We’ve all heard it before: having a morning routine is important for a good life. Scientists and CEOs have been talking about how important it is to have a morning routine for decades. Some people get up every day at 4:30 a.m. and work out before the sun comes up, while others enjoy the quiet mornings by reading with a hot cup of coffee.
But getting up is hard. It’s easy to hit “snooze” on your alarm when you’re thinking about everything you have to do that day or when you’re warm and cozy under a pile of blankets. This is especially true in the winter, when mornings are colder, darker, and gloomier.
Science has shown that having a morning routine is good for you. Research has shown that having a consistent morning routine can help you feel less stressed, have more energy, and get more done at work. If you want to start a morning routine before work but don’t know where to start, psychologists recommend these three things:
Set an intention for the day.
Psychologist Jessica Jackson warns that your to-do list might be doing more harm than good. Checking your emails, calendar, or to-do list soon after you wake up “immediately starts the day off on a stressful note and tells your brain to go into panic mode,” Jackson, who is also the clinical strategy manager of mental health equity at Modern Health, tells CNBC Make It.
Instead, Jackson recommends all her clients start their days with an intention meditation: taking a few minutes to sit in silence, taking a couple of deep breaths, and choosing a single word or sentence to be their “north star” for the day.
“You can tell yourself, ‘My intention for today is to feel successful’ or ‘I want to be comfortable today,” and think about what you can realistically accomplish in the next 24 hours to feel that way,” Jackson explains. “It can also be a powerful word like ‘gratitude’ that will guide how you react to and reflect on whatever happens throughout the day.”
Setting an intention each morning before work can help you better align your actions with your values, stay focused on your priorities, and, most importantly, get excited about the day ahead instead of dwelling on every task you need to complete that day, Jackson says.
You can choose an offline ritual and stick with it.
Debbie Sorensen, a Denver-based psychologist, says that unplugging from technology in the mornings is the best reboot you can give your brain. Sorensen points out that looking at your phone or computer right after waking up primes your brain for distraction and can trigger your stress response if you see or read something negative.
Instead, you can find an offline activity that recharges you, such as reading, writing in a journal, walking, or attending a workout class. The benefits of doing a relaxing, offline activity in the morning will last throughout the day, Sorensen says, because you’re starting the day off feeling “more grounded and recharged.” “It gives you sustainable energy to help you power through the day and keep stress in check,” she adds.
Sorensen likes to spend her mornings reading with one of her kids on the couch or catching up over a cup of coffee before the rest of her family wakes up. “It’s a lovely, quiet moment of quality time that I look forward to, and it rejuvenates me before I plunge into work,” she says.
Make mornings fun!
Laura Pendergrass, an industrial psychologist who works with Fortune 500 companies, says that having fun is an important but undervalued part of being healthy.
Pendergrass says that as part of your morning routine, do something small that makes you laugh or smile. This will boost your endorphins and get you in a good mood for the day. It could be a 3-minute dance party while you get ready for work or calling one of your funniest friends to say “good morning.”
“Taking care of ourselves by having fun is just as important as anything else,” she says. Pendergrass says that before going to work, she often spends a few minutes watching uplifting nature documentaries, which “makes a huge difference” in her mood.
She says, “We know how important break is for kids and schedule it into their school day, but we forget how important play is for adults.” “It’s up to us to give them chances to do something fun or creative and add color to what might be a gray day otherwise.”