As soon as you wake every morning, every choice or decision you make starts dipping into your brain’s willpower reserve tank and consuming fuel. There is plenty of research that shows us that willpower is a limited resource. So, it is not difficult to see why when the tank runs dry, we tend to take the path of least resistance or grab those instant gratification choices instead of the things we really need. I do not schedule my exercise at the end of the day mostly because I have used up my willpower. Sitting down to enjoy some time watching videos on YouTube tends to become my choice of activities, not running on the treadmill.
This is where a sturdy morning routine of a healthy safe-care system becomes essential. As clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D. told Self Magazine, “A healthy, low stress, [and] focused morning routine sets the tone for the whole day. When we automate our mornings, we develop habits that soon feel second nature,” says Howes, “which may wind up cutting out some depleting activities like deciding what to eat or arguing with yourself about hitting the snooze button again.”
So, what things might you want to add to your morning routine? These top 5 below are my personal favorites and might be an awesome kickstart for creating your own. Remember that the key to a routine is consistency so do your routine regularly to embed the habit.
#1 – Streeeetch
Not talking about some complicated routine of precision stretches of all the muscle groups or a formal Yoga routine. Like most people, we tend to get out of bed and launch right into our busy day. Yet taking a few minutes to stretch before getting out of bed can help wake up the body and improve circulation. It can also put us in a more relaxed state right away, helping set the tone for a calm morning and day. Here are a few simple and quick stretches I use from Prevention magazine:
Full body stretch: On an inhale, reach your arms overhead, clasp your fingers together, flip your palms out toward the wall behind your head, and push your palms away from you. At the same time, reach your toes away from your arms, keeping your knees straight. Hold this fully stretched position for 5 counts, then exhale and release the stretch. Repeat 3 times total. This releases tightness throughout the entire body, which tends to accumulate during sleep.
Bed-to-Floor stretch: Swing your feet over the side of the bed so that they touch the floor. Keeping your knees bent, hang your head and arms down to the floor, rounding your back over your knees. Let your head and arms dangle to the floor; hold for 5 breaths. This helps stretch the back and helps you wake up thanks to a fresh supply of oxygen to the brain.
Knees-to-Chest stretch: From a supine position, bend your knees until the soles of your feet are on the bed. Use your hands to draw one knee in toward your chest at a time, wrapping your arms around both shins. Relax your head on your pillow and hold this “self-hug” for 10 deep breaths. This stretch helps you gently wake up the low back and stimulate the mind and body, helping you feel ready to start your day.
Supine Twist: After the above Knees-to-Chest stretch, release your grip of your shins, and let your arms fall out to a “T” shape on either side of your torso. Use your core to guide your legs over to rest on one side, keeping your knees bent and shoulders planted down into your mattress. If it’s easy on your neck, gaze toward the opposite side. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side. Twists like this one awaken the body by increasing circulation and stretching the spinal muscles.
To access this article online go to “6 Stretches You Should Do Before Getting Out of Bed to Feel Great All Day”
#2 – Drink water
We have been hearing this one for a long time and the benefits are numerous. But think about how getting a glass of water first thing in the morning can kick off the routine for the whole day. Remember, you more than likely haven’t had any water for 7-8 hours. We dehydrate ourselves even while sleeping and water is so necessary to many processes in our life – especially true for our brains. By kicking off this especially important self-care process early we stand a better chance of keeping it going throughout the day.
Some people (like myself) will keep a glass of water near the bed (since I tend to wake at night with a dry mouth). And having it near my bed is a visual reminder to just sit there and chug it down before I start moving around. Another small but easy big win!
#3 – Make Your Bed
Retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven said, “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
Such a small chore that can have big benefits. A made-up bed can go a long way to making a space look less cluttered and think of the psychological benefits of climbing into a freshly made bed for good sleep hygiene.
My bed-making started the day off with a solid win and felt like the trigger to start the rest of my other good habits for the day. I also found once I had some solid days of making the bed, I did not want to let up, so now I have a good solid streak of days for 2021. It has become somewhat of a game for me to finish the year strong.
#4 – Create a “preparing for the day routine” process
Remember the discussion about decision fatigue and how all those little mini decisions can drain your day’s allocated supplies of energy? This is another area to decrease energy leaks. By creating a step-by-step process that you use every time, you can automate this process and create a habit.
Most all of us are already doing standard things to prepare for the day like brushing our teeth, getting dressed or washing our face. So why not sit down and create an exact order for your morning and even time it. Sometimes we can create an order that makes better use of our time by switching the order or combining tasks. Perhaps I decide to shower, wash my hair, and then let it dry while doing other steps in my preparation routine. Then when I go to dry my hair, it will take a little less time.
If you like to challenge yourself for bragging rights, try beating your regular time by looking for ways to refine your process and cut down the preparation time.
#5 – Do something uplifting or inspiring
One of the best things I added to my morning is playing YouTube videos or podcasts as I drink my coffee and go through my getting ready for the day routine. I currently start my day with some learning opportunities with any number of YouTube or podcast channels I enjoy. Those channels might encourage me, inspire me, or just entertain me. But I have enjoyed being able to listen while I am moving around and building momentum on the entrance ramp to my day.
If you are not a YouTube video or podcast kind of person, think outside of the box. Try dancing around to music that gets you moving, playing with your pets, walking outside or whatever you know is easy to incorporate into your morning routine. Just make sure it helps and not hinders your objective of self-care.
You can go a long way toward helping your body and mind feel better and start the day off on the right note. And it all starts with a solid morning routine.
As it has been said repeatedly, if we don’t purposely choose where to focus our energies and time, other people or things will choose for us! Be the master of your ship!
Owner, Founder | ADHD & Executive Functions Coach