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How small morning habits could make your day

Ever felt you’ve got out the wrong side of bed and as a result your day has got progressively worse? Has the alarm gone off late or disaster, it’s not gone off at all? You wake with a fright as your body is instantly pushed into a stressed state and you have to cram everything into less time than you thought you had. On these days have you felt the day has not gone as well as it could have?

If this rings true, if you learn to start your day with even the smallest of morning habits it can actually help improve the rest of your day. Better still, by automating your morning habits and making them routine you can avoid having to rely on willpower alone to kick off your day the right way. We know that willpower can dwindle and even with the best of intentions, it can let us down which is unavoidable and a very real part of human nature. We can learn to make our morning routine into such a regular habit that it becomes unconscious over time and therefore second nature. By doing so, it could even help ensure you are better at prioritising both your mental and physical health throughout the remainder of your day, it’s win-win.

I love a quote I heard long ago by a retired Navy Admiral William.H.McRaven who said ‘If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of that day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.’

I don’t know how many times I’ve told this quote to my teenage children….yet still I find myself repeating it week in week out, make your bed! And this is because I know there’s so much more to it than the task of simply making the bed, plus I’m a neat freak and can’t bare seeing an unmade bed but that’s another story…. I know when I’ve made my bed and it’s looking all neat, tidy and inviting for the next night's sleep, it definitely gives me a tiny sense of satisfaction.

So how can we incorporate a new habit into our morning? Creating a new habit takes time, which is why it’s best to break it down into something really small and manageable to ensure it’s not overwhelming and can fit into your morning timings. Everyone is different and what works for one, may not work for another.

There is no prescriptive list that you have to tick off or follow, it really is a case of seeing what works for you in the time you have and making it easily achievable. If you find you’re always rushing in the morning, try simply setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than your usual wake up time. See if giving yourself more time allows a better morning routine, that’s a new habit right there that may give you a bit more control over your morning and ultimately the rest of your day.

What works well, is attaching a new habit to an existing habit. There is more chance of making it stick as the two become synonymous. So perhaps after brushing your teeth you can make the bed immediately after so the two become entwined. Those two actions should take you no longer than 5 minutes and already, you will have accomplished two tasks in a set order, which helps make the habits automate over time and requires less conscious thinking or effort when you have just woken up.

Personally after brushing my teeth and making the bed, I like to drink a pint of warm lemon water when I go downstairs first thing, it’s a definite morning habit of mine and it helps rehydrate me after a night’s sleep. It's another automatic habit that takes no thought, I just find myself reaching for the lemon and the pint glass and the rest takes care of itself.

You may or may not be a morning person, so perhaps for you it can be a ritual of making yourself a coffee and sitting for 5 minutes on your own while you drink it, no interruption, just time for you first thing to clear your head and prepare you for the day ahead. Perhaps it's reading a couple of pages of your book or sitting quietly outside in your garden listening to what's going on around you before the rest of the house wakes up.

For morning people, it may be a gym routine, it may be a fresh air walk, a morning stretch, a meditation, letting the dog out. For the parents amongst you it may be making the kids breakfast, putting a wash on or making a packed lunch. We are all different, that’s the beauty of it but finding ‘your’ morning routine and making it consistent (which is the key) could make your day that bit better whilst contributing positively to both your mental and physical health. Good luck!

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