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My 'Morning Ritual', or How to Optimise the Start of Your Day

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I’ve come to realise over the years that a morning ritual or morning habits are really important.

They are important for a number of reasons:

  • Everyone has them, good and bad.
  • Taking ownership over them means you should hopefully have less ‘bad’ habits
  • They set you up for the day
  • They are often automatic, there isn’t much thought required - which is useful in the morning given, if you’re like me, you wander around with the daze of sleep.

Since my young son was born my time is squeezed much more than it’s ever been. In many instances the time he demands from my wife and me can be unpredictable and therefore it’s hard to plan. I have though, come to realise that he is a creature of habit and is most happy when he knows what happening. Learning from this, I make my life a little easier by having a plan each morning.

Sometimes I’ll be able to do everything, other days I won’t. However, most of the time I will be getting positive habits underway from the start of each day.

Here’s what currently works for me.

1. Pre-step - Sleep: Getting to bed early and getting a good nights sleep! I suggest you put those ipads, phones and devices down one hour before bed time. Connect to yourself or your partner and wind down, a good nights sleep is the foundation of success.

I certainly struggle with devices, but it is really important to allow your mind to wind down. Even if you are just playing a mindless game the screen is stimulating your eyes and this plays havoc with your circadian rhythm. I suggest putting a record on or reading a book and dim the light. A glass of wine is also fine, the danger comes when you drink too much, and I don't mean 2 bottles. For me any more than 2 large glasses interferes with the quality of my sleep.

2. Wake up in good time: give yourself an extra 20-30 minutes to get ready. If you’ve gone to bed on time you should be refreshed. This will allow you to ease into the day and also do somethings for yourself. Head-space is important if your going to leave for a long commute which could be stressful, crowded or require concentration if driving. Perhaps, take time to make a nice coffee or plan a good breakfast, read a couple pages from a book or talk to your family. I like do some movement practice which I shall come to shortly.

4. On waking leave the phone on bed side cabinet: modern businesses demand more and more of your free time, so many of us are compelled to check emails constantly for fear of being judged as not committed, our daily commutes are certainly now an extension of the office. I know it’s hard and there is pressure to be always connected at work but try to build boundaries. These boundaries could be set times to check your work email (i.e. not looking at it after 8pm). These boundaries can have benefits that permeate into other areas of your life. When I've felt overwhelmed at work it usually because I've taken on too much.

5. Adopt a morning movement practice – next to a nutritious breakfast this is essential. Training regularly is incredibly important however what you do outside the gym is equally as influential on your progress.

Engaging in some movement practice each morning and evening can instil strong movement patterns, wake up muscles, promote blood flow and lubricate joints. It’s also a powerful method of engaging the mind. For ideas, download my free ebook "Reclaim Your Body. 10 Steps. 5 Minutes", which has a full morning routine, exercise descriptions and photos.

6. Breathing or meditation: I spend a 5 mins doing some breathing each morning. This for me is incredibly calming, and a great opportunity to oxygenate the body and prepare the mind for the day ahead. My wife meditates, though usually she does this on her commute using an App called "Relax Lite", I use it on occasion and have found the 20 min message very affirming. These app options, which include apps like 'Headspace' are a great method of meditating if your not experienced doing it on your own.

When your mornings are 'full on', a few mins of breathing or meditation can take the edge off minor stresses.

7. Drink Water: I’m always a big believer in drinking to thirst. No one should need to run to the loo twice an hour because of constant water consumption, if anything it's not dignified. However, a big glass of water after rising is a very good method of waking up and hydrating the body after 8-9 hours of sleep (ideally!). It’ll help you wake up and prevent the need to consume copious amounts of coffee or tea ( btw I love coffee… but it’s not a water substitute).

8. Eat well - The modern Western breakfast has more in common with a 9 year olds birthday party rather than a nutritious adult plate of food. Many cereals claim health benefits but they are usually nutrient poor, lack protein and fat, and are made up of processed sugars and additives. I’m still not sure what a 'breakfast biscuit' is other than clever way to market biscuits which historically haven't had a place on the breakfast plate. How it differs to a normal biscuit i'm not sure. I’m also confused how muffins became a breakfast food… is it not a cake? "Yeah, I eat cake for breakfast", it's not really a statement you'd admit publicly, but muffins... well they've been marketed as breakfast...so.

Instead, I recommend whole foods including eggs, bacon, fruit, porridge, avocado, quality sausages, bubble and squeak, vegetables, mushrooms and fish (mackerel and salmon particularly). Eating properly in the morning should stave off hunger and the desire to snack.

This final point could be a pre-step:

9. Prepare the night before.

Take 5 -10 mins each evening to iron a shirt or put your clothes out. This should reduce the tasks in the morning.

Putting in place new habits are often an overwhelming undertaking, but take comfort in the knowledge that they soon become automatic and that means you can take control of your mornings and make them something positive and no longer chaotic! In fact habits become automatic after six weeks if engaged in consistently- so you don’t have to persevere for long!

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