Mornings really do set you up for the rest of the day. Just think about the difference between a day where you wake up easily, well rested, do a little meditation or exercise and get to watch the last of the sunrise with a cup of coffee, versus a day you sleep through your alarm, don’t have time to shower and have to skip breakfast to rush into work.
Even though most of us know we’d feel better if we got up a little earlier and did a few energising things, when it actually comes to the morning, maybe it’s dark outside, our alarm is going off and the last thing we want to do is abandon the warmth of our beds. The rational knowledge that we should get up and get moving can seem awfully weak. So how do we motivate ourselves to practise the habits we know are good for us, but just can’t seem to make ourselves do?
No matter how much we believe that establishing and engaging a new habit would be good for us, the idea of it can be so intimidating, that we can find it almost impossible to get started.
Figuring Out Good Habits
The first step is to figure out what actually helps energise us as individuals in the morning, and what things slow us down. How do we do this? It’s pretty simple. We make a couple of lists. The idea here isn’t to create a bunch of things we feel like we have to do, to add to our To Do lists, but just to get ourselves thinking clearly about which things make us feel good and which things make us feel bad in the morning specifically.
List everything you can think of which makes you feel good, either in the morning or later in the day. Things which make you feel energised, motivated, excited, healthy, or happy. This will be different for everyone! Make sure you’re listing things which work for you, not things you think you should be doing but don’t actually make you feel good.
Some common things might be:
- A five or ten minute stretching routine
- A cup of coffee or green tea
- Taking your dog for a walk, or just getting some fresh air
- Having a particular favourite breakfast (especially healthy things like avocado on toast, yoghurt and granola or a homemade breakfast smoothie)
- A short meditation
- Morning Pages – freewriting three pages first thing to clear out all the brain clutter for the day
Now it’s time to list all the things which get in your way in the morning. Things which make you feel groggy, tired, bored, discouraged or stressed in the morning.
This list might include things like:
- Figuring out what to wear / ironing clothes
- Not having breakfast, or having coffee on an empty stomach
- Waking up late
- Not having time to do anything interesting or fun before starting chores or work
- Walking the dog without having any music, audiobooks or podcasts to listen to
- Forgetting to brush your teeth
Building Your Habits
It can be worthwhile to think about and mark the items on your lists which are a) the most potent (i.e. They give you the most energy, or drain the most energy) and b) the easiest and least intimidating to do.
Now, pick one thing from one of your lists, and figure out what the minimum possible effort version of this activity would be. Where would you start?
The hardest part is always starting. So make your whole habit just to start. Don’t expect anything more of yourself.
So if the habit you want to establish is a morning run, all you have to do, is get into your running gear and get onto the porch. After that, you don’t have to do anything else if you don’t want to. (But most of the time you’ll feel okay about going for at least a short run)
If your habit is having a good breakfast, maybe all you have to do is get up and stick the kettle and hob on for your eggs, or porridge. Once you’ve done that you don’t have to actually cook anything if you don’t want to. (But most of the time by that point you won’t mind anyway.)
If your habit is morning pages, maybe all you have to do is get a cup of tea, and your notebook and pen. After that you don’t have to write anything (but by then you’ll usually feel okay about writing a little.)
Commit to the first tiny fraction of your habit, don’t expect anything more of yourself. Lots of days you’ll go further, you’ll exercise or read or cook or get fresh air, and build up that energy and motivation for the rest of the day.
Some days you won’t. Some days you’ll do that first fraction and nothing else. And that’s okay! You’ll still have fulfilled your commitment to yourself, so you shouldn’t and won’t feel guilty for the rest of the day.
And if you’re finding it difficult, or intimidated by the idea of trying to establish a habit for an indefinite length of time (or even the rest of your life! How scary is that?) just remember that it takes roughly 66 days to acclimatise to a new habit, to change a mental pattern. In the spirit of committing to the smallest possible goal, try committing to your new morning habit for a month. Or two months. Because it will never be any harder to keep going than it is in that first stretch!
Comment below or tweet me and tell me about what morning habits you love, and which ones you’d love to establish! I’d love to know.
Love and blessings,