5 ways to improve your morning routine & how your morning routine effects your mental health.

Having a good day usually starts with how you get out of bed and get ready.

Rockriver - How to wake up better

Waking up to an ear piercing, soul shattering, alarm sucks. We all know it, we all hate it, and most of us reach for the snooze button automatically. Sometimes even three or four times. But, does that lead to poor mental health and added stress? Well, yes. Yes it does.

Over the last decade scientists and mental health researchers have been looking closely into how our routines, and habits, effect us. What they have found isn't super surprising, but the scope is a little shocking. They have found that routines can have drastic effects on human behavior and mental health issues such as bipolar disorderADHD, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Often times, your morning routine can effect other daily routines and habits. This can have a cascading effect on successes, or failures, throughout your day. Those successes can then lead to more success the day and so forth. While, those failures can bring people down and make even the simplest goals feel impossible to achieve. The failures can lead to stress, depression, anxiety and all sorts of other shit that we don't want in our life. We want you to succeed and help remove some of those stresses from your life.

So, here are 5 Tips to improve your morning routine and feel better.

For a shortlist feel free to scroll to the bottom for the refresher.

  1. Get to bed on time & get enough sleep: This one's pretty obvious, but it effects more than you know.

    Your morning routine starts the night before. A lack of, or improper, sleep can seriously fuck up your mornings. Not only will it make it harder to wake up in the morning, and lead to waking up later, it can have some serious repercussions beyond throwing off your morning routine.

    According to Harvard Medical School, "Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders."  So, skip that last episode of The Office, we all know you've already seen it 100 times, and get to bed. Sleep, it's they keystone to your morning routine of awesomeness. But, how and when should we sleep?

    Well, that's pretty simple. Nearly every study out there says that sleep routines are important. Getting to bed around the same time, even on weekends, greatly impacts our sleep cycles and therefore our mental health. We all like to have fun, and the weekends are usually the only time to cram in some much needed party time. But, try to get home and get some proper sleep. Playing catch-up can from the weekend isn't a real thing. Sleeping for 14 hours on Sunday, and taking a nap on Monday doesn't fix a lack of sleep from Friday and Saturday. In fact, it just throws off your sleep schedule and will cause you to wake up on Monday feeling like a hot mess.

    Rockriver - Morning routine and mental health

  2. Wake up well: Set a sleep routine and stick with it. Wake up around the same time, even on weekends.

    Waking up can suck, especially if you didn't get enough sleep (see above), but how you wake up can determine if, or how much, it sucks. More studies are being done every year about how waking up, and when we wake up, effect our mental health. What they are finding is that setting up a sleep routine and sticking with it drastically improves overall mental health. Waking up on time, and feeling good, has been linked to better physical health, decreased anxiety, decreased levels of depression, and improved treatment of insomnia. 

    One way to wake up feeling refreshed is by waking up when your body tells you to. Some people are night owls, and that's just fine, and some people are morning people. Something we found interesting is that night owl sleep cycles may be caused by a slight genetic mutation that effects your natural sleep cycles. But, even night owls and those with loose schedules can benefit from a sleep routine. Waking up feeling good is hugely important to well being, but how do we do this?

    Sleep.org did a piece on how to wake up on time, naturally, and it starts with a sleep schedule. Your body has a natural pattern that tells you when to go to bed, and how long to sleep. It's called a circadian rhythm. Eventually you can program your circadian rhythm to wake up around the same time every day without an alarm, but we think it's best to set one anyway. What this does is remove the stresses of waking up late, and feeling like a garbage. 

    Here's an easy way to find out how much sleep you need and set up a proper sleep cycle. The first step is to start a sleep journal. Record when you fall asleep, when you wake up, how long you slept for, and how you felt from a scale of 1 to 10. Record this for at least two week. After you have that done you should have a general idea on how much sleep you need, when you start to feel sleepy, and around what time you wake up.

    With that information just set a sleep schedule that has a wind down period of one hour before you plan on falling asleep. No electronics, no music, no phone, nothing. Maybe a book, or something to help you fall asleep. Works for me.

    But, here's the important part. Wake up to your alarm every day, on time and give yourself an extra 15 to 30 minutes of time for a wake up activity. Even on the weekends. Trust me, it works and helps with the next step.

  3. Get out of bed immediately and do something: Pick one thing after you wake up and do it as soon as you leave your bed.

    One rule to remember here. No electronics until after you've completed your morning routine. None, not even your phone.

    It can be almost anything, except electronics, but stick to it. If it's a shower, brushing your teeth, drinking water, or doing some jumping jacks it doesn't really matter. You just need to get up and start moving. I recommend either starting by getting dressed first thing, as if you're getting ready for work. Or, drinking a bunch of water, around half a litter, then moving directly to getting ready.

    The water thing stems from an old Japanese tradition and is supposed to help with all sorts of stuff. Whether drinking a bunch of water actually helps treat anything is yet to be proven by science, but drinking water in the morning does help you stay hydrated, helps your colon stay healthy, and elevates energy levels. All of this leads to waking up faster, and improves your mood. But, whatever it is that you decide to do you need to stick with it every day.

    Developing habits lets your body react to stimuli naturally, and without a lot of input from your brain. Basically, it lets you not think about what you have to do in the morning. This lets your brain relax a bit as you wake up as your body is kind of on autopilot. The trick to developing these habits is developing a string of environmental triggers that guide you along a set routine. It's kind of like coding your brain to react a certain way every morning, and it starts with waking up on time to your alarm and what you do immediately after that. So, make sure you are consistent. Consistency is king in a good morning routine. See the theme building here?

  4. Get ready and eat breakfast: Don't rush getting ready for the day. Take it nice and slow, then eat a good breakfast and have your coffee.

    This also seems like something obvious, but I cannot stress how important leaving yourself enough time to get ready and eat breakfast is. When we do not leave ourselves enough time, or wake up late, we go into panic mode. As this happens a bunch of negative things go into motion. Your body temperature rises as stress activates the areas of the brain that make you more alert. Your heart rate rises and you can feel out of breath and exhausted before you even make it to work. But, the worst part is that waking up late and rushing to get ready can also cause that cascading failure effect I talked about earlier. People who wake up too late tend to eat poor, be less active, and make poor decisions early in the day due to stress.

    Giving yourself enough time to get ready, eat breakfast, have coffee and have some alone / me time is crucial to healthy mental health. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study in 2018 which said that the simple fact of not eating a HEALTHY breakfast resulted in higher rates of depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and many other mental health issues. This coupled withe the already prevalent stress from waking up late, and having to rush can cripple more than just your morning. We recommend giving yourself roughly 15-20 minutes just for breakfast and coffee, on top of what you need to get ready. And, another 10-15 minutes of me time. Which brings us to my final tip.
  5. Rockriver - Morning routine
    Set aside 10-15 minutes of time to start or end your routine: This doesn't include getting ready. 

  6. This should be before, or after you're done, getting ready and eating breakfast. Do not break up your routine of breakfast, or getting dressed. Those things should basically be automated, possibly even planned out the night before. What you want is some time to think, read, write, or relax and contemplate whatever it is you like to contemplate. What you do with this time isn't as important as actually doing it. The activity shouldn't be stressful. So, no cleaning, doing projects, working, or anything else and that's mandatory.

    This step is here to give you time that no one can take away from you. Unless you have kids, or a pet. But, this time can be even be something like talking to your kid/s about something simple, or walking your dog before work. Maybe even a pre-routine jog. Sit outside and read a book in the crisp morning air. What activity you do can change, but not often. The main factor is that you do it, and do it every day.

    This part of your routine helps cement the rest of your it in place and acts as either the trigger to start your routine, or end it before your day begins. It can make getting ready stress free and a form of relaxation, or bring you back to earth before you start the rest of your day. That separation is what makes your routine a part of good mental health. It should be something you look forward to when you wake up. Your moment of zen, if you will. 

    So, we've went on a journey to routine town. You may need a refresher, and that's okay. It was a lot. Below is the simple breakdown of the five steps.

    1. Get to bed on time & get enough sleep: This one's pretty obvious, but it effects more than you know. No electronics an hour before bed. Find something that makes you sleepy, and get to sleep on time.

    2. Wake up well & on time: Set a sleep routine and stick with it. Wake up around the same time, even on weekends. Don't touch electronics until after breakfast, or you are done getting ready.

    3. Get out of bed immediately and do something: Pick one thing after you wake up and do it as soon as you leave your bed. These are simple things like drinking water or brushing your teeth. Whatever it is do it consistently. Not checking your phone, that should come last. Honestly don't touch your phone until you're about to leave the house, unless it's an emergency.

    4. Get ready slowly and eat breakfast: Don't rush getting ready for the day. Take it nice and slow, then eat a good breakfast and have your coffee.

    5. Set aside 10-15 minutes of time to start or end your routine: This doesn't include getting ready. This time can be spent drinking your coffee and reading a book, or any other way you find relaxing.

I hope that this has helped you better understand why it's so important to have a good morning routine, and how to do it. Here's to you and your health!

Thank you for your time and support. Without you, we wouldn't be able to do what we do.

If you want to tell us about what helps you feel great in the morning, or have any tips and tricks you want to share please feel free to comment below, or send tag us on instagram, facebook, or twitter.

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