Many top motivational speakers talk about the importance of a focused, morning routine but what do they mean by this?
Why are Mornings so Important?
Basically, the way you start your morning, sets the tone for the rest of your day.
If you start out in a rush and are anxious and stressed, it’s likely that the rest of your day will continue that way.
Similarly, if the first thing you do when you wake up is check your emails, scroll through social media or browse the news, then you are priming yourself into a reactive state. Essentially, this means you are in defence mode and your moods are being dictated by what's going on externally.
Whereas, if you wake up and take some time for yourself before you expose yourself to what is happening in the outside world, you'll create a stronger internal control, which means that you'll feel more empowered and you're therefore less likely to reinforce anxious and negative patterns of thinking.
6 Key Practices to Build into Your Morning Routine:
- Meditation - If you already have a preferred style of meditation then commit to a daily morning practice soon after waking. Otherwise, find a style that works for you - breath awareness, body-scan, mindfulness, kundalini, transcendental, Zen, loving-kindness or one of the many sound frequency mediations you can find for free online. At the very least, regular meditation will make you feel calmer, more grounded and centred. You'll know when you've hit the sweet spot with what works for you because you'll start to crave it!
- Journalling - You can simply jot down your thoughts and feelings on whatever comes to mind, some refer to this as 'brain-dumping' or be more specific, for example, you could set your intentions for the day or write out a gratitude list. Journalling has been shown to help with mental health because it can help you understand your thoughts and feelings more clearly, which can then help you gain control of your emotions.
- Exercise - We all know that exercise boosts the feel-good hormones, yet you may feel that morning exercise isn't possible due to your hectic schedule. However, just 10 minutes of exercise or even simple stretching still works wonders. Exercise is often a mindful practice, therefore getting you out of your head and into your body. We also use up some of those early morning stress hormones and shift energy and tension in the body. Psychologically, even the smallest amount of exercise will boost your mood.
- Reading - When we're feeling stressed our brain is wired to look for threats, which therefore means we're more likely to look for the negatives in life. However, if you start your day reading or listening to something positive and uplifting, you will cut through the negativity bias and condition your brain to start thinking of possibilities as opposed to obstacles. Either set-aside time in the morning to read 10-20 minutes of something motivational or listen to an inspirational podcast or audio-book whilst getting ready. If you do this every day, you can and will change the lens through which you see the world.
- Prayer - Whether it be a specific religious practice or your own personal ritual, prayer will have much the same effect as the previous suggestion, you are priming your mind for positivity, faith, trust, love, hope and possibilities.
- Gratitude - Research suggests that you cannot feel fear at the same time as feeling gratitude. For this reason, many people recommend that you focus on gratitude first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night. This wires your mind for positivity and in turn calms the nervous system, therefore alleviating anxiety and stress. A simple way to do this would be to think of five things you're truly grateful for every morning as soon as you wake up. Writing these things down makes this practice even more powerful.
Make Routines That Stick
The key message is that time is precious and even if you cannot spare half an hour for these activities you can just spend the first few minutes of every day thinking about all the things we can be grateful for.
- Consider a 3 minute stretch routine to loosen up your muscles and disperse the early morning stress hormones as soon as you get out of bed.
- Listen to a podcast, read a motivational book or meditate whilst on the way to work - this isn't straight after waking but it will still go some way to prime your mind for positivity and possibilities.
The key here is to realise you need to consciously build in time rather than 'try' and find it. This requires discipline, especially in the beginning, but the beauty of this is that you will start to crave the time to yourself when you start to feel the positive benefits.
Waking up a little earlier is a great way of incorporating the positive activities into your daily routine. It’s a small sacrifice for having a great start to your day.
Kate Horwood is a wellbeing & personal excellence coach, katehorwood.com