As I’ve learned over time, the key to never having a bad day is a good morning routine.
A good morning routine isn’t defined by the time you wake up or the attitude that you wake up with. A good morning routine is about establishing a healthy sequence of events that prime and prepare your mind, body, and soul for anything and everything life throws at you that day.
If you haven’t noticed, we humans are habitual beings. We avoid stress by establishing conscious and unconscious habits and find comfort in predictability. It’s a survival mechanism we have acquired from the relatively safe and predictable lives we have. That being said, how come all of this seems to go right out the window when the alarm clock goes off and you hit the ground running? And what can you do to avoid the frantic morning rush?
First, let’s talk about the three main components of a good morning routine:
If your mind ain’t right, nothing else will be. This is a crucial aspect of not only a good morning routine, but a healthy life. There’s a variety of ways to “get your mind right” first thing in the morning such as:
Meditating first thing in the morning might be the easiest time to do it. Since it’s early in the day you have fewer distractions and noise to worry about and your post-sleep brain is empty of thought. If you’ve never meditated before I recommend trying it out in the morning for ease of practice.
There are many forms of meditation, but they all boil down to one thing: achieving mental clarity and an emotionally calm state. Close your eyes and get lost in the darkness behind your eyelids. Focus on the rhythm of the waves at your favorite beach. Visualize how you are going to go about performing each and every task throughout the day with grace and purpose. Focus intensely on the silence of the room and the beating of your heart. Or simply just let your mind wander wherever it wants.
Mindfulness is the process of becoming “mindful” or aware of your body, thoughts, and feelings. I’ve found a lot of success with this method myself. A simple way to practice this is by starting at your toes and working your way up to the top of your head. With your eyes closed, feel your toes, each and every one of them. Feel the sensation of them against your socks or on the sheets of your bed. Then work your way up to your knees, thighs, butt, and hips…until you reach the hair on top of your head. Focus your breathing into each of these thoughts and body parts. Imagine as if you are breathing life into them and waking them up slowly.
Trust me, after your first time doing this you will feel weird, but in a good way. You’ll feel as though you have greater control of your body parts, thoughts and feelings…because you are mindful of them.
Still not convinced? Check out this 2014 study on Neural mechanisms of mindfulness and meditation: Evidence from neuroimaging studies that points out just how effective mindfulness and meditation are at stimulating important regions of your brain that deal with stress, chronic illness, and psychological well-being.
Looking for a good place to start?
Headspace is a great app with guided meditations and helpful hints to get you more “mindful”. You get a free 10-day trial when you sign up.
Oak is a really good FREE alternative to Headspace. With Oak you can choose from either Breathing, Meditation or Wisdom and each come with customizable modes to choose from.
Our bodies are built for movement, just like cars are built to drive. If you neglect to take care of the car it will get run down. This also goes for our bodies. So start every day by taking your body for a drive.
Sunlight is essential for us immediately when we wake up. Sunlight is a powerful source of blue light. You want to minimize your blue light exposure during the evening and nighttime, but during the morning you should try and get as much as you can. Exposing yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning jump starts your bodies production of serotonin and cortisol.
Seratonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating things like mood, appetite, learning and memory, body temperature, sleep and much more. Seratonin is crucial in regulating and maintaining a healthy sleep and wake cycle because it is a precursor to melatonin, the hormone responsible for us getting tired and falling asleep. Therefore by exposing your body to sunlight first thing in the morning, you promote a healthy and accurate serotonin (and subsequently melatonin) cycle.
Sunlight is also important in proper cortisol cycle function. Cortisol is commonly known as the “stress hormone”, and that makes sense. The body’s release of cortisol is what wakes us up and makes us alert for the day. We want cortisol to be at its highest in the morning then gradually decrease throughout the day so we can be tired and sleep (thanks to the rise in melatonin).
Finally, in a less scientific sense, sunlight just feels so damn good.
Movement is the next thing your body needs in the morning. You wouldn’t jump into a workout without warming up, so why would you jump into a day full of movement without doing the same for your body?
Morning movement can be performed in various ways, but the focus should typically be to loosen up and activate your bodies tissue (muscles, joints, ligaments, etc…). One way to do this is through some form of stretching. I would suggest finding or building a dynamic stretching routine that is easy enough for you to do upon waking yet effective enough to serve a purpose. I will tell you my stretching routine at the end of this post, but in the meantime here are some resources:
The Cal Poly Hip Flow is something I just recently found through a Ben Greenfield Podcast. The movement routine was created by Cal Poly Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Holder. Holder formulated the warmup to hit some hard to get and often overlooked areas of the body. It includes a focus on hip and glute activation as well as breathing correctly and opening up the spine. Every single athlete at Cal Poly is required to perform this warmup before workouts. The intensity at which you perform this routine is up to you, so don’t be afraid to take it slow in the morning.
Foundation Training is another method I will use from time to time. Simply put, it is a combination of yoga movements and deep breathing that target your back, posture and hip alignment. Let me tell you, this stuff wakes you up! You can search for Foundation Training on YouTube and use some of the sample routines they have posted.
Lastly, when in doubt, just string together a couple basic stretches and yoga movements or search for some on YouTube that you can follow along with.
More specifically, your body needs to experience temperature fluctuations. I know that I am at risk of losing some people here because they don’t want anything to do with the cold early in the morning, I just ask that you give it a try.
Start by jumping into a very hot shower. After 15 seconds or so, flip it over to ice cold and take calm deep breaths as the temperature begins to change. It’s important that you remain relaxed and calm during the change in temperature so you can practice controlled breathing. By controlling your breathing and bodily response to the extreme temperatures you influence your sympathetic nervous system’s response.
You may be wondering why it’s so important to experience hot and cold in the morning. As I wrote about in my last article The Case For Cold, the benefits of cold exposure span from increased brown fat production to optimized recovery from workouts. When you expose yourself to these temperatures first thing in the morning you get all of the same benefits and then some. On top of everything cold and heat exposure has to offer, doing these in the morning really can wake you up. There’s also a great sense of accomplishment and feeling of refreshment as you emerge from the cold water of the shower or tub to start your day.
If I sound crazy already, just wait till you see my personal morning routine…
I almost forgot one last thing your body craves in the morning. Something that is absolutely vital to our survival. Water. You should be drinking at least 20fl oz of room temperature water upon waking up, to jump-start your metabolism and wet your whistle. You can also take it up a notch by adding some lemon, or apple cider vinegar to the water to prime your stomach for digestion and to balance your body’s pH levels.
The Soul component of the morning routine is just as important as The Body and The Mind. Without the Soul the body and mind would cease to function, and that wouldn’t get you anywhere.
Just as you exercise the body and mind, you need to exercise the soul, and here are a few ways how:
Gratitude can be practiced in various ways. The most common and straightforward way is to keep a gratitude journal. In this journal you can reflect on the previous day, the day ahead or anything that you wish. Write down what you are grateful for, hoping for or working towards. You can focus on specific events or people, or solely focus on yourself. No matter how you do it, the goal should be to experience internal reflection or productive thinking. Do a simple google search for “gratitude journal” and you will be overwhelmed with the number of positive stories you find.
Gratitude is an important aspect of a morning routine and the soul because you are intentionally pressing pause on life to highlight the little things that make you happy. It’s a powerful method for showing you how lucky you are to be alive each day.
Gratitude is an app that does all of this and allows you to organize it nicely by date, check it out!
Turning to your faith first thing in the morning is another great way to begin your morning. If you happen to be religious and practice your faith, this is a perfect time to read, reflect and interpret scripture or devotional’s.
Each morning as I’m taking my heart rate readings I will open up my bible or I’ll open up my Bible App to continue reading the plan I’m currently working on.
This quiet time allows me to grow stronger, wiser and more in-tune with my faith and soul prior to staring each day.
Affirmations are fun because everyone loves a good motivational quote. There are tons of apps that will give you a new affirmation each morning, or you can just come up with your own. Affirmations are rooted in the concept of positive-thinking and self-empowerment, which both serve to improve confidence and self-image. Why get out of bed to look in the mirror each morning when you can just affirm to yourself that you look great?
Here are some good resources:
ThinkUP is an app I’ve used in the past for daily morning motivation. The app is great because you can choose from tons of different categories to make sure you find the right one for that day.
Daily Quote is another app that offers you inspirational and motivational quotes at times you select it to notify you. You can also save your favorites and organize collections with hashtags.
Now that you’ve learned the 3 main components of The Ultimate Morning Routine, ill show you exactly what my morning routine looks like. Keep in mind, my morning routine evolves and changes over time, just as I do. Never stop exploring, learning and cultivating information, because there is always room for improvement.
My Ultimate Morning Routine
Let’s use a typical Monday morning…
A Monday morning begins with my alarm going off at 6:30am. I probably made most of you cringe just from reading that, but I’m a morning person. Not everyone is a morning person. As I said earlier, a good morning routine does not require you to get up early, it should correspond with a proper amount of sleep for you. Anyway, back to me.
On Mondays, I have an 8:00am class, so in order for me to do my morning routine, I have to get up pretty early. Whatever sleep you sacrifice to wake up early is repaid to you by the energizing effect of a morning routine as you’ve hopefully already learned.
Now for the good stuff, in a cliff-note format:
- The alarm on my phone goes off at 6:30am.
- I reach over to my bedside and grab my Garmin HR monitor to take my resting HR and HRV to get an idea of how ready and recovered I am.
- While I take my heart readings I open up my bible or bible app on my phone to do some daily scripture.
- When I’m done with reading and taking my heart rate data, I begin some mindfulness and meditation.
- After about 10 minutes its time to finally hop out of bed.
- I get out of bed and drink ~20fl oz of water with some apple cider vinegar.
- Next is the fun part. I rip open the curtains and flood my bedroom with sunlight.
- Once I’ve adjusted to the bright light of the room I begin to do my morning movement flow. Usually its some type of dynamic stretching like Foundation Training (which I mentioned above), but at the moment I’m experimenting with the Cal Poly Hip Flow (also mentioned above).
- Once my body is activated and loose I get dressed and make myself a cup of green tea or black coffee before head outside for some sunlight and cardio.
- Typically in the morning I perform low-intensity fasted cardio that consists of a leisurely walk or light jog. If its cold out I will wear minimal clothing to get some of the cold exposure benefits.
- If I have the time, I will go down to a river that I frequently take cold baths in.
- If I’m tight on time I will hop in the shower after the run and contrast between hot and cold temperatures.
- Finally, its time to get dressed, pack my bag and head out to class for that morning, and I feel AMAZING!
- While most people come rushing into class with bags under their eyes, I am ready to tackle everything the day has in store for me including some tough workouts and classes. (Pssst…you can feel this way too if you take my advice and start your own routine)
You may think I’m insane after reading my morning routine, and that’s OK with me. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m serious when I tell you that the key to never having a bad day is a proper morning routine. Try it out for yourself and watch the amazing ways it impacts your life.
Leave a comment below:
Tell me about your own morning routine.
Leave me some feedback, its appreciated!
Before you go I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read this. I truly appreciate each and every person that reads these articles, checks out the website or social media accounts. I’m working hard every single day to get better and better at creating content like this and helping you, the reader, in any way I can.