The one thing we can be absolutely certain of is that day will come after night. Much as we might not like that morning alarm, it signals the start of a new day and things we must do. But how you start your day could be the key to unlocking your health and mental wellness.
It makes sense. If we rush around first thing, it sets the tone for our day. I like to think of the old adage; “Start as you mean to go on.”
Finding a solid morning routine that is comprised of easy-to-do and consistent behaviours helps to set you up for your day well.
Numerous studies have found having a consistent structure to your morning boosts productivity throughout your day. You're also significantly more likely to engage in consistent practices of self-care first thing in the morning.
This is vital. For me, working as a nutritionist, running the BePure Clinic and being a dad I quickly became aware that I couldn't always guarantee my energy when I came home from work in the evening. The last thing I felt like doing was exercising, meditating or deep breathing.
So, if I wanted to do those things - and trust me they help - I had to do them first thing in the morning.
Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple puts it better than me; "Moral of the story here: drive your day, or your day will drive you. Direct, or you’ll be put in a constant position to react."
"Moral of the story here: drive your day, or your day will drive you. Direct, or you’ll be put in a constant position to react."
What the science says
Roy F Baumeister wrote in his book Willpower; rediscovering the greatest human strength that willpower is highest in the morning.
This is why it is crucial to tackle any consistent practice of self-care, creativity or personal development in your morning. It doesn't have to be writing a novel at 5am. It could be committing to deep breathing, doing some dry brushing or journalling before your external responsibilities take your attention.
From a physiological standpoint, the morning hours offer some extra benefits.
Research shows exercising in a fasted state (i.e. with no food in our bellies) offers better benefits for fat burning and insulin sensitivity.
You also have the benefit of using cortisol - a stress hormone - to your advantage in the morning. Cortisol naturally peaks in the morning and declines throughout the day in preparation for sleep. Obviously, this is in theory. The reality is that many people experience cortisol surges throughout the day due to stress, excessive exercise and caffeine.
How many of us postpone our exercise and certain responsibilities as long as we can, only to face them during our least energetic hours of the day? By that point, it seems insurmountable and we often 'flag it'.
Sisson also says the willpower used in making these health-driven choices has a knock on effect throughout your day.
"You’ll be more invested in making healthier choices throughout the day if you’re already on a roll with an a.m. workout, meditation time and/or other positive behaviours."
I'm sure most of us probably agree that we feel off when we don't go through some form of morning structure to launch us into the day. But how do you go from a groggy, snooze hitting, member of the anti-morning brigade to loving your mornings?
My morning routine
The bit that’s important in my experience is finding a collection of things that help to ground me, while being enjoyable, personal and not so time consuming that it feels like a gruelling commitment.
My own morning routine will vary depending on my family commitments, but usually consists of several key elements; time with family, movement, nutritious food and getting clarity about the day ahead.
On an ideal day I wake at 6.00 - 6.30am, have a drink of warm water with lemon, cook a nutritious breakfast of eggs, greens and avocado. I eat this while talking to my family.
At 7.00am, I leave to cycle to the BePure Clinic. Once at the Clinic we meet every morning at 8.00am to talk through the day ahead. Then I’m ready to proceed with everything that needs doing.
Implementing a morning routine
There is no one right way to start a morning routine but it should feel nourishing and not a chore. Including elements that are important to you and your lifestyle is key to creating a sustainable routine.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Have a think about what makes you happy and settled. Some people really enjoy writing to clear their head in the morning. Your routine doesn’t necessarily have to include typical “healthy” elements. It could simply be a few quiet minutes to yourself.
We set alarms for our mornings, but we should also set an alarm to go to bed. The only way to carve out time and space for yourself in the mornings is to get up earlier. Personally I love being up before my household. It's tranquil. It's no sacrifice getting up earlier... unless I'm underslept. Set your alarm so that you have minimum 7 hours sleep before getting up.
Choose three activities that ground you
They don't have to be long or contrived. Deep breathing for ten breaths counts. So does drinking a glass of warm water with lemon. You can meditate if you want, or write in a gratitude journal.
Move your body
This doesn't have to be exhausting. Simply stretching or going for a brisk walk will prepare you for the day ahead.
Create a ritual, but try a few different things
Once you've put together a morning practice, make a ritual of it. What you try the first morning doesn’t have to be what you settle on. Play around to figure out what works for you.
Do you have a morning routine that works for you? Let us know on our Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to see how you set yourself up with a positive mindset for the day ahead.