When you hear the words “morning routine” do you immediately feel joyful, or a sense of dread? Most working Americans would choose the latter, as their mornings are typically filled with frantically making sure everything they need for the day is together, taking care of their bodies/hygiene, and avoiding any thoughts about work until they actually have to clock-in at the ripe hour of 9 AM.
When we first wake up, it’s easy to get caught up in the fact that we’re getting up due to an alarm, and not by choice, which is frustrating. However, getting caught up in the misery of waking up early for a job can cause our entire system to absorb those thoughts of negativity and become “sluggish.” Instead, it’s important to take a sort of “mind over matter” approach when it comes to waking up.
“Emotions are not hard-wired reflections of our external reality. They’re actually guesses our brains make based on previous experiences. Anytime you feel miserable it’s because you are experiencing an unpleasant effect due to physical sensations,” according to Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuroscientist who wrote the book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.
So to emphasize Barrett’s point, when you wake up and automatically get caught up in how upset you are to be awake, your brain is telling the rest of your body to focus on that negativity and try to run on it. Instead, wake up in the morning and think about what you need at that moment to feel more motivated to get ready and go to work. The first thing you should do for the best physical, mental, and emotional outcome in the morning is drink a tall glass of cold water, after that, figure out what you personally need to do to have the most relaxed, yet productive, morning.
Get the idea of a morning “routine” out of your head and instead think of it as a ritual to prepare your mind, body, and soul for the day in its entirety. Make a list of things that you can do in the morning to keep yourself centered and relaxed. Remember, like Barett said, our brains are just telling us to be miserable in the morning because that’s how we’ve hardwired it to think. Instead emphasize activities in the morning that promote calmness; this could include simply making the bed, savoring a cup of coffee, reading through the newspaper, or even meditating.
Regardless of what you specifically need to center yourself, carve out enough time in the morning so that you can leisurely go about your ritual with no real rush or urgency. Even if it means waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal, your mental health will thank you for the less frantic, and more relaxed morning.
Mindfulness and self-awareness are the two obvious things that should be at the forefront of your ritual. When it comes to major tasks that you need to accomplish throughout the day beyond the realm of work, you need to plan out when each task most efficiently fits into your schedule while still allowing you the luxury of leisure.
For example, if you’re the type of person who enjoys going to the gym, for a walk, on a run, etc. throughout the week, think about when in your day, ideally, would you love to see those goals accomplished. If going for a morning walk sounds like something that would center you and prepare you for the busy day ahead, then put it in your ritual. However, if it’s something that you want to ensure you have plenty of time for and that you know will help you unwind after a long day, as opposed to prepare you for it, then save it for after you’ve clocked-out.
Avoid traditional means of waking up and getting out the door, such as chugging caffeine/caffeinated products as a means of getting a quick pick-me-up, because it likely will help for the first few hours of your morning but leave you with that lovely 2 o’clock lagging feeling. Again, water is the best thing you can put into your body first thing in the morning, not just health wise either, energy wise as well.
Also avoid the stresses in your life that are within your control. Prepare your lunch the night before your work day so it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning. If you want to take a cup of coffee to go for your commute, after you’ve had a tall glass of water of course, think about also making it the night before and either letting it sit in a pot that’s equipped for scheduled brewing, or putting in the fridge for an iced coffee approach.
Showering is another thing that can wait until the evening if you can manage it, which will also help alleviate some of the personal hygiene items on your morning ritual list.
Regardless of what your morning ritual consists of, again, just be mindful and go into it positively. Working everyday can be hard, but you’ll find, as you grow older, there are plenty of things to come home to that make it all worth it. So instead of waiting for those moments of joy, take control, and start making them yourself, and do it first thing in the morning while you’re at it.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.