If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. – J.M. Power
Much have been talked about the benefits of morning routines. There are a handful of variations and I suppose this makes sense as we are all different in our own ways. What works for one may not work for another.
For example, I find a long list of wonderfully lined-up routine out of reach and at times out of this world.
- Wake up, smile and make your bed
- Brush your teeth, wash your face and have a cold shower
- Resist the urge to check your phone, emails or social media
- Meditate and perhaps re-correct yourself
- Listen to uplifting music or positive affirmation
- Read a book or article for 15 minutes
- Exercise, stretch and maybe throw in some yoga
- Write your goals, review your goals
- Plan your day, work your schedule
- Track your expenses, review your budget
- Cook yourself a fulfilling breakfast
- Make an antioxidant smoothie
I get overwhelmed every time I try to follow that beautiful list above. I will be happy if I can find enough time and energy to accomplish half the list. Time is limited, especially between the moment I wake up and when I am suppose to leave for work.
Mornings can bring a special challenge to parents too. As a parent you will constantly have to juggle the needs of your children and household. Sometimes your time is never your own. Getting kids ready for school, attending to elderly needs, making breakfast for the family, sorting out the laundry, watering the plants and what not.
On certain days, you would consider yourself lucky to find enough time to go to the bathroom and groom yourself just so that you can be presentable for work.
But still, I agree, the best way to start your day is to have a good morning routine. No doubts. But you will have to purposefully carve out time and for your good self before the world gets up and gets hectic.
It is worth it. The best reason for you to make it a point to establish and carry out a good morning routine is that it generates a positive momentum. This momentum is an important part of human psychology. When you have started your day right by moving it forward positively, you are more likely to keep accomplishing positive things the rest of the day. A good morning routine sets the right tone for a wonderful and productive day ahead.
Personally I would simplify a morning routine into the following 4 elements. Technically it is only 3 because the first one is actually done the night before.
1. Get enough sleep
Any good morning routine must start with a good night sleep. By a good night sleep I mean at least 7 hours of quality rest for us adults. Non negotiable. I have many times try to cheat and reduce the amount of sleep so that I can have more time for a good morning routine. But all I found was that I ended up short-changing myself when I am less than 100% to tackle the challenges of the day.
There are tonnes of resources on the importance of sleep but my favourite reference is from sleep scientist Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley – a research institute whose goal is to understand everything about sleep’s impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. In his research, Walker demonstrated powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health. The evidence Walker presented is enough to send anyone early to bed. It’s not an option at all. Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health.
Read the article on Matthew Walker’s work here – Sleep should be prescribed. What those late nights out could be costing you.
The next thing you should work on is getting up at YOUR right time, consistently. We have often heard that people who wake up earlier are often more productive. This does not mean that night owls can’t have a productive morning that leads to a productive day. Their “mornings” may take place a little later, but it can be also productive nonetheless.
What time you wake up is not as important as getting up at the same time each day. Waking up at the same time each day will help you get in tune with your body’s clock. Your body follows a circadian rhythm which is often referred to as your “internal clock” or “body clock”. Your internal clock helps to regulate your level of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period. Try to go to bed and wake up consistently daily so that your circadian rhythm is stable, which will then lead to optimum hormone levels, body temperature, metabolism, and immune system.
2. Get in Touch
Once you are up, fresh from a night of sufficient rest, the first thing I would recommend is to get in tune or in touch with your inner being. Now depending on your preference and belief, you have a few options to achieve this.
Personally, the moment I wake up I would sit by the bed edge, drink half a bottle of water (about 300ml, placed beside the bed the night before) and be grateful. I will quickly think of a few things that I am grateful for and how they are just right for me. Example, I woke up healthy, my sons are growing up strong, I live in a comfortable house, I enjoy my work, etc.
Counting your blessing daily is good, but I do this also because you need to give your body some time to recover from a lying down position before you jump up and get moving. Getting up quickly after lying down for awhile can some times cause dizziness. This dizziness is called postural or orthostatic hypotension. It can occur when the brain receives incorrect information about the body’s position in relation to its surroundings and movements.
After brushing my teeth and washing my face (to ensure that I am really awake and fresh), I like to spend some time journalling. I write about my goals and have a quick brainstorm on how I can achieve them. I note down any ideas that come to mind. You can always journal and write about your feelings at the moment or a recent experience. Be flexible. The idea is to get in touch with yourself and what is important to you.
If you are a Christian, you can use this session to have devotion, to have a quiet time with God. Pray, read the Bible and meditate on God’s word. If you are a Buddhist, you can take the time to centre yourself with good posture, steady breathing and mindfulness. Then learn some basic mantras. Pray for happiness and wellbeing for your family and friends. Whatever religion you are in, get in touch with God.
3. Get some Movement
The next thing you will want to focus on is your physical body. Depending on your preference, you can get in touch mentally/spiritually first (Element 2) before working out or vice versa. I don’t find the sequence critical so it is up to you. Whichever works best.
What you want to achieve in this activity is get your body to sweat, at least. The intensity will depend on your level of fitness and how much you have been working out. All of us starts from a different base so it is hard to prescribe something standard for everyone.
If you have not been keeping fit, you may start light with some form of stretching. Better still if you can go for a brisk walk around your house. Fresh air in the morning is good for you. If you have been active, try going for a run. If you would rather stay indoors, use the treadmill or elliptical trainer. If yoga is your thing, go for it. Any form of stretching and cardio workout is good. You decide what, how much and how long to work out.
The catch is you have to make sure that the work out is sufficient. If it does not make you sweat at least a little, you are probably being too easy with yourself. The activity is too light or too brief. You don’t have to exercise till it sucks, but I would aim for a good hard effort. Elevate your heart rate, sweat out those pores and get breathless before you catch your breath and recover.
A good morning workout will enhance your metabolism, improve your physical energy and enhance your focus and mental abilities all day long. You will walk around feeling a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you have completed an important daily task. You don’t have to press for time trying to fit in an exercise in the evening. Waking up early in the morning to exercise enhances your personal discipline. Lastly, waking up early to exercise will in turn help you sleep better at night. Your body will enjoy a healthy sense of fatigue at the end of the day and you will be ready to sleep, well. And the positive cycle continues.
4. Get the Fuel
Don’t skip breakfast, unless you are deliberately fasting. Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day. A healthy breakfast on the other hand gives you energy and set the stage for a great day.
If you are like me before, you may be grabbing breakfast on the run when you are late to get out the door. You actually can do this, if you have prepared your breakfast the night before. Nothing wrong, as long as you ensure that you have some healthy food to fuel your body in the morning.
However, I have in recent months incorporate and allocated some time in the morning routine to ensure that my family and I have fresh and prepared breakfast. I do so because breakfast is an opportunity for me to bond with my children, especially to show them that I love them by providing them something to break fast each morning.
I like to start with a lemon, not coffee. Yes, squeeze a lemon into a glass of water, add some honey, stir and drink it down. There are many known benefits of lemon and I am sure you have heard and read them everywhere. Rich in vitamin C, it enhances your immune system, flushes out toxins, aides digestion, rejuvenates the skin, and many more good stuff.
You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fibre with sufficient protein. Yes, aim for a healthy dose of protein. A protein-packed breakfast can satisfy your appetite and help you eat healthier all day long. I will not dwell into recipes of breakfast with high protein. You can google it and plenty of high-protein breakfast ideas will show up.
I like to keep it simple and not be too worked out on the number of grams of protein to consume. Soft-boiled eggs, low sugar cereal or oatmeal with milk, peanut butter on wholemeal bread, tuna chunk wraps are simple pleasures I rotate around the week.
Following any decent morning routine will not be easy. So are you allowed any cheat days? I will say no. No cheat days. Why? Because like it or not, you will inevitable fail to follow the good routine on some days, despite the noblest intention and stubbornest willpower. And when that happens, don’t get too stress out and don’t be upset with yourself. Just treat that as your unplanned, accidental cheat day. Make sure you get back into the grove the next morning. No sweat.
No one is the same. Your position at this point in life will be different from mine. You might be a teenager, just single, married, with children, etc. So everyone should have a different morning routine customised to your current situation. Also, things change as we move on in life. A couple just blessed with a baby will certainly experience a major shift in their mornings. Their morning routines would have to be revamped totally to accommodate the latest addition into the family. So always be flexible and always be ready for change when the need arises.
Once you get used to your morning routine, you will find that it gets easier to follow and somewhat becomes automatic. That is a new good habit forming and very soon you will not have to think or will yourself so much to do it. It has after all becomes a routine.
So with your new and wonderful morning routine, what can you expect next? Nothing much, not at least for awhile. I can guarantee that you will not be great as yet. You will not see any drastic improvements for a short while.
This is where you don’t give up hope and slack off. If you consistently put in the morning routines day in day out, I believe you will slowly but surely experience improvements in your life physically, mentally and even spiritually.