you have answered NO to all of them, read on anyway! You might learn something new that could improve your life. 😉
***I wrote this article three years ago and never posted it. My writing today is very different, but I want to be vulnerable and share it with you because I trust it will add value to your life. ***
In Italy, we say “chi dorme non piglia pesci” (literal translation: “who sleeps doesn’t catch fishes”). In English, the saying goes: “the early bird gets the worm”. I am sure you have already heard this concept in other forms. The basic meaning is that if we want to be productive and make the most out of our day, we must wake up early! The earlier, the better. If you work during the night or don’t follow the regular office hours, please ignore what I just said, but otherwise, we have no excuses. Rising ahead of the sun has lots of benefits.
Not only do we want to wake up early, but we want to do it with the right mindset, the one of a winner. So let’s not press the snooze button on the alarm! It’s a terrible thing that we don’t want to do to ourselves. It’s not about sleeping a few more minutes, but the mindset attached to it. Come on! Waking up is the first activity of the day, so how well do we feel starting our day delaying the #1 task we have to accomplish? Instead, let’s get out of bed right away. Once we are standing, our body enters into auto mode and will start to perform our daily morning routine with almost zero brain effort.
If you act like a sleepwalker for more than a few minutes after leaving the bed, you might want to consider starting your day with a coffee or tea. For many people, the first sip of a caffeinated drink is their morning highlight. So why not start using this pleasant ritual to gain extra motivation and leave the bed as soon as the alarm fires up. Other hacks that only take a few minutes but help us speed up the awakening process are: staying in a very bright room (darkness keeps us asleep), jog outdoors (e.g. run around the block), take a cold shower, or perform a few sun salutation sequences.
Having said that, do you want to know the secret to reduce or eliminate the morning struggle to get out of bed? GO TO SLEEP EARLY! How much sleep we need depends on several factors, but the range for adults is between seven and eight hours of high-quality sleep per night. I can hear you saying, “I don’t like to sleep early”: that’s valid! But I bet you also don’t like struggling to get out of it each morning, or “time flies after dinner, and by the time I realise I should be in bed, it’s already so late”. What do we do when we want to make sure to accomplish something at a specific time? We set the alarm! So the easiest way to remind ourselves that it’s bedtime is just that simple, set the alarm. I have an alarm set on my phone Sun-Thu for 9:45 pm. When it rings, I stop whatever I am doing and make my way to bed. Easy! Ongoing sleep loss is too common of a problem in our societies! The main symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness, yawning, moodiness, fatigue, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty learning new concepts, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head, lack of motivation, clumsiness, increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings, and reduced sex drive. Not very nice, isn’t it? So if we don’t want any of the above conditions, please let’s make sure to sleep enough.
Let’s get back to the morning routine. Personally, the first thing I do after waking up is to drink lots of water (minimum half a litre even if I don’t feel thirsty). Our body dehydrates during the long night hours, and for its correct functioning, it’s imperative to restore the water balance as soon as possible. Tiredness, sleepiness, headaches, dry skin, dizziness, and dry eyes are just some of the symptoms we can incur if we don’t rehydrate our body. Another great benefit of drinking lots of water after waking up is that its weight on our stomach puts pressure on the intestine, which gives us the necessary stimulus to empty our bowel 🙂 Convenient, isn’t it?
Feeling light and hydrated, the next thing on my morning schedule is meditation. If you usually need a long time to be fully awakened, it might be worth waiting a little longer before sitting down into meditation, or you’ll most likely fall asleep. Perhaps, as mentioned earlier, having tea or a coffee could be a pleasant way of giving ourselves a little extra time to completely wake up. I recommend keeping meditation as one of the first activities in our morning routine, as it diminishes the chances of skipping our daily practice.
Why do I recommend meditation? Meditation is the mental version of a physical workout. If aerobics contributes to our fitness, meditation contributes to our mindfulness (i.e. the ability to be fully conscious, focusing one’s awareness on the present moment). As little as five minutes of daily practice can bring incredible benefits to our lives. Mindfulness helps us to be more conscious of what is going on around us, to accept without frustration what is not under our control, to attenuate our adverse reactions, to spend less and less time brooding about the past or worrying about the future, and to allow ourselves to live and enjoy the present moment. As for the physical workout, the more you meditate, the better. But unless you already have a well-established meditation routine, I’d say the priority would be to establish the habit and not go for more than ten minutes of practice. This would be the perfect way to start. My favourite app for guided meditation is Headspace.
At some point throughout my morning routine, I love to take a couple of minutes for a straightforward but powerful exercise. Writing a gratitude journal. What we are trying to do here is shifting our focus to the good things of our life we’d otherwise take for granted. The exercise consists of writing down on paper (or on our phone) at least three things we are grateful for. Just thinking about it without writing our thoughts down does not have the same positive effect. Examples may include: “waking up without snoozing the alarm”, “the kindness of someone I work with”, “my lovely partner in life”, “not having to commute for today”, “the strong bond I have with my sister”, etc. It’s essential not to hurry through this exercise. Gratitude is a powerful feeling, and with this activity, we are trying to emanate positive emotions from within ourselves. All we need to do is complete the following sentence three times, “I am grateful for …”.
In addition to meditation, please, please, please exercise soon after waking up. If you are not used to doing it before work, why not give it a try? The workout can be as short as 10 minutes, but it’s fundamental to waking up our body, setting up the right mood for the day, and keeping our energy level high for up to 12 hours! Raising and keeping our heart rate at a vigorous level for a few minutes (even better if combined with our favourite motivational playlist) will provide us with a nice boost of euphoria that will help us reduce anxiety and increase confidence, and generally make us feel happier. I love exercising every morning, alternating between outdoors, jogging, yoga, and bodyweight workout. The idea is to have fun, so let’s make sure to pick a workout that we enjoy! Forcing ourselves to do something we don’t enjoy is the perfect recipe for failure.
Ok then, so far, we have meditated, shifted our focus on what is good and what we are grateful for in our lives, and exercised. It’s finally time to get ready for work. How about listening to our favourite podcast at some point in the morning! While we get ready, we commute, or anytime we find it more convenient. This is an incredible opportunity to learn something new every day with zero effort. I wouldn’t recommend multitasking for most situations. Still, in this case, it’s a great way of giving extra meaning to a slot of time that, day after day, is consumed by doing the same routinary activities over and over. If you are like me and aim at keeping yourself well informed about the world news in under twenty minutes a day without missing anything important, The Economist Radio might be for you. It’s a carefully selected mix of global stories (based on facts and analysis and not attached to any political party) from different thematics (business, finance and economics, science and technology, books and arts). It’s liberal, supports globalisation, and advocates individual freedom. This is the only piece of news I consume throughout the day.
So let’s recap the essentials for an effective, healthy morning routine:
- Meditate – even five minutes can make the difference;
- Write a gratitude journal – let’s start our day focusing on the good in our lives;
- Exercise – let’s raise and keep our heartbeat at a vigorous level for at least a few minutes to experience a nice mood boost that will help us throughout the day;
- Listen to our favourite podcast!
I intentionally left out breakfast because I am into and firmly believe in intermittent fasting. If you want to read more about it, check out my partner’s blog post about it.
Cultivating a healthy morning routine can be challenging. There will be days when we will ask ourselves: “Why am I doing this?” or “Why not just staying in bed until the last minute?” But the thing is, healthily starting our day sets us on a fast track to personal realisation while staying in bed until it’s time to leave for work doesn’t. I am not saying we can’t be successful in life unless we implement an effective morning routine, but after meditating, exercising, and a good podcast, we will, without a doubt, tackle our daily challenges with way more energy and positivity!
I hope this post inspired you to improve your life (at least 1%). Please share it with others, and feel free to write a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading!