In anticipation of the day’s demands ahead of us, stress levels are typically highest in the first hour after waking ("the cortisol awakening response"). Mitigating this effect is but one of many science-backed benefits to cultivating a consistent morning routine. I know I’m in good company when I say change has become the new constant: I’ve rearranged my “day in the life” countless times over the past few years, flexing to varied work schedules, commutes, global customer meetings across time zones, and other responsibilities (including a transition from full-time in-office to remote work and pandemic move from New York City to Denver). Through it all, my morning routine has remained tried-and-true.
What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning? If your response is “checking my phone,” you’re not alone (and I’ve been there, too). With the help of Do Not Disturb mode and practice, I can now say I’ve mastered the morning digital detox and it’s a critical element of my routine. While my phone sleeps in, I make sure to get outdoors and move my body (usually a local trail run, yoga on my balcony, or neighborhood walk). I like to habit-stack early exercise, morning sunlight, and time in nature to maximize benefits (weather permitting). Morning movement helps sustain energy throughout the day and improve mental clarity. Andrew Huberman touts “viewing morning sunlight in the top five of all actions that support mental health, physical health and performance.” We’re stronger when we work with our natural rhythms!
Before diving into the day I spend a few minutes reflecting on priorities, and not just across my responsibilities at work. I have a list of personal practices I call my “non-negotiables,” born from my experiences with the brain fog, anxiety, energy voids, and negative self-talk that comes with neglecting ownership of what keeps me healthy and centered. Intentionally architecting your day around a foundation of personal values helps to keep the inverse from happening (where the priorities of others determine the architecture of your day). For those who live by a calendar (like I do), scheduling blocks of time for preparing a healthy lunch (and eating away from your desk and phone), a favorite exercise class, or calling a loved one sets visible boundaries for others. What are your non-negotiables?
Though early morning routines are dependable insurance, there are many more hours in the day and not every day goes as planned (how boring would that be?). The inevitable “unexpected” provides myriad opportunities to get creative with our designs. Prioritizing well-being on busy days might look like turning one meeting into a walking meeting, repeating a positive affirmation while my tea brews, or taking 5 minutes to meditate in my car before running an errand. What is one place in your day you can find flexibility?
If you’re reading this and don’t yet have a morning routine but are interested in starting one, don’t become discouraged by the daunting task of a lifestyle overhaul — start small and with consistency (at Thrive, we call these Microsteps). In the words of Rich Roll: “Train where you're at. Not where you think you should be. Not where you used to be. You can't hit a PR every day. Excellence derives from continuous, unrelenting fidelity to the best you in the moment you find yourself.”