The Power of a Morning Routine

By Laura Greenstein | Aug. 09, 2017

 

It’s early. You don’t want to move, let alone get up and start the day. You feel drained. You’re cozy, all wrapped up in blankets. Thoughts about all that you should accomplish today floods your mind. You feel overwhelmed, so you hit “SNOOZE” one more time.

Uh oh, now you’ve overslept. You’re running late. Time to get up and rush into the day.

Sound familiar? Mornings are hard, right? Actually, mornings aren’t definitively hard—they can be made easier. 

The key to an easier morning is to keep your first waking hour as consistent as possible throughout the weeks. The more we struggle to make decisions, the more energy we deplete. When first starting the day, it’s important to avoid “decision fatigue” by having a set morning routine.

Having a morning routine can increase your energy, productivity and positivity. It also generates momentum, building up to the brain’s peak time for cognitive work (late morning). Here are a few suggestions to include in your morning routine.

Ease into the Day

It’s easier to lull yourself out of sleep when you’re not rushing into the day. You feel more motivated to open your eyes and let your body properly wake up when you have a little bit of time to lounge in bed without jumping up. After a few minutes of lounging, follow these steps:

  1. Open your curtains and let the natural light energize you. Exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning can improve your alertness and energy during the day.
  2. Put some upbeat tunes on—music lights up the entire brain.
  3. Do some light stretching to get your blood flowing.

These small things can help you start the day in a positive mood, rather than feeling stressed to get up and out the door.

Eat Breakfast

Research shows that those who eat breakfast have more energy than those who wait until lunch to eat. While coffee will help jolt you awake, your body will eventually crash without food. You don’t need to feast first thing in the morning—a healthy snack and lots of water is all that’s needed to start the day off right.

Read

There are many ways to stimulate your brain, but one of the most recommended methods is reading. Reading a book in the morning can start your day in a richly detailed story, “how-to” or narrative, as opposed to a stressful, overflowing to-do list.

Reading is considered a “mental break,” because the brain is only focusing on one thing rather than the usual eight things. You can’t multitask while reading a book, and what you’re focusing on causes you to think, use imagination and create your own visual imagery. It’s this type of focus that gets our minds more nimble and creative. As the saying goes: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

Stimulate Your Body

Speaking of, you should also exercise in the morning. Exercise increases production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which enhances the body’s ability to deal with stressors and creates a post-workout feeling of bliss. Research shows that you are more creative and productive for the two hours following exercise. It also shows that people who exercise regularly are less stressed at work and more able to maintain work-life balance.

Begin Work with a Proactive Mindset

Psychologist Ron Friedman explains in an interview with Harvard Business Review that our usual start to the work day—checking email, answering questions or listening to voicemails—is, as he says, “cognitively expensive.” Starting the day this way puts you into a “reactive” mindset, and while switching from a proactive mindset to a reactive mindset is easy, the reverse is much more challenging. Instead, he suggests starting the workday with a brief planning session: strategize first, execute second.

Using these tips, here’s an example of what a healthy morning routine could look like:

6:55-7:00 – Slowly wake up, and open your eyes.
7:00-7:15 – Open the curtains, put on energizing music and do some light stretching.
7:15-7:30 – Eat some fruit and almonds for breakfast.
7:30-8:00 – Read and drink tea or water to get the mind stimulated and the body hydrated.
8:00-8:30 – Shower (don’t forget to sing!) and get ready for work.
8:30-9:00 – Walk to work to get in some moderate exercise.
9:00-9:15 – Begin work with a planning session to strategize your day.

As you can see, this routine takes two hours from the time you wake up until you get to work. While it may be difficult to find the extra time, you will find yourself reaping only benefits throughout the day. Many people don’t like getting up early, but this is the type of routine that can help you actually enjoy mornings.

 

Laura Greenstein is communications coordinator at NAMI.

Comments
Lisa
On the days I begin my morning this way, my attitude, frame of mind and emotions are much, much better. Also, include gratitude or giving thanks for the Good in your life!
9/1/2017 1:57:17 PM

Charan
This is so true and has helped me with my schizoaffective bipolar-depressive type diagnoses. I have lived this lifestyle since 2000. It helps me live a recovery lifestyle as well. Thanks NAMI, I am grateful to your mission and works.
9/1/2017 1:36:51 PM

Phil
Wonderful for those who do not have young and school age children at home. Finding a routine that works and is adaptable to life as a parent is a big part of the challenge for many of us, especially for those of us who have children with special needs.
8/31/2017 10:14:10 AM

Devta Singh
Opps water is on here. I apologize
Sat Nam 🙏
8/31/2017 9:33:53 AM

Devta Singh
Great article great strategy to start ones morning. Kundalini Yoga is one ofs that I do in the morning and music. Never thought about reading that's a must now, curtain opening I do, and drinking water first instead of coffee isn't on here. I need to reread to retain more. Thank for the advice.
Sat Nan🙏
8/31/2017 9:32:57 AM

linda
Is there any meeting places in marin county.
8/30/2017 7:20:30 PM

Paul Tagliamonte
My morning routine for many years has been 1. Eat breakfast 2. Exercise in the pool 3. Practice at the golf course 4. Get home by 11AM 5. Walk around the neighborhood 6. Eat a small lunch, either fruit or salad 7. Grab a few winks (with music) 8. Do errands
9. Home at 5PM 10. Watch MSNBC 11. Watch Jeopardy 12. Get ready for bed & read in bed til 10 PM. Do it again tomorrow.
8/30/2017 4:41:46 PM

Christa Biber
Thank you for this gentle reminder how to start a day. Since I retired 13 years ago- my mornings seem more frazzled. I stay in bed a good half hour and conjure up how "wrong" the day is going to be. Negativity is part of the depression I battle. I am also a care-giver of my husband and feel exhausted. All the more important to start my day with your routine. Thanks again.
8/30/2017 2:46:29 PM

rita tabb
I am good to my self by,
8/27/2017 10:31:09 PM

Menchie
this is a great start - simple and sweet!
8/22/2017 4:49:27 PM

Antoinette Lee Toscano
Great article, it really covered some excellent strategies for gently starting your day, touching on my biggest challenge as someone who is challenged by depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I'd like to add two suggestions that I find really helpful.

1 - Before going to bed I write/type my three most important goals for the day. This allows me to have a short list that I can check off and feel good about as the day goes on. 2 - After getting out of bed I do a quick head to toe stretch with some deep breaths and set my intention for the day while I'm doing this. E.g., "I will create a good day."
8/16/2017 3:07:05 PM

Donna Barnes
My daughter has schizoaffective disorder.
She also has anosognosia.
It's easy to feel helpless and sad. The ease of a daily routine for us,is helpful. I know I'm not the only parent that manages this tragic disorder. Family to family class was uplifting
and supportive. I would still be lost without this outreach program. I will be a donor and member of
NAMI until the day we all accept how to help those we love and support. NAMI is a priceless and necessary organization that enriches lives and understanding
of all that seek assistance
about mental health and it's
progress. I am forever grateful and tell everyone
I meet, the miracle of knowledge gained
from the Cape and Islands NAMI support teams and its staff.
I submit my comments with high praise and respect,
Donna Barnes
8/16/2017 7:52:01 AM

Linda
I have a routine that I do in the morning that includes either reading or walking 2 miles, and I love it!
8/15/2017 6:41:28 PM

Michael Patrick Wilfred Ordoveza Pantaleon
I find this strategy a very good way to start the day right.
8/14/2017 11:43:14 PM

Kevin And Angela Saylor
I really liked this....I have a teenager with anxiety depression spd . May be bipolar ....but it's hard getting her going so I don't want get up ...but this will help..😊
8/11/2017 7:01:54 AM

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