Rise & Thrive
as PUBLISHED in The Whole Family Magazine 2021
How does your morning feel to you? Does it feel like it sets the tone for a productive, calm day, or does it feel like an overwhelming scramble, leaving you feeling frazzled and stressed out before it’s even begun?
Strategically designing your morning routine allows you to regain control and roll out the rest of your day feeling less overwhelmed, with greater energy, and higher productivity. For kids, it helps them understand what to expect, and sets the tone for their day too.
Lose the “Shoulds” The first thing I suggest with any goal or change is to notice when you use the word “should.” This word is inherently negative, judgemental, and unproductive. Each time you hear yourself think or say the words should/shouldn’t, immediately rephrase with any other word. You will instantly feel that obstacle lift and make room for what you “want,” “need,” or “would like.” Rephrasing allows you to visualize the changes you actually need to achieve your goals.
START WITH SLEEP
In order to thrive, we need to consider what precedes our morning rise. If possible, try to sleep and wake according to the body’s circadian rhythm (our biological sleep-wake cycle), adjusting your window of sleep close to between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Rising somewhere between 6-7 a.m. supports our awakening with a natural output of cortisol, which allows us to feel refreshed and gives us the energy to start our day.
Here are a few considerations when prioritizing sleep quality:
- Caffeine (especially after noon)
- Fluid after 8 p.m.
- Screens in the hour before bed (the blue light can decrease sleep quality and increase busy brain activity)
- White noise machine
- Dark room (at night)
- Natural light in the morning
- Cool environment
- Comfortable bedding, pyjamas
- Diffuse lavender
- A sleep routine that tells the body that sleep is coming
- Earlier sleep time
CUEING THE SENSES
Our environment affects us in many ways, both mentally and physically. Just as a bedtime routine can cue the body that sleep is coming, it’s important that we apply the same consideration upon waking. We have the opportunity to cultivate an environment where we can thrive by assessing how we feel, what’s working, and what isn’t. Here are some cues to consider:
Let in light When you wake in the morning, make your first stop the curtains. Open them up and let the natural light shine in. If you wake when it’s dark, turn on the lights, or consider using a sun lamp to get a boost of sunlight-type light. This exposure contributes to maintaining our circadian rhythm, suppresses our melatonin release (or sleep hormone), and has a positive impact on mood. It also promotes better sleep at night by supporting our body’s ability to differentiate between daytime and nighttime based on light input.
The soundtrack If you listened to a recording of your household in the first few hours of your morning, what would it sound like? What would be triggered in your body and mind just from hearing it? This is what your nervous system senses and interprets We can instead craft a soundtrack that sets the tone you desire I find that music can be helpful: Choose what suits you and your family best, whether you would prefer something soothing and instrumental, or upbeat songs you can sing along to. Also consider other easily modifiable sounds, like having the news on in the background while you eat breakfast (this can evoke anxiety). Being mindful of the volume we use when speaking also helps. Those in our presence (especially our kiddos) are likely to mirror the way we communicate with them, so if yelling is part of the soundtrack, it can certainly influence the emotional climate of the home and the state of our nervous system as we move into the rest of our day. Try committing to keeping your voice soft and watch what effect that has on your morning experience and how you feel as a result.
Seeing order: make your bed! This one simple habit can have a hugely positive effect on your mood. When we see clutter and chaos, we feel it too. Creating order promotes a sense of calm, increasing productivity, focus, and mood. Your bedroom is the first thing you see when you start your day, and the last thing you see before going to sleep at night, and when it’s neat and tidy it can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing.
Morning mindset Set a mental mantra for your mornings. For some this is more complex and detailed and for others it can be a simple “I can do this”. Make it yours and repeat it when you rise. You may also consider incorporating some time to quiet and focus your mind with meditation or journaling. For optimal results, engage in these before the kids wake up.
Snuggle up Set the stage for the day ahead with a routine of morning cuddles. The first thing I do when the “ok to wake” clock goes off is spend some time with my 4-year-old son connecting, talking, giggling, and cuddling (when he stays still). This time spent in close proximity can transform behaviour (both yours and theirs!) for the rest of the morning. Essentially you are also filling your little one’s emotional cup and sending the message that they are loved and safe. The biological effect is a release of oxytocin (our love hormone), which reduces stress and anxiety, and sets the stage for cooperation (or more cooperation) throughout the rest of the morning.
MEETING BASIC NEEDS
Hydration When you wake you will be in a more dehydrated state. One of the best things you can do for improved energy, cognitive function, metabolism, and more is to have a tall glass of water first thing.
Fuel While there are many different options for eating patterns and windows, I encourage you to fuel your body first thing in the morning. This helps to stabilize energy and blood sugar throughout the day. Aim for a good source of protein, good fats, and colours. When we start the day by just putting in caffeine and carbohydrates (like toast or cereal), we get a transient lift in energy but will inevitably crash, leaving us feeling worse later in the day. A meal like a smoothie with berries, leafy greens, protein, and seeds will provide a sustainable fuel source for your day.
Movement Moving your body first thing increases blood flow, concentration, energy, endorphins ( the feel-good chemicals we release), and productivity. If possible, working out first thing in the morning can be very beneficial. If not, don’t skip moving your body altogether! Instead, your morning movement can be in the form of a walk (around the block, to school or work, etc.) or even a short yoga flow or stretching routine.
SCHEDULING IT IN
So how do we fit all of this in? Make a plan! Start by listing the things you want and need in your morning routine. Then identify how long each of those things will take. For the tasks that involve your kids, be generous with the time allotted, as children tend to keep their own pace and timeline. Next, add up the time chunks you have created—this is how much time you need to execute your morning routine. If the amount of time means waking earlier than 6 a.m., consider trimming your routine or rescheduling some things for later in the day, to ensure that you can rise in line with your circadian rhythm when possible. Write out your road map to your new successful morning routine, carefully curated with everything that allows you to rise and thrive!