Self-care is often regarded as a series of indulgent acts — like elaborate spa days, expensive shopping trips, and the “treat yourself” lifestyle we’re so accustomed to seeing on television and social media. But if you think about self-care as a healthy respect for your body and mind, it becomes about taking proactive steps to ensure you’re giving yourself the love and attention you deserve. Whether you’re a morning person or not, an easy way to begin practicing self-care is by adopting a daily morning routine.
Morning routines are chock-full of benefits. They’re known to increase productivity and creativity, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve mood. They also pave the way for better time management, helping thwart procrastination and strengthen willpower.
Establishing a clear set of daily rituals doesn’t mean you have to wake up earlier or change significant aspects of your life. But it does require that you become mindful of the actions you take each morning to improve your physical and mental health. There are six simple steps below intended to guide you in creating a good morning routine.
1) Prep for your day the night before.
We all love curling up in front of the TV to catch a few episodes of our favorite binge-worthy series, but committing even 15 minutes at the end of the day to prepare for the next morning can be vital in establishing a realistic, easy-to-follow morning routine.
Use this time for things like:
- Laying out your clothes for the next day
- Packing meals and snacks
- Creating or reviewing your to-do list, paying particular attention to any important tasks that might require time or resources above and beyond your usual morning commitments
To derive even more value from your evening preparations, make sleep a priority. Turn off your electronics and notifications at least an hour before you turn in, and get acquainted with an earlier bedtime.
2) Wake up at the same time every morning.
If you’re used to setting four alarms (or setting one and hitting the snooze button seven times), this can be a daunting — albeit important — transition in the journey toward healthier daily habits.
The good news is that our bodies have internal clocks that regulate sleepiness and wakefulness based on our individual circadian rhythm. Whether you identify as an “early bird” or a “night owl,” those with a healthy circadian rhythm should be able to adjust their sleep-wake cycles over the courses of a few days.
Waking up at the same time each day helps to reinforce your natural circadian rhythm and lends itself to improvements in:
- Bodily functions and processes
- Concentration and productivity
- Emotional well-being
Additionally, some people report greater satisfaction in their day-to-day lives when waking-up at a consistent time each day.
3) Fuel your system.
Recent research continues to suggest that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — but what you consume during this crucial window also matters.
- Whole grains or fiber
- Fruits and vegetables
Consider the day ahead when making your breakfast selections (or better yet, give yourself a grab-and-go advantage by including this meal in your prep the night before) to ensure that you provide your body with the fuel it needs to stay focused and energized through whatever activities you have planned.
And don’t forget the importance of drinking water as part of your fueling strategy. In addition to being an easy way to reach your recommended daily fluid intake, drinking a full glass of water right away can help to rehydrate your body, boost your metabolism, and balance your appetite.
4) Move your body.
Moving your body doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to a hardcore morning workout if that isn’t your cup of tea. The benefits of movement — especially as they relate to a healthy morning routine — are linked to intention, not intensity.
If you love to pound the pavement for a few miles before work, carry on; but if not, consider incorporating alternatives like below into your early morning ritual to help get your blood flowing.
- Walk the dog
- Play with your kids
Not only can these movements set you up for a productive morning, but they can also help to foster meaningful connections between yourself, your body, and your loved ones.
5) Spend time outside.
The healing benefits of nature have been researched extensively. A study conducted at the University of Exeter found that spending just two hours a week in nature has the power to improve physical and mental health and well-being. Regular exposure to fresh air and the natural environment has countless benefits, including things like:
- Improved mood
- Decreased production of stress hormones
- Enhanced immune system function
- Increased feelings of connectedness and spirituality
It might seem challenging finding space in your schedule for outdoor time each morning, but it’s okay to start small. Try sipping your cup of coffee on the front porch or double-dipping your daily rituals by taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood or playing catch with your kids for few minutes before they head to school.
6) Allow yourself time for quiet.
An essential component in crafting a perfect morning routine is leaving time for quiet space before you tackle the rest of the day. Quiet gives your mind time to rest, helps you to create order in chaos, and reduces stress. A few quiet morning habits include:
Practicing meditation and mindfulness
Meditation has been scientifically proven to contribute to improved physical and mental well-being. It can increase your attention span, boost memory, improve sleep quality, strengthen your immune system, and more. Although proper meditation technique takes practice, there are countless options for guided meditations and meditation apps available to help you learn what works best for you.
Mindfulness offers similar benefits but is practiced more intentionally throughout the day rather than during a specific window of time. It is designed to help you control your mind, teaching you to stay present and focused in each moment.
Doing something creative
Creativity is at its peak in the morning, and creative work like journaling or drawing inspire self-expression and personal growth, as well as helping to reduce stress and anxiety and increase confidence.
Social media is a wonderful tool in allowing you to connect with friends and family. However, there is compelling evidence that setting aside designated times to abstain from your favorite platforms can improve mental well-being by reducing feelings of fear, jealousy, or envy, as well as combating fear-of-missing-out (FOMO).
Starting your daily routine with at least an hour free from the constant “noise” of digital connectivity can take things a step further, allowing you to harness your willpower at its highest point and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Go the Extra Mile
If you’re looking for other preventative care options to complement a healthy lifestyle or you’d like guidance in developing a morning routine or other self-care rituals that work for you, reach out to Dr. Karen Threlkel today.