Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Why is having a morning routine so important? We hear it all the time, right? "Wake up at 5 am to do fasted cardio then make a healthy breakfast!" And, "people who journal in the morning are more successful than those who don't!" I know I hear this day after day. But, WHY?
1. Improve Your Physical Health
How many times have you gone to bed with your alarm set to give you time to get to the gym the next morning, and make yourself breakfast, then the following morning, you rolled out of bed after hitting the snooze button 5 times? You then scrambled to get your shower in, snatched a protein bar and a to-go coffee from the gas station on your way to work, then realized at work that you're wearing two different shoes? Not a great way to start your day. You have created an environment of increased stress for yourself, which is very hard to recover from as your day goes on. Functioning at a high level of stress is extremely hard on your body. Increased levels of cortisol (a hormone produced by your body during states of stress) are linked to lower brain functioning and memory, decreased mood, weight gain, decreased immune function and bone density, increased cholesterol, heart disease...have I scared you yet? Good!
Implementing a morning routine is the perfect way to start your day on the right foot. If you are used to hitting snooze 5 times before you get up, create a new habit by putting your phone (assuming you live in the 21st century and use it as your alarm) in a different room, so you have to get up to turn off that aggravating sound. And well, you're up, so you can check that off the list. Now you have time to go for a walk with your dog or go to the gym for today's scheduled workout so you don't have to do it after work when you're tired. And voila! A new healthy habit that will help decrease your cortisol, increase your mood and productivity, and improve your overall physical health!
2. Improve Your Mental Health
You know that feeling when your days start great, everything goes as planned, and you can just take on the world? It's good, isn't it?! You actually can feel like that every day! Of course, there are always obstacles we face in our day to day lives, but creating a routine of happiness and success will make it easier to deal with life's little nuisances. Stress is a natural brain function to deal with threats. It is your body's way of remaining functional in the face of a threatening situation. And sadly, some of us get to the point of such high-functioning stress that it becomes difficult to decipher a stressful situation from a normal one. In this high-functioning level of stress, your body loses its ability to self-regulate your cortisol levels and your fight or flight reactions remain activated. This can lead to depression, anxiety, decreased sleep and mood, poor digestion, weight gain, irritability, and so much more.
There are many things you can immediately implement into your morning routine to help decrease your levels of cortisol and feel more at peace. The first is meditation. Even spending three minutes a day can help you train your brain to handle these stressors and let them go, elevating your mood. I use the Headspace app and recommend it to everyone. Implementing a short meditation into your morning routine can help you know how to handle stresses thrown at you throughout your day. And who doesn't have time for three minutes in the morning?? So no excuses!
3. Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
Circadian Rhythm or your "body clock" is a cycle of about 24 hours that all living things experience and is an internal regulator of your sleep and wake cycles. It can be influenced by the light or darkness while you're sleeping, traveling to a different timezone, daylight savings, or general irregularities to your routine. Most people are either night owls or early birds. Science shows us that the time of our birth may have something to do with which category we fall into. However, we can make our natural circadian rhythm run more efficiently.
Your morning routine starts the night before. The habits you form as part of your nighttime routine very much affect the success of your morning. Did you get to bed on time or did you stay up binging on Netflix? Did you wash your face and brush your teeth, or did you finish a pint of ice cream and crawl straight into bed? Ok, you get it. Set yourself up for success. Making your circadian rhythm run more efficiently comes from getting a good night's sleep. Whether you go to bed at 9 pm or 1 am, staying consistent with your routine can help reset your internal clock. Even on weekends, focus on trying to stay as close to that routine as possible. (It makes Monday less bad). Quality sleep can drastically decrease cortisol levels as well. And if you have trouble, I suggest starting with sleepy time tea, or melatonin.