The self-help morning routine
It seems that every self-help guru and life-coach is now promoting “morning rituals.”
You’ve got to get up at 4.30am, make your bed, jump into an ice-cold lake, meditate, stretch, journal, groom, exercise, breathe, eat breakfast, don’t eat breakfast, supplement and rehydrate with filtered spring water from the Himalayas!
I don’t know about you, but my mind and my schedule are busy enough, without adding additional stress and confusion to it!
Also, I don’t want to have a restless night’s sleep because I’m worried about getting up early to do a list of morning rituals longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls!
But I used to!
At a time not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away (sorry fell into Star Wars mode again) I was doing all of that stuff.
It all started in the evening
It all started the night before when I would rush around in the evening, trying to get everything done, ready for the morning.
I wanted to start winding down at 7.30pm so I could be in bed by 8.30pm.
This meant I could get the prescribed 8 hours sleep if I woke up at 4.30am.
With all the rushing around I became frenzied, like a shaken 4-year-old on a diet of Skittles and Coca-Cola!
Then I’d start to get anxious, worrying about getting up early and not having enough sleep.
That was just the evening!
My morning routine
Once awake I had to drag myself out of bed, drag myself through morning rituals and then drag myself through the rest of the day.
All I wanted to do after waking was to get through the day to go back to bed!
This was my morning schedule:
Drink a pint of water
Take my dog for a half-an-hour walk whilst practising gratitude and doing breathing exercises
Journal and answer empowering questions
Joint mobility routine
Box breathing / Meditation / Visualisation
Daily bank check
Total Time spent on the above – 90 minutes
I had forgotten the key principle that I tell all my personal training clients and people who attend my classes:
Whilst there are many things that us humans do that are the same, or similar, we are not all identical!
We have to find our own routines to suit our own brains, bodies, culture and environment.
The best morning routine
For years I have studied elite performers and the most successful people in the world, taking from their routines to try to build the ultimate X-men-appropriate morning ritual.
This only increased the clutter in my mind, the complexity of my morning and it cut into my sleep too!
I had forgotten that my brain prefers the ‘KISS’ system to living (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID).
I also like my sleep!
So what did I do?
I asked myself a question (I don’t know where it came from) – when humans lived naturally, did they use an alarm clock to wake up at 4.30am, leap off the cave floor to turn it off, then do plyometrics and jump into a cold river?
I DON’T THINK SO!
A more likely scenario is that they woke when the sun started to rise, or when their bodies naturally came to life after enough good quality sleep.
They would have slept in groups, with their immediate family, and would have greeted them each morning to bring in the new day.
They would then have ventured outside to greet the rest of the tribe.
If you have ever been on a campsite, just think about how people get up in the morning, the mood of the site and how relaxed people are. It’s quite serene!
Our ancestors would have then been moving around all day; climbing, fishing, hunting, walking, running, wrestling and gathering food.
And all they would consume throughout the day would be natural whole foods and water.
Testing a new morning routine
Whilst the kids were off school, I didn’t set my alarm for two weeks.
I woke up every day at 6.30am feeling refreshed.
I didn’t jump straight out bed, I waited for my mind and body to come around, then, when ready, I got up.
I noticed that my mind wasn’t racing, my body wasn’t aching, I was full of energy and I was standing to attention (if you know what I mean – I’m sorry but sex sells). This alone suggested to me that my testosterone levels had been boosted by a full night of quality sleep.
To follow on, the rest of my day was full of energy-filled inspired action!
I felt like the chains of Jacob Marley had been broken. I wasn’t dragging myself around all day, I actually got things done; with energy!
My mood improved greatly. I was more able to deal with emotions and challenges throughout the day much better. I became more balanced mentally.
My training also improved. I was able to exercise more consistently without feeling depleted.
And as for my diet, well that improved too! I became much more conscious of my food choices, which makes a lot of sense when you read Shaun’s article on how sleep impacts upon your appetite.
How has my morning routine changed?
So now I’m getting up at 6.30am, averaging 9.5 hours per night. Yes, I know what you’re all thinking, you lazy $*%^*”$ but I’m thrilled to say, I don’t feel guilty and I don’t feel lazy!
One of the first and one of the best training books I ever bought is: Beyond Brawn by Stuart Mcrobert.
In this book he recommends getting 8, 9 and even 10 hours sleep per night if you work hard, exercise and have a busy life.
If it’s good enough for Stuart and it seems to be working for me, why not give it a try?
We live in a society where we are told that we should always be grinding, sleep is for losers and pain is gain!
Who won, the tortoise or the hare?
To me, the way we are made to work is a form of legal modern-day slavery!
Check out the podcast we did on it. Think it through, how do you really feel living the life that society has forged for you?
Biggest bang for my buck routines
So now we have established that I’m sleeping 9.5 hours per night and, again, I don’t feel guilty about it. Who’s keeping score anyway?
After getting my sleep right, I established how much time I have (without rushing) to fit in other morning rituals (or ritual as it turned out).
I asked myself a second question (again, I don’t know where it came from but it was Tim Ferriss inspired) – what morning ritual gives me the biggest bang for my buck and/or what morning ritual can act as a lead domino that will impact all others?
For me it was meditation that progressed into visualisation.
The minimum effective dosage for me to feel the benefits from meditation is eight minutes. I tend to do ten minutes of breathing meditation, followed by ten minutes of visualisation.
Before I do this, I make a hot cup of coffee and sit quietly, just enjoying my peaceful surroundings. I then move into my meditation practice. This has had the biggest positive impact on my day!
As for the rituals that I no longer include in my morning routine, I still diarise them each day so I know I will get them done.
They’re still important to me; however, I feel like doing them later in the day has taken a lot of pressure off in the morning and the extra sleep has benefited me more.
You may want to check out Shaun’s sleep series to find out more on the benefits of sleep, but I just want to touch on it here…
If you are not getting enough quality sleep and are not sleeping and waking in line with your natural circadian rhythm you will never feel right physically or mentally, no matter how you exercise, what you eat, and whatever supplements and pills you are taking!
My New Morning Routine
6.35 Glass of water or Coffee
6.40 Meditation and Visualisation
7.00 Get daughter up for school and start day
So, as you can see, I have really simplified my morning, my life and my mind.
I am not condemning getting up early and getting things done but, again, don’t cram so much in that it works out to be counterproductive, as I my case.
An adaptive approach to morning routines
All being said, this is not set in stone!
If I find myself needing less sleep or even more sleep I will listen to my body and my mind and correct when I need to.
There will be days when I have to get up earlier for work, or for a trip. I will adjust when that time comes.
We are not robots, we are human beings.
As our good friend Barry Westley says: “Don’t push the Stream”.
Take action but don’t be so hard on yourself.
If you do have a mishap, correct and adapt.
We’ve all got to get things done, we all have to-do lists, this is a part of life, but don’t get so uptight about them. Relax, let them flow and work through them!
You will never be done! There will always be another job, another to-do, so why are you racing to get them all crossed off?
Try to make your biggest to-do’s intrinsic – spend time with family and friends, sing, dance, paint. Do things that make you happy just because you like them not because you feel you have to.
I would love to hear about your morning rituals and what you think of my new stance on them!
Please leave your comments below!
Enjoy your day and stay in the now!