Well-being: Developing a Morning Routine
Writer: Khan Mir
Editor: Mariyam Bi
Disclaimer: ‘My Mind Matters Too’ is a student-led consultancy and is not a substitute for qualified medical professionals. As such, any information on our blog is not instructional and should not be construed as such. Our work reflects our own experiences and you should always speak with a health professional when making changes to your lifestyle.
This definitely isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, and it probably won’t be the last. Routine is everything. The benefits of having routines are well documented and widely agreed on but many of us, myself included, struggle to make them a lasting feature of our lifestyle. Understandably so! Routines can be difficult to implement, especially morning routines because most of us would rather stay in our warm beds.
So how do people do it? To find out, I spoke to some of the people in my life that I admire the most. Uncoincidentally, they ALL had their own disciplined morning routines. I looked at the common features across our routines and have turned them into 5 key tips for this article.
1. Have a fixed waking hour
Like most people I know, I used to wake up at different times each day. On days I had class, I would be up two hours before they started but on the other days, my waking time would depend on my sleeping hour. I would set my alarm for a different time each day to ensure I got those all-important 7-9 hours of sleep, which made me think what I was doing was actually somewhat healthy. Whilst hitting your sleep quotas is great, this needs to be met with a fixed waking time! Our minds don’t function any differently on a weekend than they do on a weekday, so having a lie in two days of the week can really affect your cognitive functions. This is because our brains LOVE routine which means waking up at the same time, regardless of what day it is, becomes crucial in forming the healthy habit of a morning routine.
I now wake up at 7am, regardless of the day or time of year which helps me to plan my days in advance and helps avoid any anxiety, stress or pressure that usually accompanies uncertainty. One of the main challenges I faced was actually getting out of bed and hitting the snooze button repeatedly. There are a number of ways around this but what worked for me is leaving my phone on the other side of the room at night and setting an upbeat song as the alarm bell. I’m not only forced to get out of bed, which reduces the temptation to stay covered in blankets, but I usually find myself letting the song play all the way through and using it to energise me. Try different things, see what works for you and stick with that method.
2. Do something physical
Laying in the same few positions for numerous hours can take a pretty significant toll on your body. The natural curvature of the spine and position of the pelvis is thrown off and, if not compensated for, can lead to the development of issues including back pain and poor posture. One thing we can do to combat this is doing some light stretching of your posterior chain (hamstring, glutes etc) to restore the integrity of our muscles. This will also wake your body up and get your blood flowing at its usual rate much quicker than if you didn’t do this. Our founder, Meg, is a huge fan of morning yoga and recommends everyone give it a try! You could take this a step further and do some exercises for your cardiovascular systems or go to the gym. Start small and work your way towards what feels best for your health.
3. Do something to ground yourself
All of the people I asked about their morning routines made sure to do something that centred their thoughts and energy in the current moment, every single day. Waking up can often be quite a hurried process. Rushing around can raise stress and/or anxiety levels, which doesn’t set the ideal tone for the day ahead. Instead, starting your mornings with composure can significantly improve your chances of having a successful day. One of my friends reads or watches the news because it gives them something new to think and/or talk about each day.
I mentioned during my ‘Stress Awareness Week’ Instagram takeover (all of which are still available on our Instagram page) that I play classical music each morning, my favourite composer being Tchaikovsky. This calms my mind and primes my mental state for the productive day I want to have. Some of the things you could try are meditation, reciting positive affirmations, deep breathing, reading a book or, where possible, talking to the people you live with. Try to set a waking time which allows you to take a few minutes to ground yourself every morning.
This calms my mind and primes my mental state for the productive day i want to have.
4. Write a to-do list
Across the board, writing down/ typing up a checklist of everything that needs to get done during the day was part of every successful morning routine. Taking control of your day before it starts is one of the best ways to avoid unpleasant feelings like helplessness or confusion. Try to write down things including:
tasks you want to get done
where you need to be (if anywhere) and at what time
errands you need to run
anything else stuck in your mind.
You could also try to set personal goals for yourself to accomplish. It can be anything, nothing is ‘too small’ because our brains gather momentum from every accomplishment. For example, three years ago I set the goal of paying one stranger a genuine compliment every day and it has now become a habit which brings positivity to my day, and hopefully to the stranger too.
Taking control of your day before it starts is one of the best ways to avoid unpleasant feelings like helplessness or confusion.
5. Stay consistent
Needless to say, to be able to achieve a morning routine we need to keep at them and make them a staple of our days. It is absolutely easier said than done. It took me a while to achieve this so please don’t expect it to happen overnight. The first few weeks of any changes are always the toughest but powering through them grants serious rewards such as healthy habits that can stick with you for life. Instead, take a gradual approach by slowly easing yourself into the habit you’re trying to incorporate into your routine. Starting small and building your way up is the ideal way to do this because the initial victories will encourage you and give you the momentum to achieve infinite more. For example, if you currently wake up at 1pm, it will be difficult to get your body to wake up at 7am the next day without denying yourself a high quality of sleep. Instead, you could wake up half an hour earlier each day until you reach your target time because this allows for a much smoother transition and an overall higher rate of success.
The first few weeks of any changes are always the toughest but powering through them grants serious rewards such as healthy habits that can stick with you for life.
It’s a process of trial-and-error which everyone starts at different points in their life and goes through at different speeds. The important thing is to keep moving forward by finding what works for you. Have patience and trust the process. The whole team at Mind Mapper wishes you the best of luck and is cheering for you all the time!
Message from the editor: the most beneficial thing you could do for yourself everyday, is to build momentum as soon as you wake up. What helps me get out of bed, is simply reminding myself of my why, my reason, my intention. Just by speaking your intention out loud, can set a desirable tone for the rest of the day.
“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” ~Meister Eckhart