Mornings. Sometimes they can really suck...if you let them.
Most of us have read or heard about the power of having a routine in the morning and how if we can just make use of that morning window then our lives will be so much better. We see articles pop up in our newsfeed about how ‘these 5 gazillionaires do the same 5 things in the morning’ but sometimes it’s hard to relate to them because…well it’s hard to relate to a gazillionaire.
However, don’t let that dissuade you from the fact that the morning is a very significant area to work on. What you do and how you feel in the morning will set you up for the rest of your day.
Scenario one - Wake up late, feeling tight and restricted, miss having breakfast and mentally feel rushed…guess what your day is most likely going to be like.
Scenario two - Wake up earlier, eat food without being rushed, read a book, take time to smile, breath and move your body…your mood and feeling throughout that whole day will be positive, robust and enriching.
So here are some of my morning habits.
Setting a bed time.
I know….not the morning…but one of the ‘secrets’ to having a productive morning is to organise it the day or night before. That starts with setting yourself a realistic bedtime. Getting to bed early will help you get up early (true story).
If for the last year you have been going to bed around midnight, don’t suddenly just set your bedtime for 9.30pm. Try just to consistently get to sleep by 11pm. This consistency in itself is a pretty powerful way to normalise your circadian rhythm. I have found that making the last 30-45 minutes of the evening into a routine as well works very well for helping you sleep deeper. For example if your ‘bedtime’ is 11pm then think about the last 30 minutes before that time being all about calming your mind and body down because we need low cortisol (stress hormone) to fall into deep and restful sleep.
Here are some ways to help lower that hormone:
- Reading a book before going to sleep.
- Making sure you aren’t looking at screens (the light from monitors and phones can make your body feel like it’s time to wake up…not the best when trying to get to sleep).
- Stretching gently and breathing deeply. Moving your body with intention is a form of active meditation and the breathing will help drop your blood pH levels resulting in lower cortisol.
- Writing down things that are on your mind. Don’t let the thoughts of the day spill over into the next day. Write them down and get them out of your head.
Lastly, making your sleeping conditions optimal for restful sleep will help. In a nutshell, your room should be cool, quiet, pitch black and free of electronics.
Focussing on coffee and feet.
My morning begins with the act of making coffee. I make this into a ritual in my mornings as it allows my mind to wake up as I’m focussing on the particulars of making coffee. By being focussed on one task and not letting your mind get ahead of you to plan, plot and think about the day ahead, you can carry that focus over into the rest of your day.
Movement while drinking coffee.
Next up in my morning is my daily movement window…which I do while drinking coffee. Now this movement routine changes from day to day and I think that is one of the main points to always keep in mind. We’re all unique and special (that’s what my mum always told me) so my routine will be different from yours and it’ll also evolve and change over time depending on things like:
- What I want to focus on getting better at.
- What feels the most restricted.
- What I’m training later on that day.
- What I trained the day before.
- How much time I have.
The basis of my daily movement window is simply to move my body. In this window, my only concern is moving all my joints slowly through the fullest range of motion I can. I pay attention to how my body feels and any differences I can feel between the left and right side. This also helps me create a bit of a plan for my warmup before training that day as well. Say for example I’m doing my daily movement and my left shoulder is more restricted in its movement compared to my right…guess what I’m going to focus on before my lifting session.
Mindful movement is the key message here.
The grateful log is a fantastic technique to improve your outlook and your mood. It’s something I go through with every nutrition and training client and I’ve personally practiced it for years. I used to do this just before going to sleep to help me sleep deeper but I’ve come to use it more in the morning now as I find it much more effective at promoting a grateful mindset throughout the day.
Here’s how this works:
Grab a pen and paper (A small log book works well here too).
Write down 3-10 things that you are grateful for in your life, starting with “I’am grateful for/that…”
Smile at having all these things to be grateful for.
Stand up and have a great day.
Try just writing down three things you’re grateful for tomorrow and really picture and be mindful of those things as you’re writing.
Meditation while feeling grateful.
Meditation is something I’ve been experimenting with recently. It’s another ritual that I’ve ‘been meaning to’ implement for years but just never got round to it. Reminds me of the saying:
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day - unless you are too busy.
Then you should sit for an hour.
I’ve been using an app called Calm to help focus me in the mornings as the app allows you to programme the meditation time for whatever time you have. However I’m always aiming for at least 20 minutes so that I have enough time to practise the mindfulness techniques that it helps to teach you. Commit to doing 20 minutes a day for 30 days and see what changes you feel.
I strive to do these every day however, I didn’t start them all at the same time. Try picking one practice to do this week. Don’t let the fear of falling short of doing them daily stop you from starting tomorrow.
Pick and write down the one routine you want to do tomorrow morning before going to bed tonight. The act of writing something down activates a specific part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This area acts like a filter and puts the important information (such as the very thing you wrote down before bed) at the forefront of your mind.
No habits ever forms instantly. Keep working on one until it sticks and then add another.