How do you wake up each morning? Are you full of energy and action, feeling bright and ready to take on the day? Or does it typically involve grogginess and a sense of foreboding?
It’s really common to hear people describe themselves as either a “morning person” – someone who fares well first thing – or a “night owl” – someone who, well, doesn’t. Both may sound like figures of speech but actually, scientists have found that 10 per cent of us really do wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed, while 10 per cent of us – the “owls” – naturally wake slightly later in the day. Meaning that when the latter’s alarm goes off at 7am, they are still producing the sleep hormone melatonin, so are actually in the midst of their natural sleep cycle. The remaining 80 per cent of the population sits somewhere in between.
Of course, when our normal routines are disrupted (during a pandemic, for example), our bedtime and morning routines can be the first to slide, but it’s important to keep some form of structure, as our sleep and circadian rhythm (the personal, 24-hour clock that regulates our sleep and wake cycles) are intrinsically linked to feelings of wellbeing and a positive mood. Having a disciplined and positive start to the day is a very powerful tool to counteract anxiety, lethargy and stress.
A good morning routine is made up of simple and easy-to-do rituals that can set you up for the day ahead.
Establish a bedtime routine
We’re far more likely to wake up well and enjoy a more energetic life simply by getting more sleep. Most of us only get between five and seven hours a night, but ideally we’d get at least eight. We need sleep – it restores both body and mind, cleaning the toxins from the brain as we sleep, and resetting our bodies for the following day. It’s worth bearing this in mind when creating a sleep routine.
An hour before you intend to sleep, start thinking about “bedtime”. What helps you to unwind? It might be taking a warm bath with some lavender oil or Epsom salts, dimming the lights, or reading a book and meditating. Put your phone on aeroplane mode at least an hour before sleep and avoid emails, WhatsApp messages, and social media, as they stimulate the brain before bed. And don’t eat too late – your body can’t digest a full stomach of food efficiently and relax into a blissful sleep at the same time.
Despite what you think, the snooze button is not your friend. The rest you get when you drift off for a few moments in between alarms is called a micro-sleep, which actually causes sleep fragmentation, and will make you feel drowsy.
Let the light in
Upon waking, your first job should be to let the light in – it signals to your body that it’s time to wake up. If that seems a little optimistic, however, then try a dawn simulator alarm clock, which could save your morning. It wakes you up gently, easing you into a conscious state without too much of a jolt.
Give yourself time
Allowing yourself a little extra time in the morning can dramatically change your day, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Get it by getting up that little bit earlier – it won’t make a big difference to your night’s sleep, but it will make a huge difference to your day. Take a breath, meditate, sit and look out of the window. Do 10 minutes of moving, write in a journal, take time to drink a coffee or have breakfast. Basically, give yourself time to click into action.
Just like the phone-free time you have before sleep, hold off switching your phone on for the first 30 minutes of waking. It will allow you time to gather yourself for the day. Going through emails, texts, Instagram and Twitter all before breakfast is a hellish way to start the day!
First thing in the morning, drink either lemon water or normal water to rehydrate after the night and help get your digestion moving. This is a non-negotiable and important part of the waking up well routine. Keep a large bottle with you throughout the day and make sure to drink it all.
Starting the day with even a brief stretch will help to energise the body and mind. Get outside for a quick 15 minutes with your dog or a walk around the park, or try one of the amazing online classes available. Getting your blood pumping can massively improve your concentration and mood for the day ahead.
Go easy on the coffee
Instead of loading up with coffee, try sticking to just the one. A good alternative is a smoothie; drinking a dose of healthy fruits, vegetables, fat, protein and superfoods in an easy-to-digest form will give you a burst of energy (and nutrients) first thing in the morning. It will also mean you are less likely to grab a biscuit or muffin at 11am, which only gives you a sugar spike and no real energy. A well-balanced smoothie will help to balance your blood sugar levels and keep you satisfied and feeling full until lunch. Here’s a recipe for one of my favourites:
1 tbsp of gluten free oats (slow burning fuel)
1 tsp of organic raw cacao powder (super food)
½ cup of frozen berries (antioxidants)
1 tbsp of hemp seeds (natural protein powder)
1 tbsp of almond butter (good fat)
1 heaped cup of spinach (crucial greens)
½ banana (vitamins, minerals, natural sweetener)
1 tsp of cinnamon (balance blood sugar)
Blend with a cup of unsweetened almond milk
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