How to Establish a Morning Routine That Works for You

December 18, 2019

Image via Shutterstock

Nina Zorfass, IIN Content Editor

What’s the big deal with morning routines, anyway?

You know the saying “rise and shine,” right? Do you feel that way when you wake up? I’m guessing the answer is a resounding no.

You’re not alone: Only one-third of Americans get the proper amount of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation is associated with many chronic health conditions, such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity, and it can even impact fine motor skills and cognitive function. Learning how to sleep well is a key life skill, and in case you missed it, we’ve outlined 10 ways you can improve your sleep health.

No matter how you sleep, chances are you’re waking up and hitting the ground running. Maybe you snooze one too many times or maybe you’re forced out of bed by panic about being late to work. Maybe you wake up and immediately roll over to check your phone and your mind starts racing with your to-do list.

This sounds stressful, and it probably feels stressful, too. However, it’s important to recognize that how you wake up and start your day affects your mood and how you feel physically, which informs how you show up for yourself and others.

The good news is there are many simple and straightforward ways to create a morning routine that sets you up for success every day. Research has even gone so far as to show that “a successful day starts the night before,” suggesting you should prioritize your day the night before to avoid last-minute, stressful decisions. This study also found that making your daily routines as efficient as possible, such as picking your outfit and packing a grab-and-go breakfast the night before, is key for productivity, allowing you to focus your energy on the more important decisions you’ll make throughout the day.

The morning routines of these three people are inspiring – and not that fancy or complicated!

Last week, IIN hosted a panel with leaders in the food and wellness space to talk about how to stay healthy during the holiday season. IIN’s Head Coach Jim Curtis engaged our panelists in a lively conversation about sticking to your wellness routine while traveling, embracing resistance from family around your wellness choices, and why bio-individuality is at the root of all our wellness routines. While we had these incredible people in the room, we had to ask, “How do you start your morning?” Here’s how they answered:

Sarrah Hallock, 2016 graduate and cofounder and COO of The Well: Sarrah Hallock has been a game changer in the health and wellness world for over 20 years. She uses her IIN education in amazing ways, most recently helping found The Well, a complete one-stop shop for all things wellness, including Health Coaches, acupuncturists, functional medicine physicians, and more.

“My mornings are sacred.” Sarrah starts her day with a smoothie and then travels down to her building gym for some exercise. She’ll come back home to meditate and shower and then head to the office. She’s a self-proclaimed “amazing sleeper,” so her mornings are optimized for making the most of her energy to get a workout and meditation session in and start her day feeling focused.

Seamus Mullen, award-winning New York chef, restauranteur, and cookbook author: Seamus has become a leading voice in the conversation around how food is medicine. After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he radically changed his diet and lifestyle, turning his health around and helping educate the greater public about how they can do the same.

“My mornings start the night before.” As an avid cyclist, he likes to prep all his exercise gear the night before. He lays out his clothes, charges his bike monitor, fills up his water bottle, and then gets into bed on the earlier side, around 9pm or 9:30pm. In the morning, he’s ready to hop on his bike, but not before he makes the bed “meticulously...it must be the chef in me!” After his ride, he’ll enjoy a cup of coffee, though he’s been trying to “break up with coffee” for a long time, which is proving more difficult than he thought. Overall, he sees this night-to-morning routine as his “ritual,” and it helps him begin his day on a positive note.

Katzie Guy-Hamilton, 2016 graduate, former director of food and beverage of EquinoxFitness, and nationally recognized pastry chef: Katzie infuses a holistic approach to wellness in everything she does, including her newest venture as a cookbook author. She calls completing IIN’s Health Coach Training Program “a pivotal point” in her life, bringing her knowledge and understanding of nutrition and whole-person well-being into her food and endeavors.

“I carry my morning wherever I go.” Katzie was traveling for the better part of this year to promote her book, and she kept her morning routine pretty much the same wherever she was. As soon as she wakes up, she drinks two glasses of water. Then she’ll make her coffee – pour-over preferred – and climb back into bed for five minutes to read. Yes, she gets back into bed! She says it’s “nonnegotiable.” Then she’ll exercise, most likely in the apartment or at the gym in her building, using online exercise videos.

Here is the morning routine that helps me be productive and focused.

I love what Seamus said about starting his morning routine the night before. I’ll sometimes go to a yoga class before work, so it helps to lay out my clothes and pack my breakfast to save a few minutes in the morning.

Most of my mornings are spent at home, though. When I wake up, I make my bed first and foremost. Living in a tiny studio apartment, it’s tough to have any mess or clutter, and making the bed makes me feel like that side of the apartment is mess-free. Plus, it sets the tone for my day (at least one task done!). Because it’s still dark when I wake up, I try not to put all the lights on right away so that I can ease out of my sleep. I’ll prepare the coffeemaker ahead of time so that I can press on after I finish my workout.

I like to workout at home – I just need the space a yoga mat takes up! – and I’ll use one of my exercise apps to get a sweat in for 20–30 minutes. After I exercise, it’s time for coffee (strong, with frothed almond milk). I’ll sip my coffee while checking my email and Instagram and looking at my calendar. I try not to spend time on social media during the day, so I allow myself this morning time to get some scrolling in, at most 30 minutes.

Then I’ll hop in the shower and get ready, including packing breakfast to eat when I get to work. I intermittent fast, at least 12–14 hours, so by the time I get to work, it’s time to have breakfast.

This schedule has taken a while to become my routine, or rather my ritual, as it’s taken time to understand what works best for my body. After going through the IIN program myself, I realized I had been embracing the concept of bio-individuality without knowing that was the word for this incredible concept!

Start your day with purpose and create a morning routine that feels more like a morning ritual.

Creating a morning routine may seem like a stretch for you, especially if you’re “not a morning person.” However, creating good habits that can set yourself up for success in the morning is entirely possible, one small step at a time. Eventually, you may even come to love your mornings and look forward to them when you go to bed.

Probably the most important habit you can adopt is going to bed at a reasonable hour. In our post about improving sleep health, picking a bedtime that allows you 7–8 solid hours of sleep is key. For me, since I wake up at 6am, I am in bed, lights out, at 10pm.

Now, let’s focus on your morning. What are your nonnegotiables – the things you feel you must do every morning? Do you need to walk your dog? Do you need to eat breakfast? Do you need to meditate? Do you need to clear your inbox before work? Pick the things you not only need to do but like to do, and start creating your morning routine.

Here’s an example: Wake up, take the dog for a walk, come back, put on some calm music, stretch or exercise, make yourself a great cup of coffee (maybe a latte!), eat breakfast, then finally shower and get ready for work. Perhaps, you don’t look at your phone the entire time (how luxurious!).

Here’s another example: Wake up, meditate for 10 minutes while still in bed, grab the cold brew from the fridge because you love cold brew any time of year, sit on your couch and go through social media (or maybe journal), text your best friend/sibling/parent/loved one and wish them a good day, shower, and then start your day.

You’re probably catching on that there’s no shortage of combinations to create your morning routine. Let’s go one step further and figure out how to make it truly feel like a ritual. What’s the difference between a routine and a ritual? Simple: the attitude. Routines can feel mundane or obligatory. Rituals have purpose; they feel special, like you’re honoring yourself and your time. Make your mornings about you, a version of self-care, before your energy is expected elsewhere.

Tell us: What are your morning routines or rituals? Share with us @nutritionschool

Want to learn more about how IIN core concepts like bio-individuality can help you create sustainable lifestyle changes? Check out our Sample Class now!

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