If you’re struggling to wake up on dark mornings, getting into a healthy routine can really help. A relaxed and positive start to the day can have a big impact on your energy, so why not try these clever tips?
Starting your day in a positive style is so important. And while it can be challenging on these darker mornings to spring out of bed brimming with energy and a sunny outlook, taking steps to bring this about will pay dividends for the rest of your day, in more ways than one.
Anticipating a stressful time can lower your thought-processing speed throughout the day, even if the stress doesn’t happen, according to a new study. It impacts on working memory, which helps you learn and retain information, so you’re more likely to make mistakes.
‘Stress and anxiety that starts in the morning can develop a momentum,’ says Toby Ingham, psychotherapist and corporate coach (tobyingham.com). ‘It’s important to step back and find ways to stop it in its tracks and realise that you’ve dealt with adversity before and you’ve got this.’
The good news is that it’s easy to take a moment in the morning to refresh and revitalise your mind. ‘All of the strategies here are about taking time for yourself each morning,’ says life coach Stephanie Varda (svardalifecoach.com). ‘Even if you have kids, snatch five minutes in the bathroom to action one, or get up 10 minutes earlier.’
Read on to find out how to transform your mornings for a productive day ahead…
The ideal morning routine
Brain function and energy can be much improved by meditation, according to a study from the University of Waterloo, and another study from Case Western Reserve University found that it improves attention and efficiency at work. Try this body scan meditation for five to 10 minutes: Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Bring your attention to the top of your head and consciously relax and loosen the area. Move down your body doing the same, part by part; face, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, stomach, legs and feet. When you’ve finished, take another minute to just savour your refreshed mind and body.
- Natural, caffeine-free energy!
Avoid the screens
Yes, you’ve heard it before, but this is the number one way to kick-start your mornings. The time immediately after waking should be a time of peace for your brain – don’t check social media, the news or your email until you’ve created a strong, focused frame of mind. Leave your phone downstairs, along with your iPad or laptop. ‘Engaging with the digital world when you’ve just woken up puts you into a reactive rather than proactive state,’ says Stuart Sandeman, transformational breath coach (on Instagram as @breathpod). ‘You’re immediately at the mercy of what’s coming in, but if you take the time to work on your emotional state before opening a screen, it puts you in control.’
- Eye yoga exercises to reverse the damage of screen time
How to stop negative thoughts
If there’s one way to sap energy it’s ruminating over past events, such as an argument with your partner. ‘It can take time to learn, but develop a mindset where you give yourself a break,’ says Toby. ‘Think about the short-term ways you can make things better, such as sending an apologetic text, and then move on from it with renewed energy.’
Get into a flow state
‘If you have time in the morning, take 10 minutes to do something absorbing and creative, from reading a novel to doing a page from a mindful colouring book,’ says Stephanie. Allowing your mind to be fully immersed in something and losing a sense of space and time – known as flow – results in an energised focus that will do wonders for your day.
Why you should exercise in the morning
Exercise is a fast path to clearing morning grogginess and getting a blast of feelgood endorphins to set your energy levels up for the day. It could be anything from sun salutations (see YouTube for guidance) to walking part of the way to work – preferably detouring through a green space, as this raises feelings of energy, according to researchers from the universities of York and Edinburgh. Cycling is also a great option – it’s associated with better general and mental health, according to a study published earlier this year, while another found it lowers stress.
Reframe morning stress
If you feel stressed about the day ahead, remember it’s not always a negative thing. ‘A certain amount of stress can focus your mind and boost performance,’ says Stephanie. ‘Recognise that you can’t control how much of it comes into your life or banish it altogether but you can control how you respond to it. Your mind can often jump to the worst case scenario when you think about the day ahead, but every time you have a negative thought, practise switching it. For example, if you think “I’ve got so many emails to answer when I get to work – I can’t cope”, say to yourself “I’ve got a lot of emails to answer today – I’ll work through them as best I can”.’
Gratitude helps to shift your mind away from rumination and gives you positive energy. ‘Rather than scrolling through your phone while the kettle boils, stand and think of three things you’re grateful for, whether it’s your health, that you have a home or just that you have a nice cup of tea coming up,’ says Stuart. ‘Or set positive intentions by thinking “what would make today great?”’
Train your breathing
‘If you’re feeling sluggish or anxious, your breath can become shorter and shallower, emanating from the chest,’ says Stuart. ‘If this becomes habitual, you lose the ability to breathe deeply, which can lead to a lack of energy. By starting your day with breathing practice, you can retrain yourself into a healthy breath pattern and charge your body with energy.’
Try this… Sit or lie comfortably with your back straight. Put both hands low on your stomach, index fingers just below the navel. Inhale deeply through the nostrils, opening and expanding the breath into your hands. Your chest should not lift or expand until you have a full expansion in the belly. When fully inhaled, relax and let go as you exhale through the mouth (no effort, just let the air leave your body). Repeat for 10 breath cycles.
- Read more about the power of breathwork