Everyone has heard the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” or the concept of “not being a morning person”. Do you ever have those days when you cannot get your act together? You just sit around, scroll through social media, scribble on some flashcards, and suddenly, half the day is gone. Now you cannot get anything done because you are too busy being angry with yourself, then you become even angrier about being angry, and so on. Once this negative feedback loop is initiated, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop it and get back on track. An effective way to alleviate or avoid this problem altogether, is to have a fixed morning routine, because it gives your day structure right from the start.
I used to start most of my days hating life, or I would sleep in and ignore my plans – only to feel guilty once I eventually got up. If you have the same issue, try the simple tips below for a minimum of seven days in a row and you may start to notice the difference! It can be hard to stick to a routine on weekends and initially it will take some willpower, but establishing this routine can get you through your days much more effortlessly.
1. Get consistent sleep:
Easier said than done, right? But if you can get into a routine of getting up at the same time every day, after seven days your brain will be on track to develop this habit and it will become much easier. However, this will only be the case if you go to bed at a similar time each night – or at least get a similar amount of sleep. The ideal amount of sleep that we require varies from person to person, but 7-8 hours is recommended. Avoid natural light and try herbal remedies, such as teas, if you struggle to fall asleep.
2. Drink water once you wake up:
While sleeping, we can lose a high amount of water and wake up feeling dehydrated. Considering that more than 70% of your brain consists of water (1.1), it is very important to hydrate yourself first thing in the morning. To make it easy for yourself, try leaving a glass of water beside your alarm.
3. Maintain a healthy diet:
Consider what you are putting into your body and when. If you are eating takeaway pizza at 10 pm, how do you think that could impact your morning? Answer – much more negatively than you might think, because when our bodies are digesting food late at night it can affect the quality of our sleep and deep sleep is critical for a lot of key bodily functions. Try to avoid eating less than 3 hours before you go to sleep. Following a structured eating routine such as intermittent fasting can help – if your doctor approves, try it for a change and see how you feel.
4. Start the day with an easy win:
Make your bed. I personally find that if you keep your bed clean and organized, it can reflect your state of mind. It can also help first thing in the morning to give you a sense of accomplishment and can help to set the tone for the day.
5. Put your phone down:
Do not start your day by looking at your phone and scrolling through social media. How you start your day is generally how you will continue it. You might also end up seeing something that puts you in a bad frame of mind or causes you to feel negative emotions. Try to set an alarm on something other than your phone to help kick this habit. Do not forget to avoid your phone before you go to bed too, to help improve the quality of your sleep.
6. Control your caffeine intake:
Avoid evening and night-time caffeine, and try to avoid having coffee early in the morning. If you wake up feeling stressed, tired, or are just not feeling well, coffee might seem like the solution, but it can actually increase your cortisol levels (stress hormone) and make you feel worse temporarily (1.2). You may also crash early in the day.
7. Have a strict morning routine:
In theory, the less effort and brainpower that you exert in the morning, the less of a struggle the rest of your day will be. If your body and mind already know what to expect, your morning can end up running a lot smoother. For example, I walk to the gym most mornings, so I keep my bag packed, my water beside my bed, and my clothes ready to go. The key idea here, is that the less brainpower used in the mornings for ultimately irrelevant decisions, the more you will have to use throughout the rest of your day.
8. Add an element of exercise to your morning routine:
For example, go for a walk, have a yoga session, swim, run, or do some weight training. It does not have to be a full workout, fitting in quick exercises will help. Physical fitness ensures optimal lung and heart capacities, thus supplying your brain with sufficient oxygen. Small amounts of exercise in the morning are enough to improve your memory and enhance information processing for the rest of the day, and can have numerous other health benefits (1.3).
Remember – “if you win the morning, you win the day”.
Written by: Kevin Cahill