After the chaos and uncertainty of 2020, many people are searching for ways to start fresh in the new year and regain a sense of control in their lives. While a new year doesn’t always bring a clean slate, it does provide an opportunity to reflect and make some changes. And while many things—such as the state of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—are still out of our hands, we can still take steps to regain a sense of control in our lives.
One of those steps is to create a healthy morning routine. What you do first thing in the morning may seem somewhat inconsequential, but research shows that how you start your day can have a huge impact on your mental, emotional, and physical state for the rest of the day. This year, tap into the power of starting your day with small but significant habits that can improve your health.
Why Having a Morning Routine Is Important
What do you do first thing in the morning? Many of us start the day checking email or social media—often before we’re even out of bed. That can cause us to feel stressed and overwhelmed before our feet even hit the floor. If you start the day feeling rushed or stressed, that feeling is likely to stay with you. Creating a morning routine, however, allows you to start the day in the right frame of mind. This can help you gain more control over your schedule, focus on your priorities, and finish the day feeling a greater sense of accomplishment.
Your schedule isn’t the only thing that benefits from a consistent morning routine. Research shows that maintaining a regular routine can help reduce stress, improve your sleep, and help you establish an overall healthier lifestyle.
What Should Your Morning Routine Include?
The exact elements of your morning routine are entirely up to you. While some people may recommend including exercise in your morning routine, if that doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. Your morning routine doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
When deciding what to include in your morning routine, it may be helpful first to identify your goals. Do you want to be more productive? Reduce stress? Improve your health? Your overall goals can help you determine the best way to start your day.
6 Ways to Create a Healthy Routine
1. Keep a Consistent Schedule
Going to bed around the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning will help your body establish a rhythm, which will make it easier to get up in the morning. If you need to leave the house for work, give yourself plenty of time so you aren’t rushed.
2. Drink Water
Your body is hard at work while you sleep—repairing cells, building tissue, releasing hormones, and flushing away waste products. Many of these processes require water, which helps keep bodily functions running smoothly. When you sleep, your body loses fluids and electrolytes, which can cause you to wake up feeling thirsty.
Before you reach for your first cup of coffee, rehydrate with a glass of water. You may even want to keep a bottle of water next to the bed if you tend to wake up feeling thirsty.
Journaling for a few minutes every morning is a great way to clear your mind and set the tone for the day. Writing down your thoughts can help you reduce stress, manage anxiety, and cope with depression. It can also help you identify any triggers that contribute to stress or anxiety, and help you find better ways to respond to them.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety. Simply sitting in stillness for a few minutes and focusing on your breath can help you start the day feeling calmer and in control. When you practice focusing on the present moment, it allows you to set aside concerns about the past or worries about the future.
5. Set Barriers
Think back to your goals. What are you doing now that is getting in the way of reaching them? Maybe you want to be more productive, but you’re currently spending an hour scrolling through social media every morning. Identify habits that you want to stop, and create barriers around them. For example, establish a rule that you will check social media for 15 minutes only after you have completed two hours of work.
If your schedule allows it, exercising in the morning is a great way to start the day. Exercise boosts mood and increases energy levels, leaving you feeling ready to take on the rest of your day. And no matter what happens later, you won’t have to worry about fitting in a workout.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be beneficial. Even 10 minutes of yoga or brisk walking in the morning can help improve your health and help you start the day off right.
No matter how you structure your morning routine, the important thing is to create one that works for you. You’ll likely soon find yourself feeling calmer, more in control, and more resilient in the face of uncertainty as we continue to navigate a world changed by the pandemic.
Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.