Do you always press snooze on your alarm clock? Do you dread getting out of your warm, cosy bed? Do you wake up feeling tired? If these questions don’t make you squirm, congratulations, you’ve successfully unlocked the secret to productive mornings (and you may be excused).
If you haven’t mastered your mornings, you may have noticed that waking up tired and lethargic leads to slow and unproductive days. But jumping out of bed with a positive, can-do attitude lays the foundation for productivity. How you choose to spend the first hour of your morning – and even those first few minutes – sets the tone for the rest of your day.
A few simple changes to your morning routine can switch your mindset from one that dreads getting out of bed to an “up and at ‘em” attitude that gets the blood pumping and the mind ticking for better days ahead.
1. Mindful moments
“A lot of people start their day by checking their phone and it does get them into a distracted, reactive headspace which stays with them for the rest of the day,” says Dr Richard Chambers, a clinical psychologist and mindfulness expert.
To get yourself into a positive mood in the morning, it’s beneficial to put your phone down and tune in with how you’re feeling.
“Mindfulness is a series of ways of paying attention, being fully engaged and being present in each moment,” says Dr Chambers. “Instead of thinking about everything you have to do, start the day in a quieter way. A lot of research shows that if you start your day with some mindfulness – whether that be sitting down and meditating, which is what I advise my clients to do – you have a completely different day.”
A great way to practise mindfulness is to focus your attention on what’s happening around you, rather than letting your mind wander off into the past or the future. “Ground yourself: notice where you are, notice how it feels to be lying down, notice the feeling of your sheets, and then mindfully go and have a shower,” says clinical psychologist, Dr Nikki Johnson.
If your household is hectic in the morning, it can be hard to find time. The good news is that mindfulness can be practised in the most unassuming scenarios. “I’m a parent – I have two kids – and I know that it can be really hard to stay in the moment when you’re trying to get the kids ready, but it’s about finding some space in that morning,” explains Dr Johnson. “Even if it’s just having a shower and noticing the water hitting your back, the water pulling up next to your toes, what that looks and feels like, the soap on your body – things we just never take notice of – it’s just a way to get out of your thoughts.”
Informal mindfulness can be practised at any time, throughout the day. “For some people it’s sitting down and drinking a cup of tea or going for a mindful walk,” says Dr Chambers. “You see the benefits very quickly. Within the first week, people are much more aware of how they’re distracted and they report being more present and less stressed, more engaged with their lives, and over six weeks that increases.”
2. Make time to meditate
“Meditating in the morning makes it more likely that you’ll have a mindful day,” says Dr Chambers. “As a good rule of thumb, meditate first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But if you’ve got little kids at home, or a busy life, you may not be able to find time to do it in the morning. So while you’re sitting on the train, put your headphones in and use that time effectively [and listen to a meditation app]. Maybe when you get to work, turn off your car and sit inside for five minutes. It’s important to consider what times and places work for you.”
Dr Johnson agrees: “Often we just wake up and get going so quickly that we don’t notice if we’re holding tension from the day before, whether we’re having negative thoughts about the day ahead of us. Having that still moment for five minutes – to listen to your breathing – allows yourself to ease into the day with awareness and acceptance.”
3. Dare to visualize
If you’re anxious about the day ahead of you, visualisation can help you tackle whatever you’re facing.
“Visualisation is mental rehearsal, so you’re mentally exposing yourself to the situation ahead of you,” says Dr Johnson. “You might visualise what’s ahead of you and what you’re hoping to achieve [that day]. Imagine yourself in that situation, sitting there, seeing yourself smiling, and just build a bit of a picture in your mind.”
Ultimately, if you believe you’re going to have a great day, chances are you will. “The bottom line is that if you believe you can manage anything in your day, then you’re going to reduce your amount of anxiety or worry about the day,” she adds.
4. Get your body moving
Whether you prefer yoga, a light walk or a PT session, the benefits of exercising in the morning are hard to overlook.
“Practising yoga helps you to focus your mind and concentrate, have high self-esteem, and it brings inner strength,” says Shyamala Benakovic, CEO of Yoga Australia. “It’s good to do yoga when the sun rises and to set your intentions for the day. It also helps you find balance, bring focus and it has a cleansing effect.”
Time-poor? As little at 15 minutes of yoga works wonders for the body. “You can do and achieve so much in the space of 15 minutes – it doesn’t take long to do the sun salutation (surya namaskara) so you can do three rounds of that, and it will set you up for the day,” adds Benakovic.
If you prefer to take it up a notch, heading to the gym first thing in the morning will get your blood pumping. “There’s a psychological element to it [working out in the morning], in that you’re starting your day on a bit of a high,” explains Joanne Dean, a personal trainer at Fernwood St Kilda. “You’ve got to give yourself at least 30 minutes to an hour [at the gym]. People like to exercise in the morning because things can pop up during the day, which can stop you from going after work.”
5. Nourish yourself
“We are what we eat, and having a great breakfast is very important and often overlooked, because that feeds into your mood as well,” says Dr Johnson.
“While we are sleeping, our bodies are fasting,” says nutritionist, Elita Massarotti. “It’s important to ‘break’ the ‘fast’ and give your body the fuel it needs to function throughout the day.
“Eating breakfast helps to stabilise our blood sugar levels and gets us off to a great start for the day. A healthy and nourishing breakfast will help to keep you fuller for longer and give you sustained energy,” adds Massarotti.
A good breakfast includes healthy, low-GI carbs, a good source of protein and fibre. If you’re strapped for time, prepare your brekkie the night before. Some great on-the-go options include: overnight oats, hard-boiled eggs, yoghurt and fruit.
Can’t find some spare time? Take five minutes and listen to a mindfulness app on your way to work. Apps we love:
- Smiling Mind
- The Mindfulness App
- Yoga Nidra