There’s a lot of hype right now about morning routines. We’re starting to hear pitches like “Use my morning routine to save time during the day!”, or “Optimize your day with my morning routine”.
The truth is, there is no one morning routine that is going to work best for you and even more, its never going to be someone else’s.
With that said, there are certain habits you can acquire that will help in setting your day up for success and optimizing your health.
If you’ve read anything here on Tranquilized Mind, you know how important sleep. As a pillar to keeping stress low and mental cognition on point, sleep is when solidification of information takes place into your memory, your hormones recharge, natural detoxification happens, and the bags under your eyes go away.
So, before getting into the steps for your morning routine, you should be waking up well rested, after 8-10 hours of restorative sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, identify your cause here and learn from this video I did with a sleep expert.
Along with that, crafting your morning routine around using your body’s natural production of cortisol to wake you up will work gangbusters. I’ve talked extensively on cortisol a number of times. If you’re not familiar, cortisol is one of the primary hormones responsible for creating a stress response to situations, activating that “fight or flight” state our ancestors found themselves in when fleeing from a saber-tooth tiger. In excess, however, cortisol can be dangerous as it ages you, promotes cognitive decline, lowers testosterone, and makes you irritable – upping anxiety. (study 1), (study 2), (study 3), (study 4).
Without further ado, let’s get into some of the research-backed habits you can start implementing into your mornings, so you can improve your health, lower your stress and start living happier.
Get Rid Of The Alarm Clock
They’re ignorant, loud, obnoxious, and unnatural. Fact: The best alarm clock is rising with the sun and allowing your body’s natural cycle of cortisol to wake you up (article). So the first thing to add to your morning routine, or more specifically, to take away – is the alarm clock.
As stated before cortisol is at its highest during waking and right after to get you up and going. It then slowly dissipates as the day goes on so that when night comes, it is low enough for you to calm down and rest.
Alarm clocks can really stress you out. Who wants to start their day like that? Getting rid of your alarm clock will have a profound impact on your mood, and will set your day on the right tone.
Wake Up With The Sun (Become A “Morning” Person)
The days of sleeping in until 11 am should be long gone. Especially if you want to optimize your day. Rising after the sun leaves you behind. Primitive humans, hunter-gathers, all woke up with the sun.
Why should you do this?
Its healthier. Its part of your body’s natural cycle. If you’re consistently sleeping in, your throwing your hormonal cycles out of whack – which will make it challenging for you to fall asleep later that night. It will also lead to poor rest.
Research shows that your body’s restorative hours are from 10 pm to 1 am (study 5). Right now, its reported that most people fall asleep around 12 am. Wake up the next day tired and go to work.
So getting to bed earlier will allow you to rise earlier, with more energy, and naturally. Restorative Growth Hormones (the hormone responsible for the repairing of cells and growth) is at its highest during deep sleep. Growth hormone makes it so your cells repair, and you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day. When you’re not rising early, the evidence is clear that Growth Hormone secretion is less abundant (study 6).
Rising with the sun is savoring. It’s stress reducing (since you’ll have enough time to get everything done before you leave the house), and is a sure-fire way to start resting better during the night. Start waking up earlier. Naturally, melatonin secretion should stop around 730 am for most locations and people, so if you’re not up by then… You’re putting your natural hormonal and circadian rhythm at risk.
Make Your Bed
This is a simple one, but deserves to make it on the list. The small act of learning to make your bed after you get out of it will trash a bad habit.
Learning to “Take out the trash when it needs to be taken out” is one of the best mantras you can adapt. Procrastination, also known as the lazy gene, is becoming more and more evident in our society. Don’t be apart of it.
Making your bed right after getting up not only helps you get into the mindset of taking action, it also gives you a surge of dopamine – the reward hormone. How nice is it to start the day off with already getting something done and feeling like a champ?
There’s a reason all military academies have their recruits workout early in the morning. It gets the blood pumping and wakes you up.
Exercise, go on a run, lift some weights, do some yoga. Something to get you moving will work a heck of a lot better than your regular, expensive trip to Starbucks.
The benefits of exercise are obvious, but one quick unknown idea is that it activates the gene that is responsible for the production of Brain-Derived Neurotophic Factor (BDNF). This gene is in charge in developing new brain neurons and maintenance of brain cells. Something very important for having a “sharp” and present mind.
Going back to the topic of Cortisol, a steroid-like hormone responsible for allowing us to smash kick-ass workouts. As its highest in the morning, doesn’t it make sense to use your body’s natural supply to knock out your workout?
Having your day revolve around when you’re going to hit the gym is a pattern you don’t want to find yourself in. Working out is supposed to enhance your life, not take it over. Get it in upon waking, before you shower, with your body’s natural supply of energy. It may take a few weeks to get used to it, you may feel groggy in the morning. This is because your endocrine system is not functioning optimally and your hormones are out of whack. Working out in the morning after rising will wake you up and get your cortisol working at the right time to promote mental clarity.
Personally, I like to alternate between some yoga and morning walks with my dogs. Just something to get moving, nothing too complex! If you feel you can hit some personal records early in the gym, go for it!
Expose your eyes to some bright light upon waking. As I enjoy rising with the sun, I like to expose my eyes to the full spectrum of light the sun provides. Its warming, waking, and halts the production of melatonin – the light-sensitive hormone our pituitary gland creates to make us sleepy. Getting bright light in the morning disrupts melatonin (study 7).
Often times, people with sleeping issues are suffering from a lack of natural melatonin production. They wake up to a dark room and don’t see light until noon. Making sure you body stops producing melatonin early in the morning (like it should) will get your body back on track to producing it during the night so you can rest well.
Naturally, our hunter-gatherer ancestors rose with the sun everyday. The light would come into their cave and would slowly wake them up. We can do this as well. By getting to bed earlier, you’ll wake up the next morning earlier. Then by exposing your eyes to some bright light (by turning on all the lights in your room, opening your blinds or even getting outside and seeing the sun), you’ll aid your system in restoring its natural circadian rhythm.
This will result in increased mental clarity, energy, alertness, and better sleep the next night (study 8).
Do Some Gratitude Journaling
The health benefits of practicing daily gratitude are unfathomable. The more I read about how it can improve your mood, lower your stress, increase productivity, and raise confidence (study 9) – the more I want to spend time with my journal writing about how I’m thankful for the honey I poured into my chamomile tea last night.
Seriously, practicing gratitude through writing about what I am grateful for has made me a happier and more appreciative person. You’ll start to be more accepting to what you have now and appreciate what you may have taken for granted. It will also help you to become more present to the moment, therefore less worrying. Accepting what is, at this moment, in its very nature, is an essence of meditation and gratitude.
Starting your day expressing gratitude for the stuff we too often take for granted will open you up to the day with an open-mind..
To start, check out this guide I made on how to start practicing gratitude for lower stress and overall well-being.
Stay Away From Electronics Upon Waking
Don’t check your phone. When you go to sleep during the night – your body resets. It repairs from all the stress it received the day before. Electronics, and cellphones, are stressors. Allowing your body at least an hour after waking avoiding your phone or any electronics for that matter, will work wonders.
The harsh, negative effects emitted of electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) from your electronics deserve their own post but its worth noting they do distract you and can be early stressors on in your day.
Think about it, did our paleolithic ancestors check their notifications first thing in the morning..? Not at all, they got their day started by trekking, hunting, and working to get their first meal.
Something to consider; none of these are listed in a specific order.
There’s no numerical value next to them. Try each of them out, and see which ones work the best and in what order they work for you.
I don’t believe in following someone’s exact routine. I believe in personalization, use the science to an extent, but do what resonates with you. As Pablo Picasso stated, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” Take what works from this list and make it your own.
These are all research-backed ways in attempt to start your day off to promote energy and a better overall well-being during the day.
Craft your own routine based around these fundamentals and experience less stress (due to waking up earlier and having plenty of time to plan the day), better mood (gratitude journaling and exercise), and better sleep (rising earlier). If I were to pick two to be consistent, it would be rising early and getting your eyes exposed to some bright light to promote alertness and proper hormonal output.
P.S. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article! A lot of this is aimed around improving your health, living more naturally, and lowering your stress so you can have a happier, more productive day. If you found it of value, please share this with three friends who could benefit. Or if possible, share this link on any of your social media platforms!