For many of us, our morning routine goes something like:
1. Hit snooze one or twice, or five times
2. Stumble to the kitchen for coffee while we scroll on our phones – news, Facebook, emails
3. Rush out the door maybe eating a granola bar
Pretty obvious why most of us don’t feel good first thing in the morning, right? That kind of routine leaves us feeling rushed as we head into our day, and it’s very likely that the day we’re headed into won’t create peace either between bills and kids and deadlines and traffic. You may have heard about the importance of having a morning routine to start your day in the best way possible and how it sets you up for a better day. It’s often talked about it “setting the tone for the day”. What often isn’t talked about is how a morning routine connects to biology and the circadian rhythms of our species. Your body runs on a 24-hour clock called the circadian rhythm, and its job is to balance sleeping, eating and other biological processes. The amount of willpower you have depends, at least in part, in where in the circadian rhythm you are. Willpower functions just like a muscle, sometimes it is stronger than other times, and we do not have an endless supply of that strength, so when you’ve used up your willpower, you have none until you’ve gone through a rest period so it can rebuild. We use our willpower throughout the day – when we get out of bed even if we’re still tired, when we drive the speed limit even though we’re late, when we’re patient with others even though we’re exhausted. So at the end of the day, it’s no wonder we have a harder time eating healthy foods, exercising, or engaging in other activities that we know are healthy for us. Oftentimes instead we eat something sugary and binge watch Netflix.
So, setting a new routine makes sense to do when we are at peak willpower, i.e. in the morning. You will have an easier time creating a new habit if you do it in the morning, and if you tie it to a habit you already have. Examples of this would be making coffee, hugging your child or letting the dog out. You don’t forget to do these things because you’ve already built the habit. Therefore, tying a habit you want to create to one of these things ups your chances of remembering to engage in the new habit.
It’s important that your morning routine be created around things that are meaningful to you so that it creates a sense of inner wellbeing. What do you value? Health? Peace? Reflection? Family? There are endless ways your values can be the inspiration for a morning routine but here’s a few ideas:
Health – take a walk, exercise, yoga, take your vitamins, drink water or tea before coffee
Peace – Step outside to watch the world wake up for a few minutes, meditate, journal, lay in bed and snuggle your dog
Reflection – journal, pray, meditate, plan your schedule for the day, give yourself credit for something awesome you did yesterday, think of how you can move toward one of your goals today, place your hand over your heart and ask yourself “how am I?” (and listen to the answer!)
Family – Text or call someone, spend a few minutes cuddling with your child/spouse/pet, make someone their coffee, leave a love note for a family member
A morning routine ideally helps you start your day feeling accomplished, awake and ready to take on your obligations. At first, don’t focus on how long your morning routine is. If starting with 15 minutes already seems like a challenge, don’t force yourself into an hour. Start by getting up a few minutes earlier than normal, and using those few minutes intentionally to support your wellbeing. Practice that consistently for a period of time to see if it works for you, and then readjust as needed/wanted. Extra points if you combine 2 – maybe take your cup outside and sit for a few minutes while you do nothing but sip your coffee.
One last note – your phone should not be a part of this routine, not in a way that invites the outside world. Using your phone to turn on a meditation is one thing because it supports wellbeing and allows you to tune in to your internal experience. Using your phone in a way that invites the outside world in, means you start your day with a focus on the external world and its opinions, needs, stress and expectations. As I’m sure you know, this is not an effective way to create peace or wellbeing.
Decide what’s important to you
Think of a way you resonate with that those things can be incorporated into a morning routine (but start with 1 or 2, not a list of 20)
Set your alarm a few minutes earlier
Decide to prioritize your wellbeing and stick to the routine even on days when it seems harder
Notice your progress and give yourself to change the routine if it isn’t working