Have you ever wondered how you could help yourself feel better in the morning? If how you start your day makes a big impact on your energy levels? Or have you tried and found it difficult to form new habits and stick to them? Habits are just routines, routines that you do day in and day out. Watching the news at 10pm is a habit, brushing your teeth after breakfast is another, putting your shoes on before you leave the house another. Some habits can help you feel better, and some will make you feel worse. It can be just as hard to undo habits as to make new ones. Just saying you must do something does not mean that you will do it! You need to be motivated, you need to know exactly what you are going to do, make it as simple as possible, and have a prompt to remind you to do it.
My morning routine consists of habits that set me up for the day, they calm and ground me, they reinforce positive messages, help my body produce energy, make me feel good and help organise my day. Ultimately this helps me to be productive and successful in life. It was not always this way! I used to have to drag myself out of bed feeling unrefreshed, force myself to get two young children up and dressed, make pack lunches, bundle them off to school and speed to work. It was one big rush and the whole process was stress laden and anxiety provoking. Now I am not suggesting that putting in place any one of these habits is a miracle but starting slowly by building small habits into your life can ultimately have a big impact.
My morning routine makes use of evidence based biohacking techniques such as getting sunlight, having cold showers, and eating the right kind of food. All ultimately help my body’s biochemical pathways of energy production to work more effectively. They impact my mitochondria, the little power houses of organelles, in each cell in my body, and provide them with the right conditions to flourish. New habits can be difficult to put in place but using behavioural change techniques you can get great results.
So how do you create a new habit? Well a habit is really a behaviour and behavioural scientist BJ Fogg in his book, ‘Tiny Habits’, suggests you need three components: motivation, ability and a prompt. The motivation needs to be something compelling, for example a mother is likely to be highly motivated to protect her child but redecorating the entire house might be more difficult to do. Another problem with motivation is that you can have competing motivations e.g. I want to be healthier, but I really want to eat cake too! Your ability to do the behaviour is a factor in how easy it will be to do, and the harder the behaviour you want to do is, then the more motivated you are likely to have to be to do it.
Lastly, we need a prompt to help us do a behaviour. There are prompts all around us that we do not even think about because our actions have become so automatic in response to them. For example, traffic lights prompt you to stop or go. Email notification prompts you to open an email. A pile of shopping baskets prompts you to take one on the way into a store. BJ Fogg says that ”no behaviour happens without a prompt”, the prompt basically says, ‘do this now’. We all respond well to prompts when we are motivated, and the action is easy to do. That is why marketing on social media works so well when you just ‘click here’ to win! It turns out that the best prompts for making new personal habits are action orientated and linked to another action that we already do, like brushing our teeth or washing the dishes. Adding your new habit onto this, so it comes after the activity that is already anchored into your routine is key to success.
So the best way to create a new habit is to know why you really want to do something, find the easiest and smallest possible action that you can take and do it after something else already in your morning routine. So for example instead of having a habit which is, “ to get healthier I will eat a healthier breakfast”, you could say, “I want to feel more energetic so that I can be active after work, and I will start by adding blueberries to my breakfast bowl every morning”. This way anchors the habit to making your breakfast which you do already, and it is quick and easy to do.
The habits you choose need to be things that you can do every single day. I have had periods in my life where I spent 10 minutes meditating in the morning, but I rarely managed to keep it up for a whole week. It was just too big an action to work for me every day. But taking deep breaths in the shower works for me because I shower every day anyway. Spending 10 minutes on a behaviour might be too much to start with, so start smaller with something like taking three deep breaths.
The behaviours also need to make you feel good, you want them to you with a positive emotion such as joy, love, or comfort. Then you can look forward to doing your action. You want to avoid actions being things that you view as punitive, for example, “eat less crisps” and instead think about it in a different way like “eat more fruit”. Small steps that give you a positive feeling and are helpful for your mental and/or physical health help set you up for the day.
Here are some ideas for healthy habits with a simple action to kick off in the right direction:
- Go for a morning walk or run (put your sporty shoes on)
- Spend more time in nature (step outside and listen to the birds)
- Sleep better (turn the TV off 10 minutes earlier)
- Have a digital detox (charge your phone in the kitchen overnight)
- Eat better (swap jam for avocado on your toast)
- Have a clear mind (keep a notebook by the bed)
- Relax more (have a bath)
Here are some prompts to help you complete them:
- I will …. after I get out of bed.
- I will …. after I get dressed.
- I will … after I have a shower.
- I will … after I get dried.
- I will … after I come downstairs.
- I will … after I make breakfast.
- I will … after I put my shoes on.
Once you establish a new habit it becomes easier to dot without thinking about it. I do not ever come downstairs and think about putting the kettle on, I just do it automatically. Once it is easy to do you can build on it, so three deep breaths might become 2 minutes of mindful breathing, then some days you might find you can do the whole 10 minutes. If you set your action so it is small enough to achieve every day, then some days you will find you can do more.
My morning routine works for me as it fits around my schedule and my lifestyle and my challenges, you need to build one that works for you. Here are my 8 energising morning habits.
1. Wake Up Naturally
2. Positive Affirmations
3. Cold Shower & Belly Breathing
5. Daylight Exposure
6. Nutritious Breakfast
7. Uplifting Music
1. Wake Up Naturally
I like to let the light wake me up naturally which is easy in the summer. In the winter I use a sunrise alarm which gradually increases the intensity of light and kind of replicates the sun rising. I do set an alarm just in case I oversleep, but if I have 8 hours in bed I normally wake up with the light and do not need the alarm. Doing away with the shock of an alarm helps reduce the stress I experience and brings me into the day more gently and I feel much better as a result. So my habit is to turn on my sunrise light timer when I turn off the light at night.
2. Positive Affirmations
I love to use positive affirmations to help get me in the right state of mind, support positive emotions and the resulting powerful effect they have on my mental and physical health. I use one after I wake up, I say, ‘It is going to be a great day today’. It is amazing the effect it has! When I am in the shower, I write another affirmation in the steam on the door and then say it aloud, ‘happy, healthy, calm, safe and successful’. Affirmations are very personal, and you need to find words that work for you that you really believe. It is thought that they can be of benefit in helping rewire our brain and move thought patterns toward desired outcomes. They are said in the present tense and need to resonate with you in a positive way. Research suggests that they can help to reduce stress and anxiety; increase the likelihood of personal success; increase positive emotions; increase confidence and help create inner clarity. I write my affirmation after I have washed myself and then there is normally enough steam!
3. Cold Shower & Belly Breathing
I take a lovely hot shower and then gradually turn the water to cold. As it cools, I use deep belly breathing (with my diaphragm) to control the shock effect of the cold and keep my stress levels in check. I take at least a 2 minute cold shower and breathe through it while I count. This way I get both my deep breathing and the benefits of cold water immersion at the same time. The cold shower is a form of hormesis, which basically means it is a low dose stressor that has a beneficial effect on the body. Cold water immersion has been shown to have positive effects on our mitochondria, helping them multiply and work more efficiently and therefore produce more energy. The breathing helps me stay calm and grounded which in turn keeps me happy! I do my cold shower and breathing after my shower affirmation.
After I am dressed, I head downstairs to the kitchen and immediately boil the kettle and make a drink. I use a pint glass with 50% freshly boiled water to which I add a slice of lemon, ginger or turmeric and sometimes green tea or other herbal tea. After it has brewed for a couple of minutes, I add some cold water and drink it. This hydrates me which helps my brain and body to function optimally, and it does this through increasing blood flow to all the organs of the body and providing cells with the nutrients and oxygen they need, resulting in me being able to concentrate better which makes me more productive and helps my mood stay positive.
5. Daylight exposure
In the morning before I get busy, I always pop outside into the garden and sit on the bench for a couple of minutes, have a quick walk around or pop into the polytunnel and pick some fruit or water the vegetables. I like to get my face exposed to daylight early in the day as I do not always get out and about again until lunchtime. Getting daylight exposure is important because I know my circadian clock is synchronised with the rhythms of nature and it helps keep my body in a healthy sleep and wake cycle. It also helps boost production of serotonin which is our good mood hormone and is one reason why bright light therapy might be beneficial in winter months. Getting out into daylight, and especially sunlight, generally makes you feel good, and I certainly feel more energetic as a result. I get my daylight early in the morning by popping out after I have tidied the kitchen but before I make breakfast.
6. Nutritious Breakfast
Before I start work, I have a nutritious breakfast. For me, my favourites are hemp and chia seed porridge, homemade granola with yoghurt and berries or some version of eggs, scrambled, boiled, or fried and occasionally a smoothie made with coconut yoghurt and fruit. I like eating a lowish carb breakfast which I find helps my energy levels stay stable and I avoid the late morning or afternoon energy slumps. I make my breakfast once I have popped outside and foraged for fruit that I can add to my breakfast such as strawberries in summer and brambles or apples in the autumn.
7. Uplifting Music
Whilst tidying the kitchen or brushing my teeth I choose an upbeat tune from my energy playlist on Spotify. I often like to do a little boogie to it and some fun movement into my morning. If I have a couple of other jobs to do round the house I often do them listening to my tunes. I am still finding the best behaviour to link this one too, I have tried a couple but perhaps not found the ideal one yet. Presently I try to put it on after I have waved my son off to school.
My last energising habit is to reprioritise what I need to do today before I start work. That means that what ever is the most important thing to get done will be given the most time and I usually start with it. This also helps me to feel in control, organised and makes me much more productive with my time. I basically do this when I enter my office and sit down at my desk.
I hope this blog has given you inspiration to try a different morning routine to help you feel more energetic and get more out of your day. It should help you to put new habits in place using this simple methodology which you can use again and again. I find that over time what you need in your morning routine changes but once you know how to create new habits you can easily adapt to include behaviours that meet your current goals. It is great when a new habit becomes so automatic you don’t even need to think about it anymore!
If you are waking up unrefreshed, you are worried about how tired you feel and concerned you might be on the road to burnout or chronic fatigue then please download my free energy road map which gives you everything you need to start to get your energy back again.