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It’s funny how morning and nighttime routines have become a “thing”. I doubt this was something people talked about 50 years ago, but now, we’re all about keeping the start and end of our days on track and well-oiled. I suspect it has to do with the pace of life and our cultural obsession with productivity and optimizing our schedules (or is that just me?).
Are Morning Routines Important?
Short answer – YES! Establishing routines and habits help us streamline everyday tasks so that we can spare precious brain energy for more important things that come up in work and life. When engaging in a new task that isn’t yet a habit, our prefrontal cortex has to stay engaged to help us work through the task. As you can imagine, this takes mental energy. However, once tasks become a habit, they’re activated in a different part of the brain – the basal ganglia. This is where all your automatic processes are controlled (everything from brushing your teeth to driving your car).
The beauty of creating automated tasks is that it takes so little brain energy to do them that you’re better able to deal with the bigger issues in life. So if you suffer from mental exhaustion at the end of the day, think about building more habits and try to have fewer surprises in your daily routine.
4 Ways to Create a Morning Routine that Serves You
1. Optimize Your Sleep
I’ve written a ton about how your sleep quality can impact your weight, mood and brain function. Simply put, if you’re not sleeping, you’re failing yourself in a major way. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. If you’re not getting at least 7 – 8 hours of rest a night, check out this blog post on why sleep is important and this one to help you recover from a bad sleep (because let’s face it, it happens).
With that, if you’re unable to get to bed early, do what you can to set your mornings up so that you can sleep in a bit later. If that’s not possible either, then it’s time to start looking at your life and seeing what you can let go of so that you can get 8 hours in. Trust me, good sleep is life-changing on so many levels. Please don’t disregard it.
2. Do Something That Lifts You Up
Mornings can be hard, particularly if you have to wake up early and you’re not a morning person. While coffee and a hot shower can do wonders to wake you up, think about adding something to your morning routine that lifts you up emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. When I’m working from home, the first thing I do is journal two pages and just brain dump all the crap that’s in my brain – mostly stuff I’m ruminating on. Getting it down on paper is cathartic and helps me work through stressors and challenges. When I’m headed to a client site or I have a morning meeting, I set aside 5 to 8 minutes for a quick meditation (I use the Insight Timer app) and I listen to personal development while I put my makeup on.
Doing something that puts you in a calm or uplifted state is so important as we naturally tend to dwell on the negative when our brains are tired and foggy. Getting yourself out of that state-of-mind has to be intentional.
- Journal (I hear great things about the 5 Minute Journal and the reviews are outstanding)
- Pray or meditate for 5 to 10 minutes – Try the Insight Timer App (it’s free)
- Listen to an uplifting audiobook (I recommend Girl, Wash Your Face or Find Your Mojo)
- Listen to one episode every morning from A Course in Miracles podcast
- Take your dog for a walk
3. Minimize Time-Consuming Tasks First Thing
- Get your coffee ready to go the night before so you just need to press a button in the am (my husband does this every night)
- Lay out what you plan to wear to work the next day
- Place everything you need to take with you in the morning by the front door so you don’t have to search for it.
- Get your breakfast prepped the night before (try chia pudding or hardboiled eggs with a little avocado in a small Tupperware bowl).
- If you’re responsible for getting kids out the door, coach them to prepare their mornings in advance. It’s a great habit to start young!
- Avoid looking at email or social media. Not only is this a time suck, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll come across something that annoys you. That’s not the way you want to start your day.
4. Create a Super Simple Gratitude Practice
When I wake up in the morning, as soon as I open my eyes, I put my hand on my heart and thank the universe for my life. Sometimes I’m more specific about what I’m grateful for, but generally, it’s family, home, health, and dreams that have come true. Then I get out of bed and on with my day with a happy heart. It’s such a grounding practice and it takes no time at all.
My Morning Routine
What I Eat For Breakfast
Breakfast happens in the late morning for me, and it’s always the same thing – eggs and avocado. Sometimes I add a little smoked salmon, raw veggies or sauerkraut, but generally, it’s just fats and proteins in the morning – no starches. I find that when I eat this way, I am better able to manage hunger and cravings throughout the day and the habit of limiting my food choices makes my morning that much simpler to get through.
What I Take For Supplements
Without fail I always take the following:
- A Probiotic to keep my digestion on track (I use this brand and it’s awesome)
- A fish oil supplement. It’s a great way to reduce inflammation by balancing omega fatty acids. (I use this brand).
- A multivitamin because it’s a good way to ensure you’re getting the basic nutrients every day. I’m experimenting with this brand based on some great reviews I’ve read on Amazon).
- Magnesium because as someone who eats lower carb, natural levels of this mineral can drop. If I feel stressed or anxious I know I’m in need of its calming benefits.
Sometimes, I may also take
- Collagen which is great for hair, skin, and nails as well as general muscle repair.
- Biotin – Also great for hair and skin, which becomes more important to preserve as I get older!
- Vitamin B Complex – when I’m feeling down or stressed out. It’s a great mood stabilizer for me.
My Morning Skin Routine
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I start my daily skincare routine by:
- Cleansing my face with a cotton pad dipped in witch hazel. It’s a natural, non-irritating cleanser that’s also super inexpensive!
- Adding a layer of Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane which provides similar benefits to Retinol, but without the irritation. It’s also much more affordable and leaves my skin feeling super soft.
- Then I apply a peptide serum that plumps my skin and boosts collagen.
- I then apply a vitamin C serum, which works wonders on my sunspots! The brand I use does create a bit of a tingle, but it has reduced the giant sunspot on the side of my face, so I’m all over it.
- I finish with a sunscreen/daytime moisturizer and then I’m good to go! I rarely wear makeup at home aside from some brow tint and lipgloss. Those two are a must!
I know this sounds like a lot, but it only takes a few minutes, it has done wonders for my skin and all the products I use are really inexpensive (as far as skincare goes). I found The Ordinary brand on Amazon and if you check out the reviews, they’re all really good. I couldn’t believe how cost-effective everything was and the quality is exceptional.
How I Plan My Day
When I first sit down at my desk, I always take a few moments to write out my top priorities for the day. That way I know if I can squeeze in a post-lunch walk or run some errands. I’m not someone who naturally gravitates to planners or calendars so it’s taken me some time to force myself to get into the habit of writing my priorities down. But in doing so, I get that gratification of checking things off at the end of the day which is so important to my inner nerd 🙂
So that’s it! Hope you find this useful in designing your ideal day. I’m a big fan of creating life intentionally, and starting the day off right is the first step.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, healthy recipes, home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.