This isn’t another article detailing the morning routine of a trending CEO. For those of us racing to get to our 9-5, fitting in an hour workout, a green juice and 20 minutes of meditation isn’t always feasible.
Mark Twain, however, was right when he said that “the secret to getting ahead is getting started.” Science shows that a healthy start can boost our wellbeing throughout the day.
We’re here to strip back and de-Hollywood the morning routine. With these five simple hacks, you have the essential tools to set your day up for success. It’s tried and tested, takes less than an hour and leaves you feeling ready to face the day.
Morning Habit #1: Send A Boost
One of the best ways to kickstart your morning is to boost someone else’s. Research shows that kindness and mental health are closely connected, with 63% of Brits feeling that their mental health improves when others show them compassion. It seems the feeling is infectious, with those who provide social support 10x more likely to be happier and more productive than those who don’t.
That’s why Aldwyn Boscawen created Morale. The app is designed to help you harness the power of your connections by sending (and receiving) anonymous messages of support throughout the day, called ‘boosts’. Unlike other social media, Morale isn’t designed to keep you scrolling in bed for hours. You wake up, write your personalised boosts and send them to your invitation-only network of real friends. Then you close the app, feeling good and ready to get on with your day.
Morning Habit #2: Get Moving
The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but moving your body first thing in the morning can also have powerful effects on your mind.
How does this work? When we move, our body releases endorphins; the body’s own combined painkiller and mood enhancer. At the same time, our stress hormone levels drop giving us a combined sense of happiness and relaxation. Exercise also helps to increase our energy levels and regulate our sleep-wake cycle. It can even help to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
This close connection between our body and mind can create a chicken and egg dynamic between exercise and our wellbeing. On the one hand, when we feel physically healthy, our mental health often improves. Likewise, feeling better about ourselves can be a driver to get out there and move. The challenge arises when we have to break out of physical stagnation when we’re feeling low – I’ve been there and it’s extremely daunting.
My advice would be to start steadily. A morning exercise routine doesn’t need to be a big commitment. Evidence shows that 15 minutes of running, yoga or stretching can significantly improve your mood. If you can exercise outside and get some sunshine too, then even better.
Morning Habit #3: Keep Breathing
How hard can breathing be, right? We’ve been doing it all our lives. It turns out that breathing properly can actually be quite unnatural to us, especially at times of high stress.
Rebecca Dennis, founder of The Breathing Tree, says that a lot of emotion is held in our breath. By changing the rate, depth and pattern of our breathing, we can actually alter the messages being sent to our brain. Breathing deeply helps us to move out of our sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the state responsible for that horrible fight or flight feeling we get when we’re stressed. When our SNS is active for a prolonged period of time, stress becomes chronic and we can start to experience panic and anxiety. By moving out of that state through controlled breathing, our blood pressure and heart rate lowers, giving our body a chance to rest and digest.
At first, conscious breathing can take a lot of discipline and practice but once you’ve got it down, you can get into the rhythm of it within minutes of rolling out of bed. In fact, yoga teachers recommend that 5-10 minutes each morning is enough to experience the energising and mood boosting effects of breathwork.
Even better, breathwork practice can be done anywhere. Step-by-step guides like this one from the NHS can help to give your breathing routine a boost.
Morning Habit #4: Embrace The Cold
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of the cold. I haven’t hopped on the open water swimming bandwagon made popular by practices such as the Wim Hof Method. If it’s not your bag either, then that’s ok. Reaping the rewards of cold water therapy can be as simple as moving the shower dial to cold for a couple of minutes. This simple act of *slight self-torture* has been found to release endorphins in a similar way to exercise. Some people who regularly start their day with a cold dip have reported sustained tension relief, as well as improved memory, mood, and energy over time.
Morning Habit #5: Hydration Station
Now for the big one. We know it’s no easy task but resist the urge to reach straight for the coffee. After several hours without water, a serving of H20 helps to hydrate our brain and body, allowing us to think clearer throughout the day. There’s physical benefits too: drinking water in the morning has been found to promote digestion and increase energy levels for many people. To help you stick to the habit, try having a large glass of water by your bed before and caffeinate 90-120 minutes after waking.
Think of these tips as a buffet rather than a set menu. Everyone’s different and what works for one won’t work for all. Through trial and error, you’ll discover which of these hacks you’ll keep, which you’ll adapt and which you’ll let go. There’s no one ‘miracle morning routine’ – but implementing some of these positivity-inducing habits can help you feel energised, happier and more connected to those around you. So go ahead and give it a shot!