If this past year has taught us anything, it is an appreciation and understanding of what matters most, for ourselves, our community and the greater world. Maintaining our health as well as our happiness has become more important than ever, as worldwide we are being challenged by life-altering lockdowns as a result of a global pandemic. While we may not be able to travel freely, socialize in the way we are used to or even mingle in society without a mask, we can still focus on optimizing our own personal lifestyles and establishing routines that promote good health, a happy mindset and increased productivity overall.
Many people have embraced this trying year by bettering themselves, whether it be through online classes or learning new hobbies, while others have chosen to while away the days watching television shows and waiting for the time to pass. Admittedly, I have done a bit of both, but with no end in sight to the challenges posed by this raging pandemic, it is now time to establish a new normal, but in this case, one that is healthy, happy and productive and that starts with a solid morning routine. After all, having a productive and relaxing morning routine has been credited as being one of the greatest shared characteristics of the most successful people in the world.
It may take some time and trial and error, but the research is in and points to the following tips to help set up a morning routine that works best for you.
Make a plan of your morning routine the night before and follow it, ticking off each step you have successfully completed on the list. In addition to planning, you will also want to prep for success. So, in a sense, your morning routine actually begins the night before. By making sure your kitchen is clean and breakfast prepped you are setting yourself up for efficient timing the next morning. Another tip to set you up for success is to have the next day’s clothes picked out, or taking it a step further, wear workout clothes to sleep and that way all you have to do in the morning is put on your shoes and you are ready to go.
Whether you choose to get up early or not does not have to be a determinant to having a successful morning routine. While many successful business people are credited with rising as early as 4 a.m., there are also a number of well-known successful figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Winston Churchill and even Charles Darwin that are known for being late risers. The bottom line is to establish the right time to wake up that works for you, but what matters most is what you do afterward.
It can be tough to create a new habit of rising early, especially as it can toy with your sleep and energy levels until it has become imprinted. As a general rule, supposedly it takes one day to adjust to each hour of the time change, such as in jet lag or when rising earlier than normal. Thus, to avoid any time spent adjusting, it is advised that every day the wake-up time is moved to 15 minutes earlier, in order to bypass feeling sluggish during the day. Obviously getting enough sleep and going to bed at a consecutive time will help the process. There are a number of tactics to ensure you wake up when you want to such as setting multiple alarms or putting the alarm clock across the room and no matter what, don’t press snooze. Just get up and start the day. (Though your alarm tune may also be to blame for your snoozing habit.)
At the beginning of establishing a new morning routine, it is more important than ever to get some sunshine as soon as you awake to reinforce the new habit. If possible, try to immediately go outside when you get out of bed as the fresh air will help you wake up and the sunlight will assist in aligning your circadian rhythm and sleep pattern. Spending time in the sun is also a top tip for recovering from jet lag and combatting SAD. Meanwhile, jumping straight in the shower, and especially taking a cold one, is an extremely invigorating way to start the day; however, when you get out, then head outside for approximately 20 minutes to read, meditate or incorporate an outdoor workout.
Making the bed is highly recommended as one of the first rituals to be embarked upon when starting the day. The book “Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life and maybe the world” written by the four-star Admiral William McRaven who was also chancellor of the University of Texas, purports that this simple task sets one up for success for the rest of the day. In addition, making the bed is believed to be a relaxing task by providing a sense of calm and order. Another important factor shared by those who are more motivated in life is having an organized and clean environment, hence the phrase: A tidy home equals a tidy mind.”
Research shows that the optimal time to exercise is actually in the late afternoon when our body temperatures are high and our muscles are warmed up. So, why is it then that most people correlate doing a morning workout to get the optimal start to the day? Getting in an early run or yoga session is certainly considered to be a good practice by many of the world’s most successful businesspeople the reason being that the morning workout sessions tend to be done more consistently than workouts later in the day when energy levels are low and work and other obligations can alter plans and good intentions. Furthermore, a study published late last year points to people engaging in morning workouts having less risk of developing certain cancers. (If you'd like to give these three circuit workout ideas a try at home, click here.)
The bottom line, however, is that consistency is the key to having a successful workout practice and so if the morning is not the best time for you then test out what is and you can adjust your daily activities accordingly. If you choose to exercise later in the day, then there are still a variety of ways to have a stellar morning routine. One ritual embarked upon by many successful individuals is to meditate, which like exercise also has a calming effect. If you can’t clear your mind at first then a conscious acknowledgment of all things to be grateful for is another life-affirming and positive practice to incorporate into the ideal morning ritual. You should create a moment in time that is yours, whether it be exercise, meditation or journaling, and it is important to incorporate an activity that is solely related to your mental wellbeing versus being a slave to social media or simply rushing off to work each morning. Having a moment to reflect on the greater picture and what truly matters couldn’t be more important than ever right now.