“Mom. Mom. MOMMY!” You jolt awake to see the face of your toddler standing an inch from your face, staring at you like the kid from The Shining. You get jabbed with bony knees and elbows as they clamor over you to cuddle up. You close your eyes thinking maybe you can catch a few more ZZZs, only to feel chubby fingers (how are they already sticky?!) prying your eyelids open and asking for breakfast. The baby starts to cry from the other room. You stumble out of bed, splash some water on your face, try and shoo the toddler out of the bathroom for a moment of privacy; there’s banging on the door, the baby’s still crying.
Somehow, your partner is still snoring. You resentfully shake them awake. Get the toddler juice. Feed the baby. Make breakfast. Get everyone dressed. Arguments and power struggles pop up along the way. You’re running late. Grab something to pack for lunches. You’re officially going to be late. Finally, get out the door. Carseats, buckle up. Only 10 minutes late…not too bad. Forgot something. Turn around. Okay…20 minutes late. The morning frantically rushed by yet again and nobody is happy.
This hectic morning may sound like something from a sitcom, but, unfortunately, it is all too relatable. Many people struggle with feeling frantic in the mornings with no morning routine. When your day starts out with you rushing around and, let’s be honest, yelling, you can’t help but feel that you brewed a fresh pot of failure along with your coffee. The rest of your day is thrown off, as you’re playing catch-up, then eventually you fall into bed at the end of the day feeling exhausted and still frantic, which affects your sleep, which affects the following day yet again, and so on.
An interview in Forbes states that extremely successful people such as Oprah and Bill Gates are sticklers when it comes to following their morning routines. So the question is: what makes up a good morning routine and how do I get into one?
Steps to a Successful Routine
A morning routine can positively affect your mental health, so it is certainly worth the effort to establish one; the first step to establishing your routine is deciding your biggest stressors in the morning rush and forming a habit to combat that stressor. Some ideas might include: preparing breakfast and packing lunches the night before, putting backpacks/work bags by the door, or setting out clothes the night before. Now that that particular stressor is eliminated, there is more free time in the morning to give to yourself. So what do you do with that freed-up time?
In the same Forbes interview linked above, Benjamin Spall, author of My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, states that the best morning routines are ones with simple steps that people can faithfully follow every morning. According to Good Therapy, some ideas to work into your morning routine include:
- Let light in
- Make your bed
- Make a list
- Physical activity
There are additional ideas in the Good Therapy article, but let’s dive deeper into some of the ideas listed above.
The Reason Behind the Morning Habit
We know that blue light from screens can negatively impact our sleep, and similarly, light will help wake your brain up first thing in the morning. Many successful people actually leave their phones on airplane mode in a separate room throughout the night and into the morning, allowing more natural light to simultaneously wake them up and help them feel calmer. So put the smartphone away at night; you’ll sleep better and wake earlier. When you wake, instead of reading your negative news feed first thing in the morning, try reading a book by an open window. A good night’s sleep followed by a relaxing morning is practically a good day guarantee!
Starting your day off by completing a task, such as making your bed and making a to-do list for the day will help you feel successful before the day has even begun. This will lead to feeling like you can, in fact, take on the day ahead and accomplish even more tasks! In the same vein, having a moment of gratitude and/or meditation will allow that gratitude to carry throughout the day, resulting in more calm and less negative emotions.
Breakfast is often touted as the “most important meal of the day,” but it is also skipped by so many. John Hopkins Medicine states the importance of breakfast with many convincing points, such as helping with weight management, digestion, blood sugar, and boosting your brainpower throughout the day. A well-rounded diet, which should include breakfast, is also conducive to a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep leads to a better morning, and the cycle continues, either for better or worse.
As mentioned above, preparing sets you up for success; some ideas for preparing breakfast are: setting the non-perishables like cereal out on the table along with dishes, making hot breakfasts such as a breakfast casserole ahead of time to simply heat and eat, and keeping quick breakfasts like boiled eggs and yogurt in the fridge to easily grab. By preparing breakfasts the night before, you can have brain power throughout the day, help your sleep, then, consequently start the following day off well!
Physical activity is a great way to start the day because exercise, even just a few minutes, releases endorphins that will cause you to feel happy and calm. I would much rather start my day happy and calm than frazzled and frustrated! If your morning routine is short because you have to get to work or school early, try incorporating some stretching, and/or a few pushups and jumping jacks to get your blood flowing and your muscles awake. You will head into your day feeling energized and accomplished. Similarly, sleep and exercise go hand in hand. You will exercise better if you sleep better, and you will sleep better if you exercise regularly. After a good night of sleep, you will wake up ready to take on the day!
The Chicken or the Egg
It’s a classic question: which came first? The same conundrum happens with regards to morning routine versus nighttime routine. The morning routine sets your day up for success, and quality food as fuel, exercise, and limiting technology sets up your nighttime routine for success; you get good rest, wake up ready to exercise, and tackle the day, and the cycle of health continues. In conclusion, having both morning and nighttime routines will greatly impact not only your physical health but your mental health as well.