‘Tis the season for ‘A Tradition Unlike Any Other’ -- your revamped morning routine. For some, it’s waking up early to grab a workout. For others, it’s dedicating time to read, write and reflect. Regardless of your ritual, your morning routine should be uniquely yours. Here are some ideas on how to start the day on your own terms.
Take it slow.
The intentionality of slowness draws direct correlations to positive mental health benefits: self-reflection and self-appreciation. Geir Berthelsen, founder of the World Institute of Slowness in Norway, says that ‘intentional slowness helps spark creative thinking’ and that ‘business leaders need to take time to forget about time.’ Might not want to tell your boss that on Zoom, but a good mantra to consider for pre-work hours. Whether it’s sipping your favorite coffee on the couch or reading your favorite morning news, the intentionality of a slow start allows you to game plan. Prioritizing your tasks at hand promotes efficiency and a holistic understanding of what lies ahead. The banal saying ‘slow is smooth; smooth is fast’ is a tip-of-the-cap to us slow-starters out there.
Make your morning routine count.
While you don’t have to be like General Stanley McChrystal, who wakes up at 4:30 am and doesn’t eat until dinner (yes, we’re serious), there are some benefits to being a productive, early-riser. The Journal of Applied Social Psychology suggests that morning people have more willingness to take action and are, therefore, more productive than their night owl counterparts. A good exercise to reflect upon is what’s your ‘why’? Identify a reward that motivates you -- a cup of coffee, exercise, a new podcast, time with your kids -- and make that habit your uncompromised, non-negotiable morning must-have. In addition to that motivational factor, start each morning with your passion. Whatever it is that you're passionate about -- journaling, exercise, reading -- start each morning on the right foot by doing what you want to do. It’s a great way to secure an early win.
Waking up at the same time, whether weekday or weekend, is important. Not to say that you need to be tracking the time to the millisecond. But waking up at 5am M-F and sleeping until noon on the weekends isn’t helping your internal clock. Neurologist Brandon Peters offers up a helpful analogy: ‘Think of your wake time as the anchor to your day. Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm and this relies on consistency. Anchoring your wake time in place is a cue (or zeitgeber) to your body about when you should be awake and when you should be asleep.’ So pick a time that works well for you, and minimize the number of snooze hits on Sunday mornings.
Understand sleep patterns.
The best way to start your day is to maximize your previous night’s sleep. Sleep cycles tend to last 90 minutes, so getting 6 hours of sleep might feel better than 6.5 hours due to the potential interruption of a deep-sleep cycle. While you might be familiar with the REM sleep cycle (deep sleep), only 13-23% of each night’s sleep is considered ‘deep sleep.’ However, some of the most critical mental and bodily functions are restored, such as:
- memories are consolidated
- learning and emotions process
- physical recovery occurs
- blood sugar levels and metabolism balance out
- the immune system is energized
- the brain detoxifies
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Mastering your morning routine not only starts the night before, but may take weeks or months to ease into. Slow & steady wins the (many small) races.