Your morning sets the trajectory for your entire day!!
“Extraordinary minds start their day on purpose.” — Thomas Oppong
Your morning routine is the perfect opportunity to leverage your personal growth and subsequent success.
How you spend the first few hours of your day is crucial if you want to continually become a better human being and to live a meaningful life.
Here’s how you can start your day with purpose - 5 practical habits that will support you in thriving with a productive and meaningful day.
1. Wake up at the same time
“Setting a daily schedule that reinforces your body’s natural rhythm is the most powerful health habit you can adopt.” — Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar
Our bodies thrive on routine and consistency.
We have evolved to wake with the sun and go to bed when the sun sets, and we are at our healthiest when we live in alignment with this. Waking up at the same time each day is the first step in optimizing our circadian rhythms — the internal clocks that determine the timing of everything within our bodies.
This includes weekends! So while you may think it's beneficial to have a 'lie-in' touting that recovery is massively important (which I agree with) - the reason you feel the need for a lie-in is actually down to poor sleep / recovery habits through out the rest of the week. A lie-in will just upset your natural rhythms and not allow your body to optimise it's recovery time for the rest of the week.
I've personally found that when I do wake naturally, often an hour or so prior to my set time, I feel more refreshed - so, rather than going back to sleep - I'll get up and get into my day. Contrary to logical thought, the knock on effect of this is a more productive and energised day!! I've even been know to rise at 4:30am and bang out 2-3 hours of creative/productive work!!
Optimize your circadian rhythm, and you’ll optimize your health.
Optimize your health, and you’ll be well on your way to living a productive and meaningful day.
How to make it work
Figure out a wake time that is going to work 90% of the time — even on the weekend.
Obviously, this needs to be early enough that you’re going to make it to work on time and which gives you enough time to complete your morning routine before the workday starts.
So calculate how much time you’ll need in the morning, and count backward. Then, set an alarm to go off at this time every single day. That’s it.
Once you get into a good sleep rhythm, you'll find that you'll start to naturally wake up before the alarm goes off. This is a great sign that your body is getting into sync. Take this opportunity to switch off the heart-stopping klaxon alarm you used to need to wake up and start incorporating more gentle ways of naturally waking - e.g. an artificial light source that gradually increases over time mimicking the rising of the sun; gentle melodic tunes vs. the screaming of a radio or bleeping of a clock. Avoid using your phone as an alarm (See point 2 below).
To make things even easier on yourself, aim to incorporate as much light and movement into your morning routine as possible, and eat at a consistent time within a few hours of waking up. This will help your body quickly adjust to this schedule so that it’s really easy to wake up at your set wake time. Light, movement, and food are the biggest circadian cues.
There will be occasional days that your body will not want to rise. Watch out for these if you have been under stress at work, increased your exercise significantly or maybe recovering form illness. Listen to your body....but don't use this as an excuse for a 'lie-in'..! As per the above, even if you wake up early, take advantage of the extra time in your day rather than trying to go back to sleep.
2. Avoid your phone
Looking at your phone in the morning is the best way to ruin the start of your day.
We want to avoid our phones for as long as possible in the morning, especially avoiding email, instant messaging, the news, and social media.
Looking at your phone means you’re starting your day on someone else’s terms and engaging with someone else’s agenda. If you truly want to make the day, you need to start the day working on your own goals and dreams.
How to make it work
Instead of looking at your phone, do things that will help you grow and become a better human being. Some examples include:
Hydrating (see below)
Listening to podcasts
The best way to do this, is to sleep with your phone in another room.
I have started to turn-off my phone completely overnight whilst it charges - that way, I am not tempted to roll over as soon as I was up and take a look at missed notifications from overnight and be distracted from my morning.
Set a time for checking-in with what's gone on overnight a couple of hours AFTER you wake up - -give yourself a good hour and a half or more without looking at a digital screen - you'll be surprised the difference it will make.
If you do nothing else in your morning routine, at least get some water into your body.
You body does an amazing amount of work recovering itself overnight, with most of the natural detoxing, cleansing, repair and growth functions all occurring whilst you are in blissful slumber. All this activity utilises fluid - so we wake up quite dehydrated.
Up to 60% of our bodies are made up of water, so without enough hydration, our bodies won’t be able to effectively execute everything else we need them to. We are a chronically dehydrated society, and a lot of the morning grogginess and fatigue we feel can be attributed to dehydration.
Adequate hydration will improve your cognitive functioning, increase your metabolic rate by 30%, and support your immune system. This is a great way to start your day on purpose.
How to make it work
As soon as you wake up, get some water into you - I shoot for between 500ml to 1 litre before consuming anything else.
To make it even more hydrating, add some pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt for added minerals. There a dozens of supplements you can take, from the simplicity of just adding some fresh lemon juice, to specialised vitamin stacks to help with kicking off your days. Find a combination that works for you - but even just plain tap water on its own will reap benefits to the rest of your day.
Avoid caffeine until you have adequately hydrated. Caffeine is a natural diuretic, so will actually dehydrate you more. It is also known to instantly put your body into a state of stress! Wait a good hour before consuming your first cup of Java...
“Waking up your body with coffee is like setting off a fire alarm as an alarm clock. When you’re dehydrated and have nothing in your stomach, the caffeine enters your bloodstream incredibly fast, releasing a flood of stress hormones from your adrenal glands that your body reads as a fight or flight trigger.” — Aubrey Marcus
4. Get outside
Getting outside into daylight is another powerful practice for supporting your circadian rhythm.
The first ray of light to hit your eyes when you wake up tells your internal clock it is morning and it is time to be awake. This subsequently sets off a sequence of events from hormone release to metabolism optimization; your body gets ready for the day ahead.
Exposing yourself to light first thing in the morning will therefore optimize your circadian rhythm. This has downstream benefits for almost every aspect of your health.
There are also myriad benefits of spending time outside, beyond the impact of daylight exposure.
“According to the biophilia hypothesis (i.e., humanity’s innate tendency to connect with nature), humans largely relied on natural resources for survival and reproduction in human history, leading humans to evolve a tendency to prefer being close to nature through an emotional connection.” — nature.com
How to make it work
As soon as you wake up, get some natural light exposure.
If the sun is up, get outside, but at a very minimum, open all your curtains and blinds, and sit by a window - even on cloudy days. If the sun isn’t up yet, turn on some bright overhead lights at a minimum.
Another way to increase your light exposure in the morning is to not wear sunglasses on the way to work, if you can do so safely.
Spend some time outside in nature as many mornings as possible — try to get outside somewhere where there are trees and other plants. If this isn’t possible, consider getting some house plants and sit by them as you hydrate and go through your morning routine.
A simple 30min walk outside first thing in the morning will have multiple benefits - light exposure, activating calorie burn, some alone time to reflect on your day ahead, exposure to fresh air, etc. Be sure to make the time for this in your daily routine - you'll notice the difference it makes to your day very quickly.
5. EXERCISE YOUR MIND
Spending some time in the morning to practice mindfulness or learn something is a great way to start your day with purpose, and set yourself up for future success.
The morning is also the perfect time for stillness.
Mornings are inherently still — the world is quiet, people are still sleeping, and the chaos of the day has yet to begin. Utilize this pocket of quiet to incorporate mindfulness into your routine.
Being mindful is crucial for grounding you, for bringing you back to the present, for starting your day in a calm manner, and getting you on a centred trajectory for the day. This is how you take care of your mind.
You could include many practices for this, such as:
Sitting and drinking coffee
The key is to find something that quiets your mind and leaves you feeling grounded and steady. The world is crazy these days; we need to ensure we take time away from the craziness, even if just for a few moments.
Continuing to learn throughout our lifetime is so important, not just for the health of our brain, but for our growth in general. Learning is how we improve at anything — our careers, being a better wife or husband or parent, becoming stronger and leaner. Without learning, we become stagnant.
Taking some time to learn something in the first few hours of your day means you’ll feel productive and on top of things, you’ll wake up the brain with useful information before it gets flooded with things like the news and social media, and you’ll make sure you’re working on yourself every single day.
How to make it work
This can be a short and simple practice, or it can be more formal. I like to listen to podcasts in the morning while I'm outside going for a walk, taking time to meditate, writing a daily journal and reading articles while drinking my first coffee of the day. These are all free and easy ways to incorporate mindfulness and learning into your morning.
As Annie Dillard says,
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Therefore, we need to take control of our mornings and engage in practices that will set us up for a good day, and in turn, a good life.
You make or break your day in those first couple of hours, so make sure you take your morning by the reins and make it work for you.
So wake up, and get into your day with purpose!