Did you know the first conscious thought most people experience on waking is “I’m so tired”?
How sad is that? We wake up, alive, with a whole day ahead of us and that is the mantra we are setting ourselves up with for the day. Straight into the negative.
Our thoughts and behaviours first thing literally shape out our thoughts and behaviours for the rest of the day. Think about that one. What are yours? What do you want them to be?
What is happening when you wake up?
Firstly, think about what is happening when you wake up. Your body is making a lot of adjustments:
Shifting from unconscious to conscious mind
Shifting from stillness to movement
Shifting from fasting to contemplating food and drink
Often, shifting from relaxation to stress (of varying degrees)
That’s a lot for your body to go through. Think about it differently, if you spent seven hours of your day not moving, eating, or drinking and in a state of relaxation, how you would you feel after? You’d be stiff, hungry, and thirsty but at the same time probably pretty reluctant to move as you’d enjoyed the relaxation part. Sound a bit like the feeling you have in the morning?
If you had gone seven hours in a day without drinking (please, never do this!) you’d most likely be downing water like there’s no tomorrow. So why should this be any different in the morning?
Becoming conscious of your current behaviours
You already have a morning routine, I’m pretty sure of it. We are creatures of habit. Think about your first ten minutes after waking - what do you do?
From my experience, people tend to do the following:
Snooze, often multiple times
Check their phones (often including the dreaded work email)
Start to worry about the day ahead
Get up and start rushing around (“late” because they hit the snooze button one too many times…)
One friend was telling me about her boss who used to get his maid (yes, such is life in Dubai) to make him two single espresso shots and bring them to his bedside table so he could have them before he even got out of bed. Guess what the rest of the day looked like? Yes, another two shots after getting out the shower, followed by a total of sixteen shots of coffee over the course of the day. To me, I don’t know how that is even physically possible.
I shifted my morning routine a while back, actually when I was in London. I read a book by Gretchen Rubn (yes, I will keep banging on her about her) called the Happiness Project and one thing really resonated with me. If your morning commute is causing you particular stress, why not leave five or ten minutes earlier if this eliminates that stress? This literally transformed my commute, which was an hour and a half of my day at the time.
I went from rushing out the door, counting down the minutes to my train, which I had to catch three tubes first to then get on. That was forty minutes of constant clock-checking and calculations “if the next one is waiting at the platform and takes seven minutes, I’ll then have three minutes to run across the station and make the train”. Insanely stressful. By leaving five minutes earlier, I knew I would make the train, even if something went wrong. Stress gone.
Evolving from that, I realised that mornings were the only time when I knew I had a set amount of time that I could rely on. Evenings were so often taken up with work or impromptu social events. So I gave myself time in the morning to sit and have a nice breakfast, do my laundry, tidy my room and often I would read. It became my time for me.
What your morning could look like
Think back to the state of your body in the morning. It’s stiff, thirsty, hungry and having to (possibly fairly reluctantly) make a shift from happy relaxation to a degree of stress to get you through the day.
Here are some of the behaviours that morning champions suggest you adopt:
Sit up in bed first. Going from lying to standing and moving is quite a big transformation. Sitting up first helps gradually increase your heart rate.
Brush your teeth. In many traditional eastern cultures, they adopt “oil-pulling” which is swilling oil around your mouth to capture toxins, then spitting it out. In the west, brushing your teeth probably seems more appealing and has a similar effect.
Go to the toilet straight away on getting up - again, releasing toxins.
Drink at least two glasses of water. You haven’t drunk all night remember.
Stretch. So many people overlook this, and it’s so valuable. Think about every animal on waking - there’s a reason they’ve evolved to automatically stretch.
Be mindful - do not check your phone, think of some things you are grateful for, keep in the present moment and try not to stress about the day ahead. Let your mind ease into the day without dealing with the stress of it straightaway!
My morning routine
Evolves over time. Different places, different habits, different experiments. However, at the moment, I (and I make myself stick to this):
Sit up in bed and think of some things I’m grateful for
Go to the loo, then brush my teeth
Start drinking water (I tend to have 750mls within half an hour of waking)
Do a set of gentle yoga stretches and some yogic breathing
Meditate for five mins
Only then do I check my phone or start to think about my day ahead. Four days out of seven, I’m driving through the desert to the stables and I take this time for thinking - I don’t listen to the radio or music anymore, but allow my mind to wake up. It’s very zenning!
Yes, I’ve had to wake up earlier to do this. But it’s ten minutes. And as you’ll know if you read my last blog on sleeping here it’s made much easier by having a good sleeping routine.
How to start changing your routine
I wouldn’t recommend you try and transform your routine overnight, unless radical reforms are your thing.
I say start, because this will be an evolving routine. You’ll start with some “habits”, bin those that don’t work for you and introduce new ones as you play around with it.
Becoming conscious of how you’re actually starting your day, especially your mindset, will mean you start making some changes without thinking about it. For me, realising that starting my day thinking “I’m tired” introduced this mindset for the rest of the day, made it very easy to start thinking more positive thoughts, which now come naturally (ish!).
Even if you just do a quick full body stretch when you wake up, and drink some water before a coffee, you’re making positive changes. Don’t not do anything because you feel you need to do everything.
Work within your timing for the morning routine, and find something that works for you. It has to work for you, and you have to see the benefits, to be able to keep it up. And you do need to keep it up!
So, become conscious of what you currently do, think about what your body needs in the morning and then let your morning routine evolve.