Whether or not we have a good day isn’t always up to us. Multiple factors influence the way we feel at work, including our workloads, the relationship we have with colleagues, the general environment and how we are treated by our managers.
Although we can’t control these things, we can decide how we spend the first few hours of the day. Our morning routine has more of an impact on the rest of our day than we realise – and can make a big difference to our wellbeing, motivation and productivity at work.
“You’ve probably heard it a lot, but nevertheless the sentiment stays true – your mornings set you up for the day, and usually set the tone for how your day will go, too,” says life and career coach Alana Leggett, a member of the Life Coach Directory.
“If we know this to be true, why do so many of us put so little effort into this crucial part of the day? The answer is, because it’s actually quite difficult,” she says. “We’re used to waking up, rushing around and stumbling to our desks and downing a coffee while we’re at it. It takes time to get into a good routine and it takes effort to create an environment where that routine can prosper.”
At a time when everything feels more draining than usual, investing in your mornings can have a significant impact on your day. We are a year into a global pandemic and although there is now a plan to lift the current restrictions, we are still facing fear, uncertainty and change. It’s difficult to feel motivated when the days seem to merge into one long week of work, homeschooling and social isolation. It’s enough to make anyone hit the snooze button.
“The thought of another day 'locked up' can rob us of motivation and give rise to low mood,” says Life Coach Directory member Denise Bosque. “We are still in winter, the mornings are cold, so it's easy to slip into 'just a few more minutes of snooze'. However, routines are essential to set up a good mindset, both psychologically, physically and emotionally.”
Find a routine that works for you
Not everyone is a morning person, so the first step to success in the morning is knowing how you function. “If you find it hard to wake up, invest in a new radio alarm clock and put it at the other end of the room,” says Leggett. “You’ll need to get up to get to it and the radio will remind you that people around the world are already awake and moving, even if that’s not happening in your world, yet.”
A wake-up light alarm clock is a far less shocking way of waking up in the morning than a traditional alarm clock, or the alarm on your phone. Light alarms produce a natural light which gradually becomes brighter over time, gently bringing you into the day.
As soon as our alarms go off, we check messages, emails and social media, and usually end up scrolling Instagram before we even get out of bed. All the information we consume overloads us before we’ve even woken up properly, hijacking our ideas, thoughts and feelings as we subconsciously start comparing ourselves to other people’s lives.
“I think the main reason why it’s not very good for your morning routine is very simple – you’re procrastinating,” says Leggett. “There are multiple reasons why this isn’t great for your brain, or your health, but the main reason I would suggest you stop doing this is because of the message you’re sending yourself.
“If the very first thing you do is avoid and delay something, what kind of day are you setting up for yourself? Rather than going from the idea of sleeping, waking up and then needing to get ready for work, I suggest adding something into your routine in the morning that you enjoy and that will help you wake up and get into a good frame of mind.”
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In recent years, researchers have explored whether meditation has the power to change the structure and function of the brain through relaxation.
One review of 23 different studies found that in general, people who have been meditating for a few months perform better on tasks that test their ability to ignore distractions. It also suggested that those who meditate in the long-term show an improved ability to focus, especially for long periods of time. “Adding meditation into your morning routine, just five minutes of meditation or guided breathing, can be enough to bring focus and clarity to your mind,” Leggett says.
Going for a walk or a jog might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re tired in the morning. However, a morning workout gets your blood flowing and can make you feel more awake.
Exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating the production of mood-elevating chemicals called endorphins. Being physically active doesn’t necessarily mean pounding the pavements, it might mean going for a short walk or doing a YouTube video.
Take a few minutes for yourself
Mornings are usually chaotic. We check our emails, sort out breakfasts, dress kids, log on to work and set homework, all while downing coffee. But taking ten minutes to do something purely for yourself – whether it’s reading or listening to music – can boost your mood for the rest of the day, no matter the challenges you face.
“The real key in setting yourself up for a good work day, is working out what kind of morning you really need and what kind of routine will have you feeling relaxed, energised and focused so you’re ready to start the day,” says Leggett. “This will be individual to everyone because we are all completely individual, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to what we all need.”