Image credit: @my_full_house
A few years ago, before the days of Yujen, I was a morning hater. Mornings would often start without me whilst my eyes were still closed and my brain still fast asleep. I’d reach the office on mental standby and by the time the afternoon made an appearance, that long list of tasks remained uncrossed and incomplete.
By chance, I stumbled across an article which talked about the morning routines of CEOs and athletes, and how their morning rituals were directly correlated with performance and output that day.
‘Morning people are successful people!’, the article exclaimed. As if chirpy morning people weren’t annoying enough, they were likely to be successful too.
I knew my life needed an overhaul, starting with mornings.
Today, I’m utterly convinced that the changes I made to my morning routine all those moons ago were instrumental in the way I now view and face the world. It may seem insignificant, but how you approach your morning will change everything and attract a whole host of wonderful opportunities into your life.
Here are some tips to help get you started and an explanation on how they could benefit you in the long-term. What’s more, they’re realistic making them easy to stick to.
1. Use a light therapy alarm clock
Hands up who uses their phone as an alarm clock?
There has been lots of research recently on insomnia-inducing the ‘blue glare’ or blue light that emits from your handset, which reports negative effects on sleep. When your alarm goes off, a combination of the unnatural light and being startled out of your slumber suddenly increases levels of cortisol which is a stress-responding hormone and can also result in low moods.
Alarm clocks that use light therapy to simulate sunrise gradually soothe you out of your sleepy state. Light also controls melatonin levels. Melatonin, a light responsive hormone, should follow the opposite pattern of cortisol – that is, lowest in the morning and peaking at night. Studies show that exposure to dawn stimulation in the morning supports better melatonin balance throughout the day (source, source).
Therefore using light therapy in the morning is more likely to have you waking up feeling refreshed from your previous night’s sleep by keeping hormones in balance.
You can easily find a decent light therapy alarm clock on Amazon and the like.
2. Wake up an hour earlier
Hear me out…
Waking up earlier makes a huge difference as it allows your body to establish a rhythm in its own time. The period when you first wake up is a particularly sensitive time and depending on how you spend it, will be how your mood and efficacy levels are throughout the day. If you wake an hour earlier, essentially you have gained a ’25th hour’. Spend time doing whatever it is you like doing — read, get some family time in, yoga, running or other exercise. Or look at some of the other activities on this list.
It’s not easy to forgo that extra hour in bed and early rising does require commitment to the cause, but the brain is amazingly plastic so it’s possible to completely change your habits with training and practice.
Plus, if you implement some of the other tips, you’ll find early mornings a whole lot easier and more importantly, enjoyable.
Over time, these new routines will become the norm and you’ll become a morning maestro.
3. Practice gratitude
When you have an attitude of gratitude, all sorts of physiological, wonderful things happen to your body such as increased energy, lower blood pressure and can even aid depression. If you’re practising gratitude in the morning, the impact it has on the rest of your day is huge. For me, visualising and really feeling all the things I’m grateful for has changed everything and opened up all sorts of new and exciting possibilities. It can be something minor such as being thankful for that warm cup of coffee or something big like your kids or family. Caveat: you have to really feel it.
If you’re happy and grateful for your present situation – no matter how tough things may seem – that energy becomes a magnet for more of the good stuff. Be grateful even for fraught situations and the less-than-savoury people that may enter your life, because there are lessons to be learned which will soon become clear once you rid yourself of that dead wood.
If you’re struggling for things to feel grateful for, here’s some food for thought.
- If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back and a roof over your head, you are said to be richer than 75% of the world.
- If you have money in the bank, or change in your wallet, you are among the world’s most wealthy people.
- Be grateful for the bills that arrive through your letter box. Companies only contact people they believe have the means to pay.
- If you are reading this, you are more fortunate than the millions of people who cannot read at all.
- You have just made another 24-hour trip on your journey around the sun and you lived to see another dawn. There is someone somewhere who won’t survive the day.
4. Meditate, don’t procrastinate
Thoughts always seem more severe when you internalise them and get up in your head. But they are just that – thoughts. We humans have it all back to front. Our thoughts don’t dictate to us and we are in more control than we think. Morning meditation, or ‘being present’ puts life into perspective, allowing you to see things much clearer and therefore tackle the day ahead with ease.
There are lots of meditation apps can purchase with all sorts of bells and whistles on, but to be honest they’re neither here nor there. YouTube has some very effective meditation channels – check out Vishen Lakhiani, Deepak Chopra or Jason Stephenson for guided meditations. It does take dedication, but you will start to see results pretty quickly.
Meditation will bring you the gift of balance. Problems will become easier to solve and a fresh new outlook on life will lead to a more focussed, productive and creative you. The key with meditation is to consider it a permanent state of mind rather than a practice you dedicate yourself to for a few minutes here and there.
5. Do not check your emails
Has a colleague or boss sent an email first thing that put the kibosh on your entire morning or day? Don’t let external influences ruin your morning, there is nothing that can’t wait, despite what you (or your boss) may think. You are not technically in or at work and employers that are happy to skew work/life boundaries could be making their employees sick.
Workers in France have a legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours. The new law termed the “right to disconnect”, came into force in January of this year. Supporters of the new law say that employees who are expected to check and reply to their work emails out of hours are not being paid fairly for their overtime, and that the practice carries a risk of stress, burnout, sleep problems and relationship difficulties. Stress is one of the biggest causes of serious chronic disease and illness . Nothing is ever worth the price of your health.
French companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. This is something the UK would do well to impose since it could save on sickness days in the long-term.
Your micro environment may convince you that that email is pressing, but when you consider the bigger picture, the Earth will still turn without your expedient reply and you’ll still be just fine.
Your time, your rules.
6. Tackle your hardest task first
The idea of focussing on the most difficult or unpleasant tasks early on in the day is a strategy that can be helpful for several reasons: in the morning people often have more mental and physical energy, as well as fewer distractions and scheduled tasks. Studies have proved that willpower is at its strongest in the morning before exhaustion and other priorities get in your way. Additionally, the sense of achievement after completing a difficult item on the to-do list makes it easier to approach the rest of the list. So go ahead and tackle the most arduous, dry task you can imagine first.
On a normal day, you might have something annoying or painful to do. And you may also have something planned that you LOVE to do. If you do what you like first and the painful task last, you will remember your day as going from a good to bad. That’s the opposite of what you want.
Behavioural scientists call this stacking and it’s one of the most effective ways to create an enjoyable experience. Stack the painful parts of an experience early in the day – for example, if you tackle the most arduous, driest task first and then your favourite bits last, you will remember your day as going from bad to good. As a result, you’ll feel happier because psychologically, humans favour experiences that improve over time.
Try some of these and you’ll soon hit the ground running.
Thanks for bobbing by,
Do you have any morning tips you’d like to share? What has worked for you?