What is something the world’s best athletes, Fortune-500 CEOs, meditation gurus and some of the most high-functioning individuals all have in common? They have a morning routine. And I’m not talking about any random morning routine. There are key elements to a morning routine that can really set you up for success. These are studied and proven ways to get your day started on the right foot.
So let’s start with you. What is the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you smash that snooze button? Do you jump right out of bed and hit the shower? Maybe you rise slowly and like a quiet start to your day. Whatever it is, that is one element of your morning routine. Another thing is clear though - you don’t have to be an early riser to have a morning routine. You just have to be conscious of how you spend your time when you wake up.
Benjamin Spall, co-founder of My Morning Routine and co-author of the new book, My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired has said, “When you have a positive morning in which you’re spending your first few hours (or first few minutes, depending on how long you have) doing things that you already decided in advance you really want to do, you’re starting your morning with intention.
“When you start your morning with intention you can bring your morning “wins” with you into the rest of the day.”
Sounds pretty good right? Well it gets better. There are elements that we can incorporate into our morning routine that can help set a positive tone for the rest of the day - and our lives. The most important factor: they must be simple and easy to follow.
#1 DON'T HIT SNOOZE
Spall told Forbes that, “The main thing the statistics we included in the book do is confirm biases that we all have: yes, we need to go to bed earlier (our interviewees average a 10:57 p.m. bedtime), yes we need to wake up earlier (6:24am), and no, we absolutely should not be hitting the snooze button.”
This comes after years of interviewing some of the world’s most successful people in a variety of careers and outlets. And let’s be honest, we’re not getting any real meaningful rest once that alarm goes off. Your brain views that alarm as a cue - a certain sound, a certain smell or a certain place or action that evokes a certain action or thought and triggers your body to perform a certain routine. That certain routine is to wake you up. So skip the snooze and get right into your day.
While you’re at, maybe keep your phone on Do Not Disturb until you’re ready to actually start your work day. You won’t see any “urgent” messages that were not very urgent at all and it’ll allow you to set some personal boundaries that allow you to have a moment just for you - without any outside interference.
Another way to get that serotonin boost? Moving your body. Our brains also release other neurotransmitters and hormones during exercise including endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine. Dopamine is associated with whatever makes us feel good. Ever heard of a runner’s high?
Now, we’re not talking about HIIT training or going for a triathlon first thing in the morning. Even just minimal movement can make a real difference. A study by the researchers at the University of Georgia found that regular, low-intensity exercises like a simple jog or even casual stroll can boost energy levels by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent.
#3 GET SUNLIGHT
Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Sunlight and darkness are powerful biological indicators; seeing the sun regularly each day helps keep your internal clock synced.
Being in the sun generally makes people feel good, and there are many scientific reasons for this effect. One of these is that exposure to UVB rays causes human skin to produce beta-endorphins, which are hormones that reduce pain.
Their other benefits include:
- Promoting a sensation of well-being and improving mood
- Boosting the immune system
- Relieving pain
- Promoting relaxation
- Helping wounds heal
- Helping people feel more alert
- Reducing depression
How much sun should you get? This answer is different for everyone. It depends on your skin tone, age, health history, diet, and where you live. In general, scientists think 5 to 15 minutes (and up to 30 if you’re dark-skinned) is about the right amount to get the most out of it without causing any health problems.
Sounds like a busy morning, no? Don’t worry - meditation doesn’t have to take up much time. Try to set aside 15 minutes a day first thing in the morning. If you need to, start with five minutes and work your way up.
One powerful benefit of meditation is being able to detach from habitual thought patterns, especially the negative ones. Through a regular practice, you can gain control of your thoughts. Being in control in this way can help move you into a compassionate, proactive state of being rather than a reactive one.
Researchers think that meditation may stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing your heart rate and breathing rate, and improving blood flow. These physiological effects that take place during meditation may be part of the reason why meditating makes you feel so relaxed. Beginning your day in a calm, relaxed state can also help you be less bothered by the little frustrations in life and reduce overall stress and anxiety.
Not sure how to get started? There are some amazing apps out there like Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm that can help you get started on a meditation routine.
Before you grab that cup of coffee try and knock back a big glass of water. Water can have an impact on cognition and mental performance — even minor dehydration can have adverse effects on cognition, according to a 2016 study.
Drinking water (approximately 600ml) can increase your metabolic rate by 30 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Having a glass on an empty stomach helps put your body on a path toward more efficient digestion the moment you start your day.
Finally your gastric emptying rate (aka how much you pee) is accelerated by how much water you consume. The more you pee, the more toxins you flush out. It's as simple as that.
While you’re on the hydration train, throw in a capsule (or two) of FourHealth Green+ and your daily probiotic. Both should be taken on an empty stomach (30 minutes before eating) for optimal benefits.
Feeling excited about all the opportunities to amplify your morning routine? Our recommendation? Try everything once and try it for at least two weeks. If you’ve been considering trying something (such as meditation, a new workout, a morning walk, having a set time to do your most creative work, etc.), bringing this into your morning routine is a great way to see if it’s a right fit for you.
Give each new element a fair shot. Trying something for just a couple of days before giving up isn’t enough. And keep things short! Don’t go all-in on a two-hour workout or creative writing session on your first morning. Start with small changes and work up to the bigger ones. You’ll be thrilled when you start to see positive shifts in your day.