Words by Rosie Underwood
We’ve all heard the expressions, ‘The early bird catches the worm,’ ‘If you snooze you lose,’ and the one that keeps running through my brain, ‘early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’ So, what’s so special about a morning when it comes to healthy habits and success levels?
THE IMPORTANCE OF A MORNING ROUTINE
So, I gave this a whirl back in what we thought was our first and only lock down (lord have mercy.) I found that by making it a priority to give myself an hour to myself before my working day began, I became more productive, I gained traction in everything I did because it felt like time had expanded somehow, I gained strong self-discipline and things began to align.
Here’s why. The daily 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm, which is responsible for a balance between eating, sleeping and various other physiological processes. We also have a circadian rhythm of human willpower.
This fuel tank is full right after we wake up, and during the day, the fuel is used to make decisions, resist temptation, and as we work, produce and create that cognitive energy goes down and it reaches its lowest point right before bed. Sugar cravings and a Netflix binge before sleep? Show me someone who isn’t guilty (and then maybe I’ll show you a liar)!
HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE
So, playing on our willpower means that setting the tone for the rest of your day on an incline is integral for success, health and happiness. Actor Mark Wahlberg famously starts his day at 2:30am, whilst Richard Branson always sleeps with his curtains open, so the sun wakes him at 5:45, and Oprah Winfrey always starts her day with a 20-minute meditation followed by a stint on the treadmill.
Now, whilst I’m not encouraging everybody to hit the gym Wahlberg style (lord help us) it’s important to observe how people know to work to their own bio-individual needs. Yes, I hear you, we’re human, life happens, people have children, or a job that dictates that you simply can’t switch off, and it's integral to mention that maintaining adequate amounts of sleep is essential for optimal health and well-being. But if you go to bed an hour earlier, you gain that hour back as you rise, and that hour can be a hell of a lot more beneficial to you than Netflix and ice cream.
HOW TO BUILD GOOD HABITS
We’re creatures of habit, so small changes can make a huge difference to the way we live, act and do. The key is to be realistic about what you’re likely to adjust to and stick with.
Repetition is key for cementing key rituals into our lives as this starts to strengthen our neural pathways. Start with one element of a new routine like a 10-minute stretch, and then build to a 30-minute Yoga flow, and slowly, as neuroplasticity starts to work its magic, pathways strengthen so you can maintain the pattern.
TRY EXERCISING IN THE MORNING
Dance, move, breathe, do sun salutations, pump the tunes, just get rid of any of that stagnant energy we carry from sleep. Getting our blood pumping, our bodies moving, and our heart rates up produces serotonin, this hormone produced by the brain is in charge of making the brain feel happy, shaping your mood to be more positive for the rest of the day. Winner!
ENJOY THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
Time for introspection means we slip into that gap in-between stimulus and response, we down regulate the stress response and we become more present, more productive and all-round better humans to be around. There’s often a lot of effort required for the ‘ease’ of meditation.
People find it easier to break a sweat than to sit still for five minutes thanks to the thinking mind taking the driver’s seat. Interrupt the thinking mind with your awareness, draw the breath to the base of the lungs and notice the profound benefits on the physical body (parasympathetic nervous system) and the mind.
START A SELF-CARE JOURNAL
When we write freely, we can use our journals as a depositary for feelings we don’t want to carry around anymore (just make sure your spouse, roommate, mum doesn’t find it) and it’s a super important tool when it comes to self-reflection and releasing stress, meaning we can develop a greater understanding of what we want from life.
WHY SELF-CARE ISN'T SELFISH
Remember, you are your most important asset in this life, and whilst it might seem a bit indulgent or a luxury to dedicate a whole hour to yourself, remember if you don’t make self-care a priority you have nothing to contribute to other people.
Self-care is the opposite of selfish in that sense. Try anything that helps you fill up your cup so that you have more to give to other people as well as yourself.