It can be pretty hard to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. I should know, because my bed is easily my favorite place in the world. Not to brag or anything (because I’m not exactly made of money) but I was able to splurge for a memory foam mattress topper, and that thing is a game changer. When my alarm goes off in the morning, the absolute last thing I want to do is face the day. It can be even more daunting when part of your job requires you to be energized and creative early in the day. So, here are some things you can do to get that much needed boost of endorphins and inspiration every morning.
Have a Night and Day Routine
It’s important to have a regimented routine that you can follow most days to train your brain to perform at its highest capacity. This will obviously include what you do when you first wake up, but it also helps a lot to have a routine for nights as well. Have a standard process for powering down before bed – turn off all your screens, avoid eating or drinking, maybe read a few chapters of that book you started and find the bedtime that works best for you. Disrupting your night routine can throw everything out of whack in the morning, and you’ll likely feel the effects of a poor night’s sleep all day.
As for a morning routine, there’s a surprising amount of flexibility, depending on your interests and how early you’re able to wake up. Many successful businesspeople have been interviewed about what they do in the mornings, and reading about them can be very eye-opening and give you lots of useful ideas. One of my favorite tips comes from UJ Ramdas, the co-creator of the Five Minute Journal, who keeps his phone in airplane mode until after he’s eaten breakfast.
While we’re on the subject of breakfast: you definitely should be eating breakfast. I used to roll my eyes every time someone told me about how it’s is the most important meal of the day, but with my older age I’ve started to listen to reason. Eating an early morning meal that’s high in carbohydrates and Omega-3 fatty acids can help boost your memory and keep you sharp through the day. Foods like flaxseed, whole-grain cereals and dark berries are all prime examples of great brain fuel. Abstaining from a balanced breakfast also has some lesser known effects, such as lowering your body temperature and decreasing your ability to do mental arithmetic, as well as an increased feeling of fatigue throughout the day.
Exercise Your Body
Everyone knows that regular exercise in great for your physical health, but it may also be great for your mental health as well. For minor cases of depression, exercise is a great way to boost your body’s production of serotonin and dopamine, and increase your endorphin levels as well. These all contribute to lower feelings of anxiety and increased energy levels. Studies have also shown that exercise can increase your brain’s “executive function” – basically, your ability to focus on complex tasks and to think abstractly. Regular exercise also stimulates growth of BDNF, which – to put it in the most simple of terms – essentially keeps your brain cells healthy.
Cursory internet searches for the benefits of working out will yield a lot of personal testimonials about getting better sleep, being more productive and generally feeling better in almost all aspects of life. It’s not just for physical fitness: working out can dramatically influence your attitude and ability to be productive, so don’t be a stranger to the gym.
Exercise Your Mind
I took a summer school drawing class one year in college, and my professor told students to buy a sketch book and draw a self portrait every day, first thing in the morning. Before a shower or anything. The idea was to force us to work those creative muscles and start thinking about art and drawing as soon as we woke up. Until that point in my life, I never really put much thought into my morning routine, but having this assignment really intrigued me and forced me to start changing how I did my mornings, since I couldn’t just wake up 10 minutes before class and sleepwalk through campus anymore. Doing something that was seemingly pretty insignificant in terms of time (most of my drawings took about ten to fifteen minutes) really changed my whole day, and actually made me feel more energized throughout the morning.
This kind of mental exercise is definitely in my own personal routine, and has been (in some form or another) ever since. I may not be drawing a self portrait every morning, but some days I might write a morning journal entry or make a list of tasks to do that day. The simple act of writing down all the stuff I have to do already gets my brain working, and I’m getting myself more prepared to tackle the day. If I want to give myself a little quick puzzle to get my brain going, I’ll sometimes check out the New York Times’ daily mini crossword puzzle for a few minutes of fun. When I’m feeling more introspective, I’ll check out Poets.org’s poem of the day. It can sometimes be a bit of a crapshoot, but when I find a particular poem that I really like or speaks to me on a personal level, I’ll go back to thinking about it several times throughout the day. My wife really likes to meditate in the mornings, and I liken the act of reading a good poem to mediating in a way. I often find myself clearing my mind of other distractions and just focusing on the written words and their meaning. It can put me in a pretty good headspace, and starting your day with that kind of introspection or positivity can do wonders.
Take a Long (Cold?) Shower
In researching for this blog, I stumbled upon a few articles that talked about the benefits of a cold shower. This one by Carl Richards in the New York Times is a particular favorite, because it’s much more practical in its assessment of why a cold shower beneficial. Richards argues that the main reason he takes a cold shower is that it’s unpleasant for him. By tackling this challenge early in the morning, Richards is setting himself up to have a similar behavior throughout his day. It’s an interesting perspective, and is compelling enough that I think it’s something I will be trying to incorporate into my own morning routine as well. I also really enjoyed this article because it introduced me to my new favorite motivational quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” – Mark Twain. Suddenly a cold shower doesn’t sound bad at all.
Have Some “Me” Time
My dad was real big on waking up early. He would wake up at 5:00 every morning while all of us were still asleep, get a cup of coffee and listen to jazz while reading the newspaper or doing that morning’s crossword puzzle. He used to say that he loved being awake while the rest of the world was sleeping, and that he needed that time to himself every morning to energize himself.
I’m pretty sure I’m physically incapable of waking up that early, but I have my own version of my dad’s routine. I wake up about thirty minutes before I really need to be up, and spend a good chunk of time listening to podcasts and browsing Facebook and other social media. It’s nice giving myself that extra time so that I’m not stressed out or in any huge rush to get out the door, and it helps keep me focused once I get in to work because I’m ready to go. I’ve already done my internet browsing for the morning, and I can start knocking out things on my to-do list as soon as I sit down at my desk.
What’s your morning routine like? Are you an early riser, or do you hit the snooze button a few times? Have you found a particular thing to eat for breakfast that gets you through the morning? Let us know in the comments below!