How do you begin your day?
Does it start with an unwelcome alarm, a sense of rush, of not enough time, of frustration that the kids are taking too long to get ready, and the daily hunt for your keys?
Mine used to. To make matters worse, they were usually accompanied by a hangover, and regret at another night of wine and cigarettes. That did not make for a happy morning, happy kids, or happy me.
I have been totally sober now since 2014, and so the hangovers are very much a thing of the past. And thanks to healthier, more nourishing morning routines, so is, for the most part, the frustration and stress that used to define my mornings.
Now, I want to precede everything I am about to say with a disclaimer. I do not always do the things in my perfect morning routine. I really need to. I have ADHD, and routine is hugely beneficial to me for managing this. But it is also the reason why I struggle to implement those ‘non negotiable’ morning routines that some people swear by. In my brain, everything is negotiable! And sometimes the ADHD wins, convinces me that ‘of course you’ll do the yoga later’ and I go off and do something completely different.
So while I am not perfect in my own morning routines, I do know one thing with absolute certainty.
When I begin my day with my trusty morning routine, my day goes better.
Another thing I know for sure is that beating yourself up about failing to do your morning routine is totally counterproductive, and may even increase the chances that you won’t do it again the following day. So if you decide on a morning routine, and you miss a day, look at what you can learn from that, forgive yourself, and let it go.
My morning routine
What your morning routine looks like will be unique to you. I love to start my day with quiet sitting (The 5 Minute Breath), some gentle Yoga, and a core strength training workout, followed by some writing on 750words.com. I also drink at least a pint of herbal tea, take my ADHD medication, and brush my teeth.
All of these things support my wellbeing in some way, helping my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
The tea helps to rehydrate my body after sleep. Our bodies need a lot of water each day, and this begins from the moment we open our eyes. I usually take some water to bed with me, and have a few mouthfuls before I even fully get out of bed. This is very refreshing and helps to wake the body and mind.
The 5 minute breath helps to focus and quieten my mind, and allows me to connect to my intuition and inner guide to prepare for the day to come.
The gentle yoga releases tension in my body from my night’s sleep, tones my muscles and improves my flexibility as well as helping me to deepen and improve my breath. There is a small amount of more vigorous movement that gets my heart rate a bit higher. Yoga produces dopamine, reduces cortisol, promotes emotional regulation and so much more, ensuring that my brain is defended against the worst that stress and ADHD might throw at it.
The core strength training is purely about increasing my overall strength. The app I use is a ‘plank workout’ app that takes about 10 minutes each day, and works most of the muscles in my core, arms and legs. This is particularly beneficial now that my son and I have started climbing, and it helps me with the long walks I love to do.
The writing on 750words.com is a very powerful practice. I learned of the benefits of writing for wellbeing when I was doing my yoga teacher training, and began to find significant healing through the written work I had to do. I have processed many painful emotions through my writing over the last few years, and find the practice of daily writing to be hugely cathartic. Sometimes I write purely for myself, sometimes I write for you (as I am at the moment. This blog post is being written here).
This whole routine takes about an hour usually. I sometimes spend longer on yoga, sometimes longer writing. I have recently started a new part time job, so my days are changing, and my routine has had to change too. I used to spend a lot longer on my yoga mat than I do now, but morning routines need to be flexible to suit life. It is no use me trying to fit a 90 minute routine in when I don’t have 90 minutes, this will increase my stress, not reduce it!
Creating your ideal routine
There is much written these days about the importance of a good morning routine. Robin Sharma swears by his 5am Club routines, and has a very strict series of protocols that he lives by and teaches. Hal Elrond and his famous ‘Miracle Morning‘ offers 6 habits to implement that will ‘change your life’. Jeff Sanders promises that his ‘5am miracle’ system will help you get more done and allow you to create the life of your dreams.
While getting up at 5am maybe hailed as the golden hour for productivity and success, it is not for everyone. We all have different energy and effectiveness. Some people are naturally early risers, some are wired to be night owls. While it is possible to train your body to a different body clock, this takes time, effort and steely discipline to do it well, and not everyone can do this. It is important that rising early in the morning does not mean that you are depriving yourself of sleep, this will be entirely counterproductive, and can, in the long run, harm your health.
When deciding on your morning routine, it is important that you look at what your life is now.
- What time do you currently go to bed?
- What time are you used to getting up?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you able to go to bed earlier?
- Are you going to bed and getting up at the same time each day?
If you want to start getting up earlier, you may need to start going to bed earlier to ensure that you do get enough sleep, this will require a change in your evening routines as well. We will look at this in a later blog post. Regular lack of sleep will reduce the effectiveness of your wonderful new morning routine, and will be damaging to your health in the longer term. While adapting to a new morning routine may mean feeling tired when you start getting up earlier, it is important that you are ensuring that you can get enough hours of good sleep once you get used to the new routine. So if you can’t get to bed before 11pm, it probably isn’t going to be helpful to try to get up at 5, as you will be consistently getting too little sleep.
Your new morning routine begins the night before, with a good night’s sleep and an evening routine that helps promote rest and relaxation at bedtime. While I will look into this in more depth in a later post, things like not drinking coffee after lunchtime, not eating late at night, getting some exercise throughout the day and switching off devices for at least an hour before bed will help your body be ready for sleep when it is bedtime.
What will you do in the morning when you rise?
What are you hoping to achieve?
The detail of your morning routine will depend a lot on what you enjoy doing, the time and space you have available, and what you hope to achieve with your time. You know your goals and objectives in rising early. It might be that you want to be up early so you can write that book you’ve dreamed of for a decade before you have to get the kids to school and go to work. In this case, you write in the morning. You may want to get fit, to build a side hustle, to plan your day, to meditate, or simply to have quiet time to read, to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or to sit in the garden and watch the world go by.Be realistic about time
When thinking about your ideal morning routine, you need to think realistically about how much time you have, what you need to get done, and what other things you will also need to factor in (for example, when I first thought about my morning routine, I failed to take into account how long it takes to actually get out of bed when the alarm goes off (at least a couple of minutes of stretching, yawning and battling the inner voice that wants to stay in bed), and how long things like going to the toilet, brushing my teeth, and getting into my yoga clothes takes. It is only a couple of minutes or less for each thing, but it all adds up.
Don’t set yourself up to fail with too many plans
It is easy to get carried away with the things you want to do. If you are getting up very early, you can feel like you have loads of time and can get lots done. It is better to do one or two things that will really nourish you, rather than trying to cram lots of different activities into your morning. Maybe it is just my ADHD brain that does this, but it is worth remembering – your morning routine needs to be productive, but not make you feel stressed, and leave you with a sense of failure that you haven’t completed it all.
Choose things you will enjoy!
If you hate running and have no desire to learn to love it, don’t decide you are going to start running every day! You might keep it up for a day or two, but you will have no motivation to do it when you really want to stay in bed, and it is cold and raining outside. Find things you enjoy, or want to learn to do, and do those.
Allow for ‘failure’
There will be some times when you won’t get up on time, or you won’t do the things you plan in the morning. This is totally normal and to be expected. Creating any new habit is difficult, takes work, and involves fighting the ego. Your ego self wants you to stay as you are, and resists any effort you make to change. This is the voice that will tell you that you don’t need to get up early today, that it is ok to stay in bed. Try to remember that this is the ego talking, and the ego is what you are trying to rise above with this change of routine. But if you do succumb, don’t beat yourself up, chalk it up to experience and resolve to start again tomorrow.
Seek support and motivation from others
Any change in habit and routine is easier when you are supported by others on the same or similar path. Having cheerleaders to support your success, and to keep your spirits up when you are finding it hard, makes any challenge in life easier. The Space to Breathe Facebook group is a great place to come and share your morning routine plans, challenges and learning, come and join us and share what you are doing with your mornings.
Reflect and grow
When you are trying to stretch out of your comfort zone and improve your life, reflection and learning is invaluable. Tools that help you create structure for your plans and reflection are really helpful in keeping you focused and motivated. The Space to Breathe 90 Day Self Care planner is designed exactly for this purpose. It will help you plan your morning routine, and the evening that supports it, as well as guiding you to design the life you want to live and reflect on your growth. Find out more about the journal and order your copy here