Updated: Apr 24, 2020
One of the basic psychological needs we have as humans is predictability. We want to know what to expect in most aspects of our lives and we don’t really like uncertainty or changes.
In other words, we like to be in control.
That’s why having a routine in general is important for us in order to help our brains know when to work, when to relax, when to eat and when to sleep, so that we don’t have to spend too much energy on planning, making decisions and changing our minds on different matters.
I’ve recently noticed that what really sets the mood for my day is how I spend my morning.
Before the pandemic started, on the weekdays I used to wake up at a similar time, have a delicious and nutritious breakfast looking out through the window and thinking of the things that I’m grateful for, then do a little workout, and then start working.
When the pandemic started, all days of the week became more or less the same and my morning routine disappeared without me even realizing.
My mornings ranged from some days of waking up early and doing a yoga session followed by a nice and healthy breakfast, and then having a productive day, to other days of waking up late and still exhausted, either skipping breakfast or eating a big breakfast despite not being hungry while watching shows and scrolling through social media with a food coma until I lost all my motivation to do anything productive at all.
I finally decided to reorganize my mornings, looking back at the time when I felt productive and happy. I've been applying these routines more frequently nowadays, and would love to share them with you guys, since they're also backed by scientific evidence.
So here are my key components of what to include in the morning routine for days when you want to get things done:
1. Get enough sleep
One of the main things that determines your mood and productivity levels for your day is whether you've gotten enough sleep. I always try to get 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep every night, and I really notice the difference when I haven’t slept that well or went to bed late.
Try going to bed and wake up at similar times in order to get a good sleeping routine and ensure that you fall asleep easier and wake up energized (1).
Recently I’ve come across an interesting website with plenty of sleep-related information, ranging from science-based tips on sleep to best mattresses for a good night’s sleep. I encourage you to check it out for tips on good night’s sleep: https://sleepauthorities.com
2. What are you grateful for?
Gratitude can really boost your mood throughout the day and minimize the risk of getting depression and anxiety, especially in these unusual times.
Check out my earlier article to learn more about the benefits of gratitude and how to practice it.
Think of a few things that you’re grateful for today, before you even get out of bed, or while you're sipping your morning coffee/tea and feel the gratitude within you.
Try to elaborate on what you are grateful for in your mind, rather than just naming them.
3. Get sunlight exposure as soon as you wake up
When the light receptors in your eyes see the daylight, they send signals to your brain, which then realizes that it’s time to wake up and start producing “awake” hormones in your body (2).
So pull up the blinds, or even go outside as soon as you wake up in order to get the first natural energy boost that’s more effective than coffee.
4. Meditate / journal
Meditation calms your mind and helps you to bring down your stress levels. Check out my earlier article for more information about the effects of meditation on your brain.
Clearing your head first thing in the morning through meditation will help you to organize your thoughts later on during the day. You will be able to focus on your tasks more effectively, which can even help you to reach the flow state.
If you feel like you have too many thoughts running through your head from the start of the day, another great way is to write them down in a journal, so that you can let them go.
5. Write down your plan for today
Writing down a plan for the day gives you a heads up of what to do when your’ve done your morning routine.
I’ve been slacking a lot with this lately and have been finding that, although I enjoy my mornings, as soon as I sit down to work, I lose my motivation since I don’t really know what I should do today.
You can even get a head start of your morning routine by writing down your plan the night before. Doing so will make you less stressed about the day and all the things you plan on doing, which will help you to enjoy your morning.
6. Move your body
Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute found that morning exercise improved decision-making and cognitive performance in participants, which is great for boosting productivity! (3)
I personally find that any type of movement is better than no movement in the morning.
For example, if you’re feeling tired and tight in your body, some light stretching might be all that you need.
A short walk outside could also be a great way to wake up your muscles and joints and prepare them for a productive day ahead, which likely involves a lot of sitting down.
If you feel well rested and energetic when you wake up, you could go for a run or do a more rigorous workout.
I used to bike to work, which was a part of my morning exercise. Sometimes I even did some light bodyweight training, like air squats, pushups, situps and others before I would bike, if I felt extra energized.
Now, I've started coming into a new routine, where I often do a yoga flow in the morning, or go for a walk before starting my work day, which has been boosting my mood and making me more productive.
During the days when I don’t do any movement at all, I end up feeling very unmotivated for every aspect of my life and have a big difficulty leaving my house later during the day.
The contrast is astonishing!
7. Eat a delicious well balanced breakfast
Make sure that your first meal of the day is full of nutrients and also delicious.
My favorites are oatmeal with lots of toppings, such as banana, berries, cinamon, nut butter and seeds, avocado toast with egg and banana pancakes with yoghurt and berry toppings, all of which provide me with enough complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein - the food groups that are key for energizing your body without giving you a food coma first thing in the morning (4).
You can also practice intuitive eating, as well as mindful eating, as you have your breakfast. Eat when you start to feel hungry, instead of going along with the habit. Try to identify which type of food your body currently needs and provide your body with the delicious breakfast that it deserves. Sit by the table with no distractions around and really enjoy every bite of your meal.
You can also practice mindful communication while you’re having breakfast with a family member, setting a positive tone for your day ahead.
I have definitely been more productive and my energy levels and mood have also been much better during the times when I included most, or all, of the seven things into my morning routine.
If you’re already doing any of these things, try to think of what the next thing that you can incorporate into your morning routine can be. I strongly suggest adding just one little routine at a time and getting used to it before you add anything more.
I am very interested to hear your opinion and tips on what you'd like to read about in this blog, so you are more than welcome to leave a comment here, or contact me on email@example.com
Laura | MSc in Medical Science, Certified Mindfulness Life Coach
1. Schutte-Rodin S, et al. Clinical guidelines for the evaluation and management of chronic insomnia in adults. J Clin Sleep Med. 2008;4(5):487-504.
2. Figueiro, Mariana G., et al. "The impact of daytime light exposures on sleep and mood in office workers." Sleep Health3.3 (2017): 204-215.
3. Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. "Morning exercise can improve decision-making across the day in older adults: Study shows how simple changes to your daily routine is key to good brain health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 April 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190429154529.htm>.