I used to be so attached to my phone that I’d kept it under my pillow. Before my eyes were fully open, I could be found scrolling through Instagram, checking the news, and catching up on my email. By the time I actually got out of bed, I would feel frantic and testy. I was more anxious than ever, but also resentful and tired.
After a while, I realized I needed to proactively change my situation. So six months ago, I decided to create a new morning routine, and it has been a game-changer for my mental health.
My New Morning Routine that Works
I started by asking myself a simple question: “What do I need to do to feel better?”
I had to ditch the phone. I could no longer sleep with it under my pillow or look at it first thing in the morning. I had to actually put myself ahead of my phone.
Then I thought about all the things that I always felt I never had time for and devised a plan accordingly. What if I put myself first when my energy was full, and started each morning with a walk and reading session? It would fill my morning with activities that I actually found fulfilling.
So, my good morning rules for myself were:
- No phone use.
- Take a walk for 40 minutes.
- Read for 20 minutes.
I started this hour-long morning routine and immediately felt the difference in energy. By the time I sat down to work, I had already invested in my mental health and self-care. I literally put myself first, so regardless of what else happened the rest of the day, there wasn’t a rush to also squeeze in some time for myself. I’ve kept this up for six months and it has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my mental health.
How a Morning Routine Benefits Your Sleep Hygiene
“In many ways, morning sleep hygiene is equally important as bedtime sleep hygiene. The way we transition from sleep to daily action will impact our cognitions, emotions, and mood around the day,” explains Austin Hunter, a psychotherapist at Avalon Psychotherapy.
How we spend our mornings sets the tone for the day and can unintentionally lead to anxiety and unwanted stress. For example, going straight to your phone in the morning to check social media or a barrage of emails cues the brain to be in a reactive state, rather than a proactive one. The emotions that come up as you read the news, especially if it’s bad news, often end up setting the tone for your day.
“Diving immediately into electronic stimuli straight out of bed drags our mind away from the present. This essentially activates your ‘preparedness alarm system’ of the limbic system, telling your body that danger is ahead,” says Hunter. “Going immediately to the phone when we wake up trains the mind to activate our alarm system, getting ready for danger, when none is present.”
A morning routine created based on what feels good for you can be an antidote to doomscrolling-induced anxiety. Instead of allowing endless feeds and timelines to incite envy, FOMO or anxiety, prioritize activities or tasks that make you feel productive, fulfilled, or even happy.
“Finding time in the morning for yourself calms the nervous system down so that you are not in a fight-or-flight mode, your body and mind feel more in control,” notes April Brown, owner and therapist at The Heard Counseling.
When I made a point to set aside that time, I felt in control of my day rather than letting my day control me.
Ideas to Start Your Morning Routine
There is no perfect template for a morning routine. The most important thing is to find something that you can commit to and feel good about each morning. Here are a few ideas for creating the best morning routine for you:
- Keep it phone-free. The emails, the notifications, and news headlines can wait until you’re ready to start your day.
- Start small! There’s a lot you can do with just five minutes. Think about the things that you enjoy but never seem to have time for — hitting snooze, drinking coffee, or journaling, for example, and make a point to working at least one into each day. For lucid dreamers, we recommend dream journaling!
- Take note of what makes you feel ready for the day. For some people, a bit of productivity is the best way to jump-start the day, but don’t think too big. Keep productive tasks small and personal, like making your bed, watering your plants, or taking a shower.
- Get moving. Not a bedtime yoga person? Maybe you’re a morning yoga person. Even 10 minutes will do. Sitting up for five minutes to do a meditation or a quick shower counts, too.
- Prioritize breakfast. There’s a saying: If you’re irrationally angry at the world, you need to eat. If you’re irrationally angry with yourself, you need to sleep. Don't let time fly so fast that you find yourself hangry before you’ve even reviewed your to-do list.
- Send a message of love. Via text, hug, or intention-setting, sending a positive thought out in the world is planting a seed for it to come back around.
- Strategize the rest of your day. Set goals and intentions so that you’ll be able to refer to them later in the day. This can help provide a hard stop to your day or remind you that yes, you’ve been productive! Go easy on yourself.
When you put yourself first and do things that make you feel good in the morning, it shifts the rest of your day and has a positive impact on your mental health. You can also sleep better knowing that you’ve taken care of yourself, instead of going to bed depleted. Plus, you have something to look forward to the next morning.