British Psychologist Lee Chambers

For many of us around the world, irrespective of what we do for a living, mornings can be a bit of a drag. More often than not, we feel like the proverbial walking dead before our feet even hit the floor. While this has a great deal to do with what goes on over the course of the night, those events in and of themselves are undoubtedly tied to the type of day we’ve had. With that in mind, in order for us to begin shaping a great day, we need to start off with an even better morning routine. Simply put, the way you feel tomorrow morning will have a lot to do with what you do in the present moment, or this morning. So, putting the Venti or even Trenta sized cup of Starbucks aside, let’s explore the ways in which we can maximize on our morning routine to have us feeling like a million bucks throughout our day.

Photo Credit: Bruce Mars

To Caffeinate or Not to Caffeinate, that is the question…

First things first. Let’s address the bean juice addiction that we’re all hanging onto for dear life in a bid to stay alert over the course of the day. While coffee, or any other form of caffeinated drink, can be a wonderful pick me up that, at our lowest of moments, can feel like it was poured right out of God’s coffee pot, is it any good for us? The simple answer to that is, ’no’. The more involved answer is, ‘it depends entirely on how much of the stuff you’re actually drinking.’ While the amount of caffeine that you consume on a daily basis is important, more crucial to your health is when you’re drinking it.

For many of us, a good cup of joe is just what the doctor ordered when we wake up feeling a little out of sorts. It can have us feeling like we’re rearing to go and to take on any challenge that the day has in store for us. This is why it pains me to break it to you that coffee is quite possibly the worst thing to consume first thing in the morning. According to wellness blogger Carolyn Kuang-Chen Stanley, her nutrition consultation with well-known nutritionist and CEO of MTHR Nutrition, Carlyn Rosenblum, MS, RD, revealed that drinking caffeine on an empty stomach increased the body’s natural production of cortisol. (1) Source: Link. This essentially means that drinking coffee first thing in the morning throws your hormones off balance and will have your system pumping cortisol when it shouldn’t – like at night when you’re trying to get some shut eye. Case in point, the reason why you’re having a poor night’s sleep and waking up feeling more worse for wear with each passing day.

Coffee has become such an integral part of our society, with no small thanks to pop culture. I mean, it’s everywhere. If you’re having a meeting with an important client outside of the office, you might opt to grab a cup of coffee together. Catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while? You might hear them lament, “I haven’t seen in you in forever! We should totally grab coffee some time.”

So, how do we escape the clutches of the bean juice? Well, it’s no small feat, but it comes down to flushing out your system, and in order to do that, you need to focus on your level of hydration. The last thing you want during your day is a caffeine crash which can lead to an elevated heart rate and a general feeling of anxiety. If you absolutely must have a cup of coffee, try to make sure that you do so around mid-morning, and refrain from having one any later than 2 PM. Once your body has purged itself of caffeine and the deplorable side effects, your body can get to work on resting at night instead of firing away as you sleep due to a confusion in hormonal secretions. As a general rule of thumb, try to make sure that you are getting enough water to check the 8×8 rule off your list. That is to say that you should be drinking 8, eight ounce, glasses of water a day.

Okay, I’ve (almost) cut coffee out of my morning routine, now what?

Now you want to focus on what to do as opposed to what not to do. Don’t worry, there are still a few more don’ts up my sleeve, but I’ll cut you a break and explore the positive side of all of this for now. With that in mind, let’s look at a hypothetical morning routine that you could use on a daily basis:

  • Wake up at around 6 AM.
  • Have some room temperature water to kick start your gastrointestinal system.
  • Do a self-love exercise such as the ones below:
    • Mindfulness meditation;
    • A brisk walk or jog;
    • Journaling;
    • Positive affirmations.
  • Take the time to sit in silence, preferably outdoors if you can, and think about everything that you are grateful for in that present moment.
  • Head back to the kitchen and prepare yourself a glass of one of the following:
    • Lemon infused water (2 tbsp pure lemon juice to 250 ml / 8 ounces water);
    • Green tea (decaf);
    • Apple cider vinegar infused water (1 tbsp ACV to 250 ml / 8 ounces water).
  • Make a checklist for what you intend to accomplish with your day.
  • Have a healthy breakfast. If you’d like some ideas on what to make, follow this link. (2)

Try a few elements on for size. See what works for you and what doesn’t, then tweak your morning routine accordingly. Ultimately, you should aim to energize yourself, set intentions for the day, and nourish yourself.

Why is a morning routine so important?

Since I’ve explored the dos and don’ts of a killer morning routine with you, it’s only fitting that I emphasize just why a morning routine is important. Let’s have a look at the checklist below:

  • When you start the day off right, you’ll be more productive throughout your day.
  • Completing a routine in the morning triggers a response in your brain that makes you feel as though you are well-prepared. When you feel prepared for the day, you’ll be less prone to bouts of stress because you will feel as though you have all the time in the world to get on with your usual tasks and activities.
  • It will jumpstart your energy and give you a boost. Jumping up and getting into your routine will remove all the time spent lying around in bed. “But it’s so comfy under the covers.” Yes, I know, but healthy habits feel a lot better than those sheets – once you get the hang of it.
  • You’ll feel more in control. Chances are you’ll be up before everyone else – if you live with a partner, roommate, children, or all of the above – and this will make you feel in command of your home and your day.
  • You’ll be forming healthy habits that can destroy any presence of a tendency to procrastinate. When you get up and get on with your routine, you’re teaching yourself to just get going without the need to build up any momentum.

I promised you a few more don’ts, and I aim to please, so here are some don’ts for an energizing morning routine:

  • Hit snooze. You snooze, you lose. In this case, quite literally. The more you hit that snooze button, the more you’re impacting your normal sleep/wake cycle. This is especially important on Day 1 of your new morning routine. No matter how cold it is, or how tired you feel, rip that band aid off and get out of bed. You need to rewire your sleep/wake cycle.
  • Scroll through your Instagram feed. You’re just wasting away your morning hours. Social media has the propensity to suck us in and before we know it, an entire hour has gone by. Moreover, you don’t need to be feeling like the dog’s dinner looking at all the shiny, airbrushed people while you’re struggling to open your eyes.
  • Lay in bed for too long. You’ll be tricking your brain into thinking that it’s time to go back to sleep and you’ll feel incredibly lethargic when you do eventually get out of bed. Ever notice how if you lay in bed long enough in the morning, you’ll doze off again? This is not a good way to start your day – waking up in a panic, wondering what time it is.
  • Keep the blinds drawn. Your brain is receptive to light. As it gets darker, your pineal gland is signalled to begin producing melatonin, also known as the sleepy hormone. You want to take in all of the natural light of the day in order to wake your brain up, so pull back those curtains and open those blinds.
  • Eat sugary foods to replace that caffeine fix. Your body is already producing cortisol in the morning in a bid to wake you up, so don’t double up on this by loading up on caffeine or sugary foods. The more cortisol your body produces, the more tolerant you will become to it, which means that pretty soon the hormone will have no effect in keeping you awake. This turns into a vicious cycle of needing more and more stimulants to keep you alert.
  • Deal with work communiques. When you do this, you are allowing other people to control your day. Undoubtedly, there will be tons of requests or mails that need responding to, so if you open these up in the morning, you’re going to feel compelled to take action. Your mornings are for you – and your family. Don’t allow anyone to sap up that precious time. Focus on starting your day off right, and then you’ll be in the right frame of mind to attend to those e-mails.

When all is said and done, your morning routine is about so much more than making yourself a productive work horse for your boss, or your own company if you’re an entrepreneur. It’s about taking the time to focus on your wellness so that you move within your own purpose, without being pushed and pulled by stress, other people’s requests, or a hankering need for some type of stimulant.

Own your life. It’s yours to live, and you are so worthy of an abundance of health & happiness.

(1) Notes: Citation – 2020. Kuang-Chen Stanley, Carolyn. Why You Shouldn’t Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach, According to a Nutritionist.

(2) Notes: Citation – 2021. Food Network Blog Team. Our Best Healthy Breakfast Recipes.