Let's face it: Knowing what to look forward to makes it just that much easier to get out of bed in the morning. Especially if you've got a bad case of the blues, establishing a morning routine is a great way to set an intention for the day, ground yourself, and prepare for a productive and positive day ahead.
How are routines linked to mental health?
It's science! Humans are creatures of habit, which means we feel happy when we feel comfortable and safe. For the monkey sides of our brains (we're going to talk about this idea a lot today), having a comfortable and familiar routine tells our brains that we're most at home -- so, teaching our brains that "routine = safety" is a great way to calm those anxiety instincts and get yourself in a good headspace every day.
Routine is particularly important for people living with mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder or ADD/ADHD. Having something familiar to fall back on is a great way to show that monkey brain that you're in control of your day, and that everything is going your way, even (and especially) when it isn't.
Why is a morning routine good for my mood?
Have you ever spent the day working in sweatpants, only to realize that you've barely gotten anything done?
With the pandemic, the lack of familiar schedules and routines has made it far too easy to fall into bad habits and poor sleep hygiene. The lack of a morning routine can exacerbate these problems. Those feelings of sluggishness and stress can be directly linked to not having a morning routine -- and adding even a simple three-step routine can do wonders for your daily productivity and mental health.
Completing daily routines, like brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, and taking a shower show your brain four things:
- You've built a comfortable structure. Again, monkey brains like structure -- it's familiar and comforting, so completing your daily chores/tasks is an immediate relief to your body and mind.
- You've made an accomplishment. Morning routines set you up for success right away. If you know, "Before work, I need to brush my teeth, make coffee, and change into work clothes," completing those tasks gives you the satisfaction of crossing them off your mental to-do list. This shows your brain that you're ready to take on the day!
- You're where you should be. Completing familiar tasks lets your brain know that everything is as it should be: no emergencies, no scary monsters lurking in the woods, and all your muscles and joints are working correctly. (It sounds silly, but this is a real comfort to that "fight or flight" part of our brains.)
- You're broadcasting to others that everything is as it should be. Whether those "others" are your spouse, coworkers, friends, or just the UPS guy coming by, completing your morning routine helps you put your best foot forward with everyone around you. And having that "everything's ship-shape!" feeling with the people around you is yet another way of assuring your brain that you're safe, comfortable, and happy.
What should I include in my morning routine?
A healthy morning routine should focus on what makes YOU feel good. For example, some people might feel energized by a sunrise yoga session or HIIT routine, while others need a calm, grounding session looking out the window and drinking a cup of coffee.
Your morning routine should include a few things:
- Take care of your body. This includes things like cleaning up, eating a nourishing breakfast, and getting some exercise (if that's your thing) or self-care time.
- Take care of your mind. Show that monkey brain some love! This might include a meditation session, a few minutes reading a good book, or listening to your favorite album while you get ready.
- Take care of your intention. Set an intention for the day. What do you want to accomplish? This might look like journaling for fifteen minutes, making a to-do list, or updating your wall calendar.
Examples of Positive Morning Routines
- The Chill Day:
- Set your alarm 30 minutes later than usual.
- Take your time getting ready: brush your teeth, take a leisurely shower, and dress in comfortable clothes.
- Make a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy it while you meditate, journal, or simply look out the window.
- Before you start your workday, take five minutes for a slow stretch session.
- Sit down at your desk and read or speak aloud your favorite summer mantra five times.
- Enjoy those peaceful vibes!
- The Energizer
- Wake up with the sun.
- Start with a 30-minute exercise program, like yoga, pilates, or HIIT.
- Take an extra-hot shower while listening to your get-up-and-go playlist.
- When you get dressed, pick out your favorite shirt, or something with bright, energizing colors like red, pink, and yellow.
- Cook and eat a healthy, energy-forward breakfast, like eggs with strawberries and avocado slices.
- Before you start your workday, write down your intention for the day. Hang it somewhere you'll see it while you're working.
- Enjoy that energized, motivated feeling!
- The Forward-Thinker
- Get up five minutes (one snooze button!) earlier than you normally would. Use that extra five minutes to set your intention for the day. What are you hoping to accomplish?
- Take a quick shower or wash your face with a mint, tea tree oil, or eucalyptus scrub. It'll wake you right up!
- While you're enjoying your breakfast or morning coffee, take the time to journal or write out the day's to-do list. Focus on intention, sort your tasks by priority, and make a plan for the day.
- Set out what you need for the day. If you're working from home, this might look like preparing your workstation, plugging in your laptop, and getting out your notebook and pen.
- Practice grounding. Whether this is a fifteen-minute meditation, yoga session, or walk with your dog, use this time to focus in on that intention you set earlier and let it fill up your whole day.
- Filled with intention, come to your workspace (already set up and ready for you!) and settle in to an extremely productive day.
What do you include in your morning routine? You really can't go wrong with a square or two of Moodygirl's vitamin-enriched vegan chocolate :) We're serious!! Enjoy a square before you start your day and ride that feeling into a wonderful workday!