A good morning routine can completely overhaul your life. But waking up is hard, and you don’t want to do something complicated. Very few people have the time or energy early in the morning for a hour-long workout and reading book chapters, as some recommend.
Instead, consider this easy, effective morning routine. I’ve been following it for years. It takes no more than 45 minutes and has allowed me to accomplish more and stress a lot less. It gives me the mindset and energy I need to tackle everything I have to do throughout my busy day.
In the article below, we go through the six essential steps you need to incorporate into your morning to start the day off on the right foot.
Step 1: Meditate
Meditation is good for you. It reduces stress, improves sleep and betters your physical health. It does wonders enhancing your focus throughout the day. Meditate right when you wake up, before you eat breakfast or even brush your teeth.
When I first got interested in meditation, I found myself in a tenuous relationship with my meditation practice. I knew the benefits, I’d experienced them in the periods when I was meditating regularly. However, it was hard to incorporate into my day. I’d skip it for a day and find that I didn’t return to my meditation practice for weeks or months.
The solution is to meditate during your morning routine. Early morning is perfect for meditation: The world is still sluggish, so you’ll likely not be distracted or disturbed by other members of your household and the world beyond. Your mind is working a bit more slowly, so it’s easier to calm your mental chatter.
Your meditation routine doesn’t need to take a long time: around 10 to 15 minutes or even less will do. Many people start meditation with the help of guided meditation, such as the ones listed in our blog post on the topic. Out of all of the daily habits listed in this article, meditation may have the biggest impact on reducing stress. If I had to choose one thing from the list to put into my morning routine, it would be meditation.
Step 2: Exercise
Unless you wake up really early, it’s difficult to complete a morning workout before heading to the office. But you don’t need to be an early-morning person or head to the gym to get a bit of exercise upon waking.
Try incorporating a quick workout into your morning. It could be a yoga routine, or better yet, the high-intensity 7-minute workout. The 7-minute workout has been scientifically shown to be equivalent to a much longer cardio and weight room session. It’s 12 simple exercises: All you need is your body weight, a chair and a wall.
I find that incorporating a quick yoga flow in the morning gets my joints and muscles warmed up after a night of rest. A couple sun salutations, a few forward flows and a quick warrior sequence and I’m feeling a bit more energized, endorphins flowing, ready to take on the day.
Step 3: write in a Gratitude Journal
Self-reflection is an important aspect of self-improvement and personal development. Writing a journal allows you to stop, slow down and reflect on the direction of your life.
You can you use your journal to document anything, but research shows that writing regularly on things that you are grateful for can improve your happiness levels. People who wrote in a simple gratitude journal three times a week reported being more satisfied with their lives.
Here’s a brief, five-minute journal routine to adopt:
- A list of three things you’re grateful for
- The one thing that would make your day complete
What you are grateful for doesn’t need to be fancy. It can be as simple as “having a comfortable bed” or “being able to do five push-ups.” Some tips to enhance the effectiveness of this practice:
- Be specific. It’s easier to feel grateful for specific, tangible things like “the tomato soup I had for dinner last night,” rather than for bigger-picture things like “my job.”
- Include people on your list. Mention their names and why you are grateful for them. It’s an active way to cherish those around you.
- Write down things that didn’t happen as well. Sometimes it’s hard to think about the things you have for which you are grateful. But it’s easy to feel happy about avoiding negative events. Horrific things happen every day to people — be grateful for your good fortune in avoiding them.
- If you can’t think of new things every time you journal, that’s completely fine. But try to write about them from a different angle. For example, if you are grateful for a specific person in your life, think of what they did for you today that made you feel grateful. Remember, the more detail, the better.
Step 4: Reflect on Your Goals
I keep track of my goals and monitor my progress whether the goals are big or small. I started a couple of years ago, during a period of unemployment when my confidence plummeted. I set three goals for myself – learn a new skill, get in shape and of course, land a job. I credit reflecting on my goals during my morning routine for helping me achieve these goals.
Successful people consciously set goals for themselves and chart a way to attain them. You can start by setting three goals for the next 90 days. Stick to the relatively short timeline of 90 days for this exercise: longer-term planning is difficult to stick to. Then, take some time to break these goals down into smaller, intermediate goals.
For example, say your goal is to lose 10 pounds. Break this goal down by setting smaller goals to work out three times a week, track your calories every day, and lose three pounds per month.
Use time in the morning to reflect on your goals and progress. How did you do with working out this week? Have you been documenting your calories? You’ll see that by setting smaller, manageable and quantifiable targets, it’s easier to track and manage your progress.
Reflect on whether your goals are still things that make you satisfied and happy. People change with time, and a goal you had a few months ago may no longer be relevant. You can’t know this unless you take time to carefully reflect. This reflection can be mental, or it can be written down as part of your journal.
Step 5: Plan Out Your Day
Listing out your tasks clears your mind and allows you to recruit mental energy towards more productive ends instead of having a list of things to do bouncing around your skull. Your to-do list should not be too extensive: instead, limit it to the three to five most important things, in order of decreasing priority. Having clear priorities is the antidote to getting sidetracked and distracted.
I’m not necessarily the most organized person. I barely use my Google Calendar. My email has over 10,000 unread emails. However, with a daily routine of planning my day, I’m able to avoid missing important events and projects. I know each and every day before I set foot out of my apartment what I need to accomplish.
Step 6: eat A High-Protein Breakfast
As someone who skipped breakfast throughout her teenage and young adult years, I rejected the idea that breakfast is the most important meal. My appetite tends to be lacking in the morning and I often wake up a bit too late to eat a proper meal. But since I’ve started eating a high-protein breakfast, I’ve noticed a burst of energy as I start my work day.
An energizing breakfast should have a lower percentage of carbs and higher percentages of protein and healthy fats. Protein and healthy, unsaturated fats are digested more slowly by your body, which means that you’ll feel fuller longer and eat less throughout the day. It also provides the slow-release energy to keep your mind sharp.
If your breakfast options include high-sugar cereals or high-carb bagels, you’ll feel hungry fast, potentially suffering an energy crash, even though you may have consumed many calories.
When overhauling your breakfast, it’s important to prioritize lean protein sources. These are heart healthy and help you feel fuller longer. High-protein sources like red meat can be high in saturated fats, outweighing the benefits by promoting harmful effects such as weight gain or increased cholesterol. Opt for choices such as egg whites, lean ground beef, avocado and yogurt.
Say Hello to a New Day
Many of us live busy lives, and it’s hard to find the emotional and mental energy to accomplish things outside of work, whether that be bettering our health, working on a side hustle or learning a new skill. Making time in the morning for you can help clear away blockages and overcome plateaus. All you need is 45 minutes to improve your mornings and your life.