The Best Morning Routine – The Science Behind Starting Your Day
Mornings aren’t easy. Bleary-eyed many of us fumble for the snooze button, hitting it over and over like a game of whack a mole. While others seem to rise with the sun, sip a green juice, journal, and do a spot of yoga (all-time lapsed for on their Instagram, of course).
But is a morning routine worth the effort?
Morning routine converts preach that this daily habit increases their productivity, vitality, and happiness – but is that true? What precisely can research tell us about morning routines and is there such a thing as the best morning routine?
Revealing the Research of Morning Routines
It turns out an unruly, unstructured start for our day could be having a greater impact than we think. The science suggests that our harmless scroll on Instagram and the quick check of the news can tinker with our finely tuned emotions.
Harvard researcher Shawn Achor, psychologist Michelle Gielan and The Huffington post tested the impact of different morning routines. In a fascinating study they took 100 participants and randomly assigned them to two groups. The first watched three minutes of negative news before 10 am. While the second group watched three minutes of the news that shared uplifting, inspiring stories such as a 70-year-old man who received his GED after failing dozens of times.
This simple change to a common daily habit of watching the news had a staggering impact.
The study found that participants who watched just three minutes of negative news were 27% more likely to report their emotional state as ‘unhappy’ six to eight hours later, compared with the second group. Leading the researchers to conclude that when it comes to morning routines “Just a few minutes spent consuming negative news in the morning can affect the entire emotional trajectory of your day”.
And they aren’t alone in their findings. Research all points in the same direction; our morning routine is a daily habit that we shouldn’t overlook.
But we don’t all have to rush to set our 5 am alarm clock. The best morning routines aren’t necessarily those that we feel pressured to complete.
What is a normal morning routine?
Everyone is different and most mornings don’t look the same. Some of you might have a gruelling commute, you might be a parent who has to hustle a herd of kids out the door. While other readers may have less pressure and time constraints. The best morning routine is one that works for you.
What you should put on your morning routine are things that make you feel better, it’s not a punishment. If it causes you to feel like you’re failing, stressed or depletes your energy – delete it from your morning routine.
What should I put on my morning routine?
#1 Gratitude Journalling
Gratitude journaling involves writing down three things you are grateful for. It’s easy, fast, and effective and a great starting place for anyone seeking to make their morning routine a daily habit.
You can expect this simple practice to release a hit of the feel-good chemical dopamine in your brain (that also increases our motivation levels).
Gratitude is also proven to harness our hypothalamus activity, a small but crucial part of the brain that’s responsible for regulating stress, metabolism, and sleep.
It’s a gentle morning reminder that sheds a light on the happiness that’s already present in your life. And it’s the perfect addition to any morning routine.
Some of the best morning routines contain an element of movement to calm the body and the mind. And a soothing stretch can be a short sequence that requires as little as 5 minutes. My personal preference is to weave a bit of yoga into my morning routine.
Before I started yoga its complicated poses made it feel a little intimidating. But in yoga, there is something from everyone. And its benefits aren’t just physical they’re also psychological.
Several recent psychology studies suggesting that yoga can help reduce stress, anxiety and improve depression and insomnia. In terms of free videos check out Sarah Beth Yoga and paid for services that I love to use include Hera Hera (there’s a lovely ‘awaken’ yoga that’s great for the morning) and Melissa Wood Health.
#3 Journal for Flow
My book Find Your Flow outlines a practical journal system for flow that’s based on proven positive psychology and designed to fit everyday life (curious to know what flow is?). The journal system has been my go-to morning practice for years now. Its high-value priorities keep me focused on what matters most and high flow priorities ensure I structure flow into my day. But the best part for me is scripting my day. This trains my attention to keep me aligned and helps banish any distractions. You’ll need around 10-15 mins at the start of each day to practice and you can find out more here.
#4 Ditch the scroll
The best morning routines aren’t only about adding stuff, it’s also about taking away what doesn’t work. If you just don’t have time for anything in the morning, make ditching scrolling on your phone a daily habit. Starting the day in silence and allowing our mind to wake up before we bombard it with information is a great morning routine to practice.
How do I start a morning routine?
When it comes to starting a morning routine it’s important to remember two things: Experiment and Expectations.
Firstly, experiment with what works for you and don’t be afraid to change. If twenty mins of yoga in the morning are too much try five. Or if your morning routine is boring you, try challenging yourself to make it more exciting. Remember the point of a morning routine is to enhance your day, when it starts to be a punishing to-do list, it’s time to change things up.
Secondly, manage your expectations. Some mornings your daily habit for a morning routine will come with ease and others you will skip it entirely. New habits take time so be patient and compassionate towards yourself – and remember the best morning routines are the ones that make us feel better. And on that note I’ll leave you with the words of Maya Angelou “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it”
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