What does your average morning look like? For many it’s something akin to sleep-walking. Coffee, feed the kids and pets, check phones and stumble out the door…awake yes, but not very aware. Basically, on auto-pilot.
And to some degree, that’s normal. We still have one foot in dreamland, not fully conscious. It’s called sleep inertia and it’s a normal and natural phenomenon. Our minds and bodies are waking up and are in a transitional process (one of the reasons why we don’t like to be rushed in the morning).
But for people who are committed to growth and purpose, mornings are the perfect time to tap into your potential and your resilience.
It's the time when our subconscious gateway is still open.
Not only are our bodies still half asleep but our minds are in a state that’s ripe for suggestion. Upon awakening, our brains operate at approximately 10.5 waves per second. This is called the alpha stage and is often referred to as the gateway to the subconscious mind - prime time to plant internal seeds and harvest change.
Our morning routines should be individualized.
This is the part of the article where you’re expecting a laundry list of specific methods to maximize your morning.
But there is one important fact to keep in mind: we all wake up differently. That’s why our morning routines will and should vary.
Think of friends and family members as well as yourself. Undoubtedly you’ve noticed that each person has his or her own specific methods of waking up. It’s called your “chronotype” (or less scientifically, think of “morning people” or “night owls” as examples).
This means, to create a truly successful morning routine, you must define:
What is my morning type?
If you’re the type of person who pops out of bed, raring to go, then you could create a more comprehensive and high-powered morning routine.
If you’re the type who needs time to fully wake up, drink coffee and read the paper before taking on goals, you’re best served with a morning routine that is gentler and broad-based.
And then there are those who are dead to the world upon awakening. Undoubtedly you know some people like this. You are often told to “leave them alone” or pay the price!
Most of us fall somewhere in the chronotype spectrum. Yes, we’re ready to take on the day but also need some time to rouse and reflect.
Regardless of your chronotype, here are some pointers for a successful morning routine:
1. Gently wake up your body. Sure, most of us yawn and stretch in the morning. But what if you were to spend a mere five more minutes in that same gentle stretch and yoga mode?
Stretching is not only good for the muscles but increases blood flow and prepares our minds and bodies for the day ahead. Consider it a stretch dance, not exercise. Put on your favorite “wake up” music and simply move as you see fit.
Gentle morning stretches help us inhabit our bodies more fully instead of getting stuck in our heads, worrying about the day.
2. A dose of sunlight. Consider it nature’s coffee...without the jittery after effects! A brief dose of sunlight in the morning helps raise your body temperature (since it drops slightly during sleep) and increases alertness and better cognition, along with numerous other benefits. And it doesn’t take much. As little as 5 minutes can kickstart your internal battery.
Sunlight early in the day also ensures a better night’s sleep (because when you’re sleep-deprived, it's much harder to enact any successful morning routine).
Researchers found that people who were exposed to greater amounts of light during the morning hours, between 8 a.m. and noon, fell asleep more quickly at night and had fewer sleep disturbances during the night compared to those exposed to low light in the morning.
3. Meditate, pray or simply breathe deeply. For many, meditation conjures up a strict mental regimen where crossed legs are involved.
But honestly, the point of any grounding exercise like meditation is simply to bring your mind and body to a state of presence. That’s it. It’s not that deep! The morning is the perfect time for meditation, so even if it’s five minutes, meditation is scientifically beneficial.
If the idea of meditation is just too complicated or daunting for you, why not consider 5 - 10 minutes of deep breathing or morning prayer instead?
If all else fails, upon waking: remain in bed for 5 extra minutes and simply be there, allowing all intrusive thoughts to fall by the wayside.
Take several deep breaths and insert several short positive affirmations like:
Today is going to be a good day.
Today I want to be productive, not just busy.
Today I remain calm, grounded and open.
Today I celebrate being alive.
Today is like no other. I open myself to it.
Today is another magical opportunity.
I’m here, I’m alive. I’m ready.
I’m open to the gifts of the day.
Whatever you choose as your grounding exercise, make sure it fits you and not what you think should fit you.
4. Journaling. Morning is one of the best times to move our thoughts onto paper.
Stream-of-consciousness writing or using journal prompts is where we allow ourselves to “freely write” any thought that may arise. This serves as a mental spring cleaning and allows thoughts to stay on the paper, not whirring about in our minds all day.
Similar to gentle stretching, free-form writing warms up your mind in a calm, non-judgemental manner. No need to get it right. Just a calm expression of thoughts. Think feathers in the wind.
“Writing is a very focused form of meditation. Just as good as sitting in a lotus position.” – Alan Moore
You can also use a morning guided journal as a place to record your dreams, intentions, goals and visions while they are still fresh in your mind. While some people recall their dreams in great detail, most of us forget our dreams quickly upon awakening.
By writing our dreams down, we not only remember them better but have a concrete method to process and analyze them.
“It’s almost like having an internal therapist, because you associate (through dreams) to previous similar feelings and you work through the emotion related to it so that it is reduced in the morning.” - Rosalind Cartwright, Ph.D.
Ready to craft your own morning routine?
It’s time we stop imposing other morning routines onto ourselves. Why? Because we’re unlikely to maintain them! And when we don’t, it’s followed by (no surprise) a sense of guilt and failure. Hello...that’s never productive.
The morning routine we require to thrive is as individual as our thumbprint. Only we know what works for us and what doesn’t.
Be your own private investigator and find out. Discover how you naturally operate and build a successful morning routine based on that. We flourish when we work with our own natural tendencies. But we have to know our natural tendencies first.
And get this: your individualized morning routine is subject to change! Life is constantly influx after all so your routine can adapt with it. Whatever it takes: make some time for yourself and your own personal reflection during your first waking hour, however you can fit it in.
“I think routines should flex and change. Mine feels like a dynamic, malleable thing that emerges organically, rather than a rigid set of steps I have to follow or plan for.” – Kate Nafisi, Designer
The morning is a beautiful time, ripe with possibility and a mind that’s open to suggestion. Maximize it by crafting a routine that’s right for you.