The way you start your morning sets the pace for how the rest of the day will play out. Are you starting your days feeling motivated and optimistic? And if not, don’t you want to? Turns out there are specific things we can do to ensure a better start to the day. We all know there’s value to a solid morning routine, but why exactly?
Get Natural Light
Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford, describes in great detail the effects of stress on the nervous system.
When we experience stress, our field of vision becomes narrow. The tunnel vision feeling you get when you face something stressful is a result of the brain and eyes sharing information back and forth to make sense of what’s happening. You hyper-focus and fixate on whatever it is, and it consumes your attention.
This narrowing of vision is an innate human stress response that’s physiologically programmed into us. When we look at our phones, our vision narrows in the same exact way. Staring at your phone causes the same neurological response in your brain and body as when you encounter an actual stressor.
When we look at our phone first thing in the morning, stress is the first feeling we take into the day.
Exposing your eyes to natural light in the morning not only regulates your circadian rhythm, (which makes it easier for you to fall asleep at regular intervals), but it also triggers a neural circuit that controls the timing of cortisol and melatonin, which also affect wakefulness and sleep.
Lack of sleep can cause mood disorders, low immunity, and poor memory. 2-5 minutes of natural light in the morning can make a huge difference in developing regular sleep patterns and performing at a high level throughout the day.
The body craves movement. Especially when it’s been at rest for 8-10 hours. Many people like to get a workout in before they start their work day. But if time doesn’t permit this, a simple walk or stretch in the morning will do you a lot of good. Aaron Alexander is a great resource for incorporating movement into all your daily activities.
According to Andrew Huberman’s lab at Stanford, taking a brief walk in the morning can create something called “optic flow,” which has a powerful effect on the nervous system.
Walking, biking, running – anything where we are physically moving through space outdoors, lowers activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for feelings of anxiety and fear.
A 5-10 minute walk or run outside in the morning can check off two boxes (natural light and movement) that are crucial for starting your day with a bang.
Delay Caffeine Intake
Most of us need our coffee first thing in the morning. We rely heavily on caffeine to get us out of bed and jumpstart our day.
However, there is value in slightly delaying your caffeine intake in the morning. When we drink coffee or tea immediately upon waking, we’re relying on the caffeine to wake us up.
If you let your body wake up naturally, the caffeine will give you an extra boost of energy. Splash some cold water on your face. Get some sunlight. Then enjoy your morning beverage.
Challenge yourself this week to wait 30 minutes to an hour after waking before you take your first sip of coffee. It might be difficult for the first few days, but soon you’ll notice the difference in your sustained energy levels.
Meditating can be a powerful practice in your morning routine that helps put you in the right headspace for the day ahead.
It’s natural to experience some level of stress in the morning. Thoughts race through our heads, responsibilities loom over us, deadlines and work stress creep in as soon as we open our eyes.
A meditation practice doesn’t have to be a huge, intense thing. It can be simple. Give yourself 5-10 minutes in the morning to collect yourself. Calm your mind, breathe, and enter the day in a state of peace and calm.
Use a cushion or a comfortable chair, sit up with good posture, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Thoughts will inevitably come up, but the point of meditation is to realize that you are not your thoughts. You have the ability to witness your thoughts come and go, with or without attachment.
Meditation is a great vehicle to understand the power of the mind. It helps us understand our own agency in deciding which thoughts to associate with, and which thoughts to discard. This is an extremely valuable skill that extends far past the practice of meditation.
Meditation is really a deeper understanding of yourself. With enough practice, it can become a reset button for your mind.
What are you thankful for? The more you think about it, the more things will come to mind. The more you make a practice out of it, the more your brain begins to naturally seek out things you are grateful for rather than things that annoy or frustrate you, which makes you an overall happier person.
Taking a few minutes to write down a few things you are happy about, or people that matter to you may seem silly. But this practice can elevate our mood and allow us to step into the workday from a place of gratitude and positivity rather than stress.
All in all, this morning routine can be accomplished in about 20 minutes give or take. The phone will still be there when you’re done. The work will still have to get done. the responsibilities will still be there. Adding these things to your morning routine will better equip you to handle it all with a steady mind, and positive attitude.