Some people can bounce out of bed…I’m not one of them. Especially since kids, postpartum insomnia and the small matter of the pandemic. This is for you if, like me, you need a helping hand…
How you spend the first couple of hours after you wake sets the tone for the whole day. We all know the pattern: you wake up in a funk, maybe you slept terribly, and you just *know* the day will be a write off. But what if it doesn’t have to be?
If you take time to do something positive for yourself first thing, you’ll see the benefits snowball. The familiar, habitual steps of a morning routine are comforting, motivating and efficient. And the more you can ‘automate’, the more head space and energy you free up for the rest of your day.
Here I share my Top 10 evidence based morning rituals for a positive, productive day. I don’t aim
for perfection here; this is real life and some days I might only manage 4 or 5 things. But I’ll notice a massive impact even then. I think of it like a menu. This is my list though and definitely not exhaustive. I’d love to hear what gets you going in the morning? Let me know in comments!
- Wake up at the same time, every day. Weekends and holidays included! Yes, even if you slept terribly for whatever reason (taking insomnia, anxiety, baby wakes) keep that alarm set the same. And whatever you do, DON’T hit snooze! Research points to a consistent wake up time being EVEN MORE IMPORTANT than a regular bedtime for setting our circadian rhythm (body clock)
- Get some morning light. Throw open those blinds, draw your curtains and – better still – get outside for a walk or have your morning cuppa al fresco! Our eyes need direct exposure to sunlight (so no sunglasses) for at least 30 mins and within an hour of waking, to help set our circadian rhythm and wake us up. This can be a real game changer if you struggle with insomnia as the strategy is proven to help you sleep at night
- Make your bed. I’m a real stickler for this.! Even if everything else is chaotic, the instant sense of accomplishment and order helps clear the mind, motivate and sets you up for greater productivity
- Hydrate. We lose a lot of water in the night and are dehydrated when we wake up. Try having a couple of big glasses of H2O as soon as you get out of bed and notice how different you feel
- Move your body! Even 20 minutes of moving in a way that feels good to you can really benefit us first thing. Light exercise will stretch out short, tight muscles; get the blood and oxygen flowing; reduce stress (cortisol) ; and release mood-boosting endorphins. I love a morning power walk as it kills lots of birds with one stone: cardio, weight bearing exercise, morning light exposure, fresh air, headspace & vitamin D in the summer! If you’re lucky enough to live in the countryside, seeing the green spaces around you is an added bonus! Personally I find yoga great too as it helps me feel grounded and in control moving into my day
- Finish your shower with an icy blast! This may sound like torture but bear with me. Temperature extremes are a hormetic stress. Hormesis is complex and I’ll post about it another time, but basically intermittent bursts of biological stressors can stimulate powerful cellular pathways that support overall health, resilience and potentially longevity. Think of it like positive stress; what doesn’t kill your makes you stronger!
- Eat a blood sugar-balancing breakfast. Whenever you eat – even if this isn’t until later when you actually feel hungry – focus on a blood glucose-balancing breakfast. I’ve done a whole post on this subject but essentially you’re looking for quality protein + healthy fats + fibre. Avoid sugars and starches unless you want your blood glucose, energy and focus to be spiking and crashing all day…
- Delay caffeine o’clock. Like many people, I adore my morning cup. The right ‘dose’ of caffeine can be great for energy and focus as well as tasting great! But do yourself a favour and drink water before you dash to the machine and ideally give yourself an hour after waking up. Our cortisol (stress hormone) peak is first thing (known as the cortisol awakening response)- natures way of helping us out of bed! But we don’t want to aggravate that situation with a stimulant!
- Write it down. Many people swear by writing their ‘morning pages’- think a stream of consciousness brain-dump onto paper – to help motivate, focus the mind and foster a sense of agency. I keep it simple with a ‘to do list’- setting my intention for the day and a list of realistic tasks in priority order. Think about the best time of day for different types of activity. For me this a big stress buster.
- Practice a few minutes of mindfulness. This could be a short guided meditation (I love Calm app or Headspace is similar) or some simple breathing exercises (eg breathe in to your belly for 3 secs, hold for 4, out for 5 and repeat…) or even just trying to be present and mindful as you walk or drink that coffee. Noticing, allowing and accepting our thoughts can make us more resilient and better able to cope with the challenges of the day. Breath practice can shift us from fight or flight (sympathetic) dominance into rest and digest (parasympathetic) mode where we thrive.