MORNING ROUTINES: A GAME CHANGER FOR YOUR HEALTH & HAPPINESS

by Carina Morgan
MORNING ROUTINES: A GAME CHANGER FOR YOUR HEALTH & HAPPINESS

If you’ve ever read a book or interview by entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, Ariana Huffington, or any other highly successful thought leaders, you may have identified the pattern of strategic morning routines. These powerhouses take their mornings seriously, as the first few hours of our day set the stage for the rest of it.

WHAT IS A MORNING ROUTINE? 

A morning routine is a set of events that you go through on a daily basis that help ease the transition from just waking up to being ready to tackle the day in a healthy, happy, and productive manner. From the time your alarm goes off to getting out the door for work can often be chaotic. When that happens, we tend to experience chaos throughout the day. 

A morning routine is a schedule that allows you to experience calm and control as you set yourself up for the day ahead. Routines can be as short as 30 minutes and as long as 3 hours; the beauty of morning routines is that you can create your own based on your individual lifestyle and needs.

WHY IS A MORNING ROUTINE GOOD FOR YOU? 

We’re so accustomed to sleeping in until the last possible second. Maybe you routinely stay up later than you want to and don’t get enough sleep, or perhaps your hormones are out of whack and mornings feel extra exhausting. Whatever the case may be, if you’re waiting until the last minute to roll out of bed and then rushing to get ready as fast as possible to get out of the door in the nick of time, you may be setting yourself up for numerous health issues. 

Morning routines can help mitigate these issues and transform your chaotic days into efficient and powerful ones.

Having a morning routine can provide many benefits to your physical health, mental health, productivity, and efficiency when you fill it with activities that promote these things. Our mornings are a fresh start to a new day, and beginning the day with some time spent towards improving your wellbeing will do wonders for your adaptability at whatever life throws your way that day. 

When you find a morning routine that resonates with you and works with your lifestyle, you can expect to notice: 

  • Greater productivity and efficiency in your workplace 
  • Overall better mood
  • Improved feelings of health and wellbeing 
  • A greater sense of accomplishment

To be clear, having a morning routine does not mean you have to be a morning person. It is 100% possible to find a flow for you that works with your body’s natural inclinations when it comes to when you are most awake, the most creative, and the most productive. Your goal should be to optimize your natural tendencies to create an environment that allows you to thrive. 

Many of the visionaries you read about boast about their 4am wakeups in order to fit in their routine, but there are so many ways you can create this habit, as I will show you at the end of this post, where I break down a few examples of morning routines that fit different schedules, wake-ups, and time budgets. 

SCIENCE-BACKED ACTIVITIES TO CONSIDER INCLUDING IN YOUR MORNING ROUTINE

Below, I’m breaking down some common activities that highly successful individuals put into their morning routines and why they are such a great practice for preparing you for the day. I’ll wrap things up with a few sample morning routines as inspiration to build your own.

MEDITATION

Recently, people have begun to see how much value meditation can provide for mental and emotional health, even if it is just a few minutes per day. This is a wonderful addition to your morning, and you can see tangible benefits from as little as 5 minutes per day.

Regular meditation can help calm anxiety, improve mood, improve heart health, as well as improve brain function and the immune system.  Meditation has been shown to improve productivity, job satisfaction, and relationships in the workplace and since we spend much of our day at work, this can do wonders for overall well-being. Therefore, creating time for a daily meditation practice is a great action to take for your health, happiness, and career. 

I personally love the headspace app because I can do meditations as little as 3 minutes up to as long as I want, and they have seated and walking meditation options too! 

PHYSICAL MOVEMENT

Nothing gets you ready to conquer your day quite like getting in some daily movement somewhere in your morning. The benefits of physical exercise are extensive and highly valuable, and it is important to remember that daily movement can take MANY forms based on what you enjoy, how you feel, and how much time you have. 

Physical activity does wonders for your mental health; as someone who has dealt with anxiety all my life, exercise has always helped me manage it naturally. Exercise improves mood by altering your brain chemistry, it improves your sense of self-efficacy, social interaction, & confidence, and it can alter your cognitive function. 

Exercise also improves your physical health, and better physical health means a longer, happier life, more independence with age, a healthy heart, chronic illness prevention, decreased muscle wasting with age, and preserved cognitive function. 

Also important to note is that time doesn’t have to be a factor in why you can’t work out. Even if you only have 15 minutes, you can find a type of movement to fit in. Walking, at-home bodyweight workouts, a quick jog, or a fast HIIT session can all do wonders for your physical health 

BREAKFAST

Always a controversial topic, breakfast still makes the list on things that set you up for a successful day, even if that is a LACK of breakfast (I’m looking at you, intermittent fasters!). 

Breaking your fast can set the tone for the rest of your day. Eating a high-sugar or very carb-dense breakfast without enough protein and fat can lead you to experience blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can cause you to make poorer health choices throughout the rest of the day. 

It’s so easy to come up with excuses as the day goes by. Emergency meetings, impromptu lunch invitations, and last minute happy hour plans can all get in the way of eating nutrient-dense foods, if you let them. One way I recommend combating this is by getting some veggies in at breakfast. Nope, that was not a typo. By consuming healthy protein and fats with some vegetables at breakfast, you set yourself up to stay full until lunch, ensure you get some micronutrients into your day, and reduce sugar cravings for the rest of the day. 

Incorporating breakfast into your day doesn’t have to be a time killer. If you have the time to make a nutritious breakfast in the morning, great! If you don’t, that’s ok, because there are plenty of ways to prioritize this. Batch cook a veggie frittata on Sunday for the week, get some healthy granola and mix it with yogurt or your choice of milk in the morning, or make a smoothie – all of these are viable time-saving ways to start your day with a nutrient-dense meal. 

BRAIN-BOOSTING ACTIVITY

I love this one, mostly because I find it fun! One of the best ways you can ease into your work day is to find an engaging activity that helps you wake your brain up without the stress.. Waking your brain up can be super helpful to ease the transition from home to the workplace. It can feel quite jarring to be asleep one minute and thirty minutes later be in work mode. I think we can do better than that, and set ourselves up for a happier, smoother day by incorporating some form of brain booster into the mornings. 

I’m not the only one who thinks so. Our friend Mark Sisson over at Primal Kitchens likes to start his day doing the LA Times crossword puzzles. Research indicates that jigsaw puzzles both improve and preserve cognitive function. Art and music are fantastic ways to improve neural function and creativity in the workplace. Even reading fiction books can improve brain function and connectivity. 

JOURNALING

Journaling can contribute to physical and mental well-being. The positive effects of journaling include reduced stress, improved mental clarity, heightened confidence and self-esteem, better problem solving, and improved conflict resolution in relationships – all of which can have a positive impact on your work day and beyond. 

I think journaling often gets lost in translation because we live in a perfectionist society that makes us feel pressured to do things a specific way. For example, you tell yourself you will journal for 10 minutes a day, but in reality that is too long, so you stop because you’d rather not do it at all than do it less than you committed to. Or, we buy beautiful journals and then if we are feeling hurried one day and our handwriting is messy, or our grammar is off, we feel like we have messed up.

It’s important to clarify that there is no right or wrong way to journal. Simply expressing your thoughts and feelings into words for a few minutes per day is enough to elicit the benefits listed above. 

If you have no idea where to begin, I recommend getting started with a short daily journaling routine. Each morning, write down the following: 

  • 3 things for which you are grateful
  • 3 things you are excited about for today
  • 3 things you will do to prioritize your health and well-being today

Start your morning with writing out these positives and it will do wonders for your mood and perspective throughout the rest of the day! 

SAMPLE ROUTINES

Now let’s put together a few sample routines you can use as a starting ground and adapt to your unique interests, lifestyle, and needs!

EXAMPLE 1: 35 MINUTES

  • 6:30 am – wake up/ brush teeth/etc
  • 6:35 am – 3 minutes of meditation
  • 6:38 am – 3 minutes of journaling
  • 6:41 am – get dressed/ready (set out clothes night before)
  • 6:50 am – eat pre-prepared breakfast while doing 10 minutes of lumosity
  • 7:00 am – put dishes away & grab work bags
  • 7:05 am – out the door!

EXAMPLE 2: 1 HOUR

  • 6:30 am – wake up/ brush teeth/etc
  • 6:35 am – 5 minutes of meditation
  • 6:40 am – 5 minutes of journaling
  • 6:45 am – 15 minutes of movement
  • 7:00 am – shower/get ready (set out clothes night before)
  • 7:15 am – eat pre-prepared breakfast while doing 10 minutes of lumosity
  • 7:25 am – put dishes away & grab work bags
  • 7:30 am – out the door!

EXAMPLE 3: 2.5 HOURS

  • 6:30 am – wake up/ brush teeth/etc
  • 6:35 am – 10 minutes meditation
  • 6:45 am – 5 minutes journaling
  • 6:50 am – 60 minutes of movement
  • 7:50 am – shower/get ready at leisure
  • 8:15 am – make breakfast or eat pre-made breakfast
  • 8:30 am – 20 minutes of brain boosting activity
  • 8:50 am – wash dishes & grab work bags
  • 9:00 am – out the door!

Hopefully this gives you a starting ground towards customizing your mornings in a way that is energizing, calming, and productive. We’d love to hear about your morning routine if you have one!

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