Enhancing Your Morning Routine by Psychologist and Brain Health Researcher, Colm Peelo
The morning is arguably the most important part of the day. It’s your best foot forward in setting the tone for how the next 15-18 hours of your life (Tús maith leath na hoibre!). Whether that’s with a spring out of the bed and an energetic “go-gettem”, or the existential dread and avoidance of leaving the cosiness of that well-worn cocoon you’ve spent the last few hours in. We can’t change exactly how we wake up, but we can use the space we wake up in to help sculpt positive foundations and help us start as we mean to go on.
“We can’t change exactly how we wake up, but we can use the space we wake up in to help sculpt positive foundations and help us start as we mean to go on.”
Here are five quick and easy tips that you can try adding to your morning routine (or use to create one…) to overcome that groggy sleep inertia and boost your wellbeing to cultivate the happiest and healthiest version of yourself day-to-day.
1. Make Your Bed
Our days can be hard. Making your bed before you embark on what could potentially be a day with few obvious wins sets you up with at least one. It’s a success and an achievement before you even leave the room. It also leaves your room that little bit more presentable to come home to. The space we inhabit is a manifestation of our inner experience. If we encourage order and tidiness in that space, so too can our minds and thoughts reflect that. Set yourself up for the win!
We lose one of the most valuable commodities we have as humans when we sleep…water! Whether it’s through respiration (breathing) or perspiration (sweating), we can lose around 200ml of water on average in 6 hours of sleeping. And this needs to be replenished. Being even minorly dehydrated can impact our mood, cause headache, dizziness and…make us sleepy. A great way to promote some morning energy is to drink a glass or two of water soon after waking. To make sure this requires as little effort as possible in my delicate morning state, I fill a jug the night before and keep it beside my bed for easy access.
“we can lose around 200ml of water on average in 6 hours of sleeping. And this needs to be replenished. Being even minorly dehydrated can impact our mood, cause headache, dizziness and…make us sleepy.”
Aubrey Marcus in his book Own the Day Own Your Life talks about how he adds a pinch of Himalayan sea salt to restore the electrolyte balance and a couple of slices of lemon which helps to kickstart our digestive systems to his morning cocktail. I’m giving this a go and am loving it so far!
Our circadian rhythm is essentially our internal body clock. It is the mechanism that drives our body’s 24-hour sleep-wake cycles. It promotes the release of melatonin (sleepy hormone) at night to help us sleep, and stops it in the morning to help us rise along with encouraging a gentle rise in cortisol (stress hormone) to kick us into gear. It is regulated by exposure to blue light – a large amount of which is in sunlight. Absence of natural light in the morning, or over-exposure to too much artificial blue light at night (screens!) messes up our circadian rhythm and can make us feel sleepy at the wrong time! In the morning – get up out of bed and get into the light to tell your brain unequivocally that you are awake and you don’t need any more sleepy hormone. Find the brightest corner of your house and spend some time there. This will help our brains (and so us) wake up…and it ties nicely into tip four and five…
* This is all well and good for summer, and though it is a less than ideal, switching on some bright lights (which also contain a large amount of blue light) can mimic the effect of sunrise to coax you out of bed and into your skin in the dark winter months. OR why not try a sunrise alarm clock to help you wake up gradually…it also won’t allow you the excuse to rely on your phone as an alarm clock!
We’ve just spent the last 6-8 hours relatively unmoving. Our muscles and joints are stiff and underutilised. Where better to wake them up than that lovely bright corner you found to remind your brain that it’s time to start the day! We all know the benefits of exercise for health and wellbeing. Having some kind of movement in your morning routine (yoga, press-ups, jumping on the sofa) means you’ve started your day with a health promoting activity, and assists in setting that positive energised platform you are spring-boarding off from and into your day. Exercise boosts energy levels through an influx of oxygen and nutrients to our blood and brains, as well as from the release of endorphins. Purposeful movement can stave off injury, promoting healthy and functional muscle and joints for bodies that often are over-prescribed a sedentary lifestyle. Raise your heart rate. Mobilise those joints. Do it for at least two minutes – but try 20…
Mindfulness has become such a buzzword of late. Commandeered by all, from tech giants to hippies to hipsters and doled out as a panacea for all of life’s woes. But they all have a point. We’re bombarded by information at all times and often the first thing we do when we wake up is jump straight onto those wonderful hand machines that fill us up with short-lived dopamine hits and we don’t get a second to think before we’re overwhelmed again by a tide of likes and shares and unattainable standards and twitter thread wars and news of Brexit and Trump and climate change and... How are we ever supposed to figure out who and how we are. Giving ourselves even two minutes in the morning to just observe our body and our breath can help us recognise our own needs and wants, and gives us some increasingly rare headspace to organise our thoughts. A good starting point for mindful meditation is to focus on the breath. You can also do this in your sunny or brightly lit corner! It’s best to sit in a chair, or on the floor, or anywhere comfortable for this. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. In through your nose (filling up your belly), and out through your mouth. Notice your breath. Do this for a couple of minutes, bringing your attention back to the breath each time it wanders (which it will). [See any of the thousands of resources on mindfulness meditation for more]. You’ve just done a mindful meditation..
We can also be mindful in what we do (at any point in the day…) by simply recognising what we’re doing here and now. Making our bed or preparing breakfast also gives us a few seconds of mindful preparation for our day.
Gratitude: A bonus tip for your morning routine is a simple one. Say thank you as soon as you wake! To yourself. To the universe for giving you another day on earth. To the sun streaming through your window. To the duvet keeping you warm. Be grateful for whatever reason comes to mind (there are hundreds if you really try). Being grateful immediately takes us away from our automatic groaning moaning response of reluctance to waking up. If we’re starting the day by saying thank you, we trick ourselves into skipping this old routine and change our perspective. It can give us that little push to make us excited about our day. A positive mindset can do wonders for our productivity, happiness and overall wellbeing!
“It can take anywhere from 5 to 50 minutes, you decide.”
So there are five (six) simple things you can do in your own home to boost your wellbeing every morning.
Make your bed, drink some water, bathe in the light, move, be mindful and be grateful!
As always, consistency is key and the benefits are proportional. It can take anywhere from 5 to 50 minutes, you decide. But make sure to give yourself that time, however little, to set yourself up for a more positive, productive and better day every day!