What do you do immediately upon waking? Do you mindlessly scroll through social media, stagger towards the shower or reach for that first cup of coffee?
Many of us take this initial period of the day for granted, but how we spend it matters. According to Jana Dawson, Director of Academic and Training Development at The School of Positive Psychology, having a healthy morning ritual can prepare you for a productive day ahead and improve your emotional wellbeing by boosting your energy levels, reducing stress and making you feel more in control of your day.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and athletes in the world have morning rituals: Ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll spends the first few hours of his day swimming, running or biking; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos enjoys breakfast with his children while savouring his coffee; and Tesla CEO Elon Musk takes a relaxing shower, which he says is the source of many ideas.
“We all have morning rituals, even if we don’t think of them as such,” says clinical psychologist Dr Emma Waddington from Thrive Family.
“We tend to do things in a certain order – like get dressed before having breakfast, for instance. These are consistent actions that we engage in, although we may not think much of them.”
Such rituals help set us up for the day, but how can we better use them to our advantage? We asked Jana and Dr Waddington for advice and tips on how to make the most of your morning.
Consistency is key
Jana says that you can turn any regular morning action into a ritual, which is good news for those of us who don’t have much time to spare right after waking up.
For example, instead of gulping down your coffee while looking through social media, Jana suggests sipping the beverage slowly and to use these few minutes as reflection time.
“Sip your drink in a quiet place and spend these few minutes setting your intentions for the rest of the day. This will prepare your nervous system and calm you down so that you’ll be better equipped to handle the tasks and challenges ahead. It’s also a great time to remind yourself what kind of day you want to have.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have three minutes or three hours; what’s more important is consistency, so make it your morning habit to spend this bit of time with yourself.”
Do something meaningful
Whether it’s walking around the park, meditating, praying, reading, stretching, spending time in nature or journaling, Jana recommends doing something that has meaning to you. Doing things that you enjoy or that you find mentally, physically or emotionally engaging can make your day feel more significant, help you get through tasks with greater purpose and focus, and inspire you to stay on track with your goals.
Read more on how to stay focused here.
Cultivate positive emotions
Jana says that we’re all wired with a negativity bias, meaning that we tend to look on the negative side rather than on the bright side. If you wake up with a feeling of dread about what the day might bring, try to change that.
“Try to start your day on a positive note. Make time for joy or peace – anything that makes you feel happy. If you’re short on time, write positive affirmations on sticky notes and stick the notes on your bathroom mirror the night before, so that you can read and reflect on them while brushing your teeth in the morning. Set yourself up to feel good the rest of the day. Doing so will make you feel more connected to others and help you be more creative and innovative.”
Get more tips on taking care of your mental health here.
Take control of your morning
Avoid checking your phone or email inbox right away. You have no control over the news or incoming emails and messages, and if the information you receive is unpleasant, it may ruin your mood.
“Don’t allow anything external to take over your emotional or mental state before you’ve had a chance to plan your day,” Jana says. “Delay checking your phone, social media and emails until you’ve had some time for yourself.”
Instead of mindlessly rushing through your morning tasks, Dr Waddington says to pay attention to what you’re doing and to savour each moment.
For example, while making your morning cuppa, slowly take in the aroma of the coffee, or, while running outdoors, pause for a while to admire the greenery around you.
“This will get you into the habit of being more mindful and aware of your thoughts and actions. It’s also a reminder to appreciate life’s little pleasures,” she adds.
Want more wellness articles like this, and other lifestyle content right in your inbox? Download the new SAFRA mobile app and opt in for the eNSman Newsletter – you don’t need to be a SAFRA member to subscribe – and never miss another story!