The 20 Minute Morning

Mornings can be a struggle for many of us. Fortunately, there are  a few simple changes you can make to your habits that can shift your attitude towards the new day. Research has shown that by putting your best foot forward in the mornings, you are more likely to use that positive energy to streamline your day by learning to prioritise what’s important:

  • A clear mind
  • A healthy body
  • Gratitude
  • Goals for the day

Researchers Nancy Rothbard from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Steffanie Wilk from the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University studied customer service representatives working in an insurance company's call centre.

Results of the study showed that whatever the employee’s mood was in the morning, it didn’t change much throughout the day. The study also showed that employees with a less positive attitude overall lost 10% of their productivity due to their bad moods.

It’s clear that mornings are important, so we have come up with a program designed to promote a positive morning every day. By making these habits a ritual, they will become a normal part of your day.

  1. Ditch social media
  2. Make your bed
  3. Affirmations
  4. Drink tea, turmeric/lemon water
  5. Meditate
  6. Get moving
  7. Journaling

1. Ditch Social Media.

Technology, specifically our phones, follow us wherever we go. When we wake up in the morning, some of us have become accustomed to scrolling through each of our social feeds, using it as a way of ‘checking the news’.

Bleary – eyed and half-focused, we choose to focus our attention on whatever is going on in our macro-world, without stopping to focus on how we are feeling and on our personal goals for the day. We might skim read our emails without responding to them, and mark them as unread for later – as a result filling our brains with information that could have waited until we got to the office. We might already feel a bit behind in our day’s work.  Instead of reaching for the phone or laptop, choose to meditate for 5 minutes and focus your awareness on how you are feeling.

2. Make Your Bed

It only takes a few minutes, but making your bed might be the best thing you can do for yourself each morning. A recent survey showed that 71% of bed makers reported that they were happy with their lives, compared to only 62% of people who didn’t make their bed who said they were happy with their lives. Bed makers were also shown to be more satisfied with their career, happier with where they lived and more likely to exercise.

3. Say Affirmations

This may sound strange, but try it. You know when you wake up in the morning, and suddenly you’re in a mad rush to get ready for your day ahead? Stop, breathe, take a look in the mirror and smile. Develop a daily affirmation to chant to yourself, and start believing it.

Affirmations help define your focus, and defining your focus is the first step to achieving any goal.

Like a well-meaning but overprotective parent, the mind often warns us of all the times we have tried once before but didn’t succeed. Unfortunately, those warnings can dictate our future behaviour and limit our willingness to try, as opposed to helping us succeed.

If we set our sights on what we want in the future, our mind will set itself on the idea that what we want is in tomorrow. So, we have to bring our focus into today, as though our goals have already been realised.

I am successful, I make informed decisions, I am happy, I trust in myself and others.

As we define what is, if only with our thoughts, our attention follows. Our creative mind begins to look for the reality that matches our thoughts, and we begin to naturally notice the opportunities that can help lead us to our goals. When you define your focus, you begin to notice solutions in response.

Whatever your mantra is, own it and believe it.

4. Drink Tea or Lemon Water

Tea can be turned into a pleasant and peaceful zen ritual. Boil water in a kettle, while it’s warming, prepare the tea. Chinese black tea is high in antioxidants, green tea increases the metabolism, both contain caffeine. To aid digestion and increase metabolism, try combining boiling water with fresh ginger and lemon. Herbal teas are also good.

Boil it and leave it for a few minutes; then drink it slowly and enjoy it. Make the tea ritual a sort of ceremony, a meditative practice of production.

It’s no secret that highly successful people drink lemon water as soon as they wake up. When you drink warm lemon water upon waking, it helps to instantly spike your energy levels, both physically and mentally. It improves nutrient absorption in your stomach, giving you a natural energy buzz that lasts all day. Make sure you wait between 15-30 minutes after consuming the concoction before eating – which is the perfect time for some light exercise! Lemons are full of nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants.

5. Meditate

Ideally, for a beginner of meditation, 5-10 minutes is a good amount of time. This is because the first few minutes can be used for preparation and the last few are the real thing, when you’re actually in the zone, being present and concentrated.

This develops your powers of concentration. Even if you think about random stuff and come back to focusing on your breathing or emptying your mind in the last few minutes, it’s still a success.

Once you have become comfortable with meditating each morning, 5 minutes may be enough time for you to bring your awareness into how you are feeling.

The result? A less stressful day, more relaxed mind and body, and the ability to focus more easily (which can be quite helpful in many ways).

Try The 7 Day Challenge, 7 days of 7 minute meditations, and continue with many more guided meditations from The Happiness Compass. 

Here are some of the apps that Tim Ferriss, author of the Four Hour Work Week uses (some of which are useful for meditation and having a better sleep), and 3 interviews he did with some interesting people that show an unusual understanding of meditation:

Tara Brach on Meditation and Overcoming FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Sam Harris, PhD on Spirituality, Neuroscience, Meditation, and More

Productivity Secrets of a Master DJ (Meditation, Morning Routines, and More)

6. Get Moving

Attempting to incorporate exercise into a morning routine can be quite the challenge. The American College of Sports Medicine, however, suggests that certain types of exercise - such as stretching - can be especially effective in the early morning hours. All you need is an extra few minutes.

There are a number of benefits associated with stretching - such as improvements in posture. Many people, especially those who sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time, develop poor posture as a result of overstretched back muscles and tight chest muscles. Stretches that focus on opening these muscles can be effective for loosening them up. As these muscles become more and more flexible, changes in stance and posture will become evident.

Morning stretches can also be useful when it comes to eliminating aches and pains in the muscles and joints. While these aches and pains can develop at any time throughout the day, they often occur in the morning - after the body has been at rest for a long period. According to Colorado Physical Therapy Specialists, morning stiffness and pain often occur because there is an increase of fluid in the joints and spinal discs overnight while the body lies horizontally. For best results, use gentle stretching to warm up the body and alleviate joint discomfort.

Stretching can also be useful when it comes to increasing blood flow to all parts of the body - including the brain. Though healthy blood flow is important all day long, it may be especially crucial during the morning hours, as we jump start our day after being asleep for several hours. Adequate blood flow increases concentration and sharpens senses.

Trying to find enough energy to make it through a long and arduous day can sometimes seem impossible. The experts at the American Council on Exercise suggest that stretching in the morning helps support your energy throughout the entire day. Stretching prevents lethargy and feelings of tiredness.

Try these stretches in your morning routine:

  • Twist
  • Collapse over legs
  • Downward dog
  • Lunge
  • Backward bend
  • Legs over head

7. Keep a Journal

A morning journal should be done with a purpose.

As author and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Ferriss says:  

“I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull. Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life? As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes.”

A good place to start to create a positive mindset is to write down the things you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude daily is something we should all be doing, but most of us aren’t. It’s a great way to centre yourself and gain perspective before you hit the office or the gym for the day.

Take the time to write down 5 things you’re grateful for today – they could be having certain people in your life, the places you’re going or the opportunities that have recently been presented to you. Whatever they are, make sure you make the time to appreciate them. It’s incredibly easy to wake up in a crappy mood, and forget the things that are most important to us.

Here is a great article that lists the surprising benefits of keeping a journal:

We hope you get your day off to a flying start and see the amazing side-effects throughout the day, and night. If you want to learn other easy and fun tools to create a happier day check out The Happiness Blueprint

By Emilie Nicholls. Emilie is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who you will be sure to see at all The Happiness Compass events