Do Mornings Better
One of the BEST ways to reduce and manage stress is to learn how to become a morning person OR revamp your current morning routine.
Research is now showing that it might not be as important how much you sleep, but when you’re sleeping. A recent study at Aachen University conducted 59 brain scans, and of those who were early risers, the morning crew had significantly more white matter in the brain–the fatty tissue that facilitates communication among nerve cells. In other words, morning people are more likely to be creative, productive, and have higher cognitive function.
On the flip side, studies by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have shown that those who sleep late are more likely to eat unhealthy foods and become dependent on alcohol and tobacco. They may even be more prone to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
You Need a Routine.
The best way to get yourself up in the morning is to figure out a way to get excited about the morning. Then create a morning routine. This may be the hardest part of your wellness challenge, but turning yourself into a morning person is just as great for your health as eating well and exercising. And take note–not only can you make exercising a part of your morning routine, but a morning exerciser is much less likely to blow off workouts.
- If your brain likes to spin at night and keep you awake, start by making a to-do list for the next day.
- Figure out what’s going to excite you in the morning. A big cup of coffee? Tea? Having time to make a real breakfast? Reading a chapter in your current favorite book? Doing some Pilates or taking a walk with the dog? Give yourself something to look forward to about the morning.
- Start with small increments and slowly start going to bed a little earlier each night. If you want to get up 30 minutes earlier to begin your day, you only need to go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Start with five or ten minute increments and getting to bed earlier will be a piece of cake.
- Turn off your blue lights–phone, tv, iPad, etc., and turn your technology to airplane mode. Did you know that your phones and other smart devices are constantly searching for signals and this can interfere with your sleep? So get your phones on airplane mode and better yet, put them across the room (if you use them for an alarm) or in a different room.
- Build your perfect morning routine.
I learned how to build a morning routine from Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning book. This book is one of the best books I’ve read for my health. Erik and I now wake up 30-60 minutes earlier than normal (even on weekends!) in order to plan our days and focus on our health. Creating a morning routine has brought back more energy to our days, reduced our stress, helped our management skills, and leaves us feeling accomplished and successful–all attributes to better total body health.
So Hal has created these simple morning “Life SAVERS” that start his day and have been starting the days for millions of people worldwide. His life savers stand for Silence (meditation or guided thought), Affirmations (telling yourself what you want to believe about yourself, your life, your day), Visualization (seeing yourself each and every day being successful at whatever it is you are trying to do) Exercise (even if it’s just a 15 minute stretching or mobility routine, a quick walk through the neighborhood, or a few push-ups and sit-ups), READING (even if it’s just a paragraph) and Scribing (writing out your thoughts, making a list, or jotting down your goals for the day).
People who take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour each morning to incorporate these life savers into their routines will undoubtedly become more productive and increase their health, energy, and happiness.
But how do you go from waking up at 7am all the way to 6am without struggle?
You don’t. You start with 10-15 minute increments. If you typically wake up at 7, set your alarm for 6:45 and make sure you have to get out of bed to reach the alarm. DO NOT get back in bed. Drink water. Brush your teeth. Put clothes on–whatever you have to do.
The rest is up to you: you’re awake and out of bed!
Our suggestions for creating a morning routine follow closely to Hal’s. After all, this stuff has a proven success rate.
It doesn’t matter what order you use when you create your routine, just do what feels right for you. Here’s what Erik and I like to do.
- Have some coffee and sit in silence. You can meditate if you want, or simply sit and breathe, or you can focus on a positive word or phrase you’d like to become better with in your life. Words like “confidence,” “patience,” “gratitude,” etc., are easy words to focus on.
- Create a vision board and look at your board for a few minutes. What are your goals? Your “whys”? Meaning, why is this important to you? What do you want to accomplish and what’s your end goal? Put it on the board and focus on your vision.
- Read a chapter (or just a couple pages) from a book: you can read personal growth books (when you work on you, everything else gets better), you can read business-related books for work, spiritual books, or just for fun fiction novels or magazines. Try to do something good for yourself here and flipping through the internet to catch up on social media doesn’t count!
- Write down your to-do list, your weekly goals, your new affirmation or positive phrase, or just journal something. Make a plan for your day, write out a menu, tackle personal goals and business ideas, whatever you want to write! It doesn’t–and shouldn’t be–long. It only needs to be long enough to get you thinking and your brain feeling confident about the day ahead.
- Thousands of people have actually lost weight and gotten their health back in order just from adding in a good 10-20 minutes of exercise into their morning routine. You don’t have to work out for an hour, you just have to do something good for your body. You can stretch, follow a yoga or other fitness DVD, take your dog for a walk, go for a few sprints around the block–whatever it is, it’s going to improve your health. Since Erik and I typically workout later in the day, in the mornings as part of our routine, Erik follows a mobility DVD for his tight back, and I follow ROMWOD for total body mobility.
You can do this!
Dealing with stress is largely an issue every individual needs to address in their own life, through their own solutions. If stress is not managed it will eventually lead to sickness and death. You cannot turn your health around until you learn how to manage your stress.
What do you say? Can you incorporate some time in your morning to create a game plan for starting your day on the right foot? Can you make it so that you go to bed early enough to wake up a bit earlier? 10 minutes? 20? 30? An hour? Studies show that if you take the time to wake up and map out your day with a list, take time to say or write down your positive affirmations about yourself, educate yourself through a few minutes of reading, and performing roughly 10 or so minutes of exercise or stretching, it’s impossible to NOT have a successful, productive, positive day.
Take a little time to investigate, on your own, the power of creating your own miracle morning. And since reading should be a part of your morning, check out Hal’s book, Miracle Morning. (We aren’t affiliated with Hal or his book. We’re just practitioners and believers.) The power you have to rewire your brain, praise yourself for your accomplishments, write out some affirmations and keep a journal of your goals and successes, educate yourself on better mindful practices, and learn from your mistakes will take your health further than any plan of just “diet and exercise.”
Other steps you can take to start immediately reducing your stress:
Following the steps outlined in the earlier chapters will greatly lower your stress levels. Research shows that properly addressing all of the other essential keys to health and fitness: sleep, nutrition, exercise, energy, time management, and hydration, will help reduce stress. In addition to working on improving ALL areas of wellness, let’s take a closer look at reducing stress.
Step One: Eliminate or reduce the toxins
Toxins are a tremendous source of stress on the body. Our recommendation is to eliminate all narcotics and tobacco from your life. We also recommend a reduction in the amount of alcohol and sugar you consume, especially if you have other forms of stress affecting your life.
Step Two: Take a daily morning walk
Walking in the morning can benefit your health and fitness in so many ways. Research shows that a 10-15 minute walk, while bouncing a ball periodically, is shown to be more effective at reducing stress and anxiety than Prozac and other anti-anxiety medicines.
Step Three: Meditate
Research also shows that spending a few minutes throughout the day in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace and have tremendous health benefits. There are so many ways people are able to meditate: prayer, yoga, tai chi, mantra meditation, guided meditation. There are even free apps you can download such as “Guided Mind” which will help you reduce your stress. Find what works for you. Pick up a recommended book on meditation and give it a try. If a few minutes of mindfulness can reduce all that stress in your life, what do you have to lose?
Step Four: If all else fails start a journal
Try steps 1-3 first and if you still feel you need help coping with and reducing your stress levels then why not give journaling a try. Many report that keeping a stress journal has allowed them to greatly reduce their anxiety.
In your journal:
- Identify the recurring stressors that affect your life and how you deal with them.
- Try different coping methods to remedy these regular stressors and report how each of them makes you feel.
- Use this journal whenever you feel stressed and self-assess the solutions that work best for you.