How To Reclaim Your Morning Routine For A More Positive Day

Does your morning routine ever feel more like an Olympic 400-meter dash than a leisurely introduction to the day? Does your alarm clock sound more like a starter's pistol? If so, you're by no means alone. In fact, many of us look to the morning not with eager anticipation for the start of a new day but with the profound dread of all the stress, hurry, and exhaustion the early hours bring.


This is not good because, as you probably know all too well, your morning sets the tone for the entire day. If you don't start the day off right, it can be tough to get back on track. The good news, though, is that there are a handful of things you can do to enjoy a healthy, happy morning and set the stage for a productive and pleasant day ahead.

The key is to create a routine that helps get your mind, body, and spirit into a positive place. Indeed, our thoughts can have a tremendous impact on our feelings and behaviors. This means that if you start your morning thinking and feeling positively, you'll carry those good vibes throughout your day. We'll show you how!

Ditch the jarring alarm clock

They say that music has the power to soothe the savage breast, and science is increasingly bearing this idea. This fact has a direct connection to the quality of your morning routine. What it means, more specifically, is that your alarm clock really does matter. The first sounds you hear in the morning, the sounds designed to draw you out of sleep, make a big difference in how you start your day, according to published research.


Whether you're using a standard alarm clock or your phone to rouse you in the morning, the default tone is usually pretty shrill and grating. After all, the sound needs to be unpleasant enough to pull you out of dreamland and lure you from your comfy covers, if only to get the shrieking to cease.

This makes logical sense, of course, especially if you're a deep sleeper. But it's not the best way to wake up because those grating sounds get the adrenalin, cortisol, and other stress responses surging. Rather than being jolted awake with a jarring alarm, set your phone or clock to ease you into wakefulness with your favorite music or nature sounds. As noted in the study referenced above, these pleasant tones are scientifically proven to help you wake up. At the same time, soothing music or sounds from nature have been shown to reduce stress and even relieve pain, as described by medical researchers.


Breathe in the morning

We humans need food and water to live. We also need love and connection. But of all things most necessary to life, the most important — and the most basic — is oxygen. After all, we can live days without water and weeks without food, but we can survive only a few precious minutes without oxygen.


And, yet, as counterintuitive as it may seem, few of us really know how to breathe correctly. Often, we're breathing from the upper chest and not from the diaphragm, which means we're not getting those deep, oxygenating breaths our cells need. Even worse, many of us hold our breath without even realizing it. This is especially true when we're under stress, anxious, or in a hurry, typical when rushing through a hectic and harried morning.

This is why starting the day with a few minutes of breathwork can make all the difference to your day. A few simple rhythmic breathing exercises when you first wake up will awaken the body and oxygenate the cells while also focusing the mind, calming the parasympathetic nervous system, and helping you combat the stress of the coming day.


Get moving (gently)

When you first awaken, exercise is probably the last thing you feel like doing. But stretching a bit before you even get out of bed or right after is terrific both for your body and for your mind. A few gentle stretches can help boost your energy, limber your body, and reduce pain. These gentle stretches lubricate the joints and muscles and increase blood flow throughout your body. This means increased blood flow to your brain, which is why these morning stretches are a great way to greet the day with improved energy, focus, and positivity.


Morning stretches are also helpful for anyone with bone and joint pain, which is super common. After all, your body has been pretty stationary throughout the night, which is why it's common to wake up feeling stiff and sore. A gentle, whole body stretch helps you release those muscle kinks and knots that can cause you pain throughout the day. Taking a few moments to gently stretch is a kind way to ease into your morning without overstimulating your body, mind, or nervous system.

Wet your whistle

When you wake up in the morning, odds are pretty good that you're dehydrated. After all, your body has just been through a multi-hour fast, and, even though you were sleeping, your body was still hard at work. That's why it needs a bit of refreshment before you demand too much from it in the morning.


So, before you take in anything, grab a bottle of water — just one way to create a more mindful morning routine. This is especially important if you're going to have caffeinated coffee or tea, both of which are diuretics and are, thus, naturally dehydrating. Drinking three cups of water and waiting at least 40 minutes before you consume anything else, including your morning coffee, boosts your immune system, alleviating troubling gastrointestinal symptoms, lowering blood sugar, and supporting weight loss. And that's not all — drinking water first thing in the morning will leave your skin looking firmer and more radiant and your hair thicker and shinier.

That means you'll start your day looking and feeling great — and you can't ask for a more positive morning routine than that!


Give thanks

There's a Native American parable in which a grandfather tells his grandson that inside every person is a good wolf and a bad wolf constantly at war with one another. When the grandson asks which wolf will survive, the grandfather replies, "The one you feed." What this means, simply, is that how we live and move through this world depends very much on how we "feed" our hearts and minds. And that, ultimately, depends on what we focus on and how we perceive the world. If your thoughts are always fixated on the negative, on complaints and criticism, your world will be dark. You are feeding the bad wolf. On the other hand, if your attention is attuned to what's positive and uplifting in your life, then your world will be positive in turn. And that all boils down to gratitude.


Learning to recognize and be thankful for the blessings in your life, both large and small, is, perhaps, the single best thing you can do to transform your worldview. Spending just five minutes writing in a gratitude journal before officially starting your day can help you greet the world with a more positive mindset. Best of all, learning to practice gratitude, like any other skill, gets easier the more you do it. Finding one thing to be grateful for soon leads to many others you had once taken for granted or simply failed to notice.

Enjoy the solitude

When you have a busy household and a lot to pack into a single day, you can feel as if you don't have much choice but to hit the ground running first thing in the morning. Your first instinct might be to rouse the whole family in the hopes that everyone will get ready and out the door on time.


But, perhaps surprisingly, this can actually be a counterproductive strategy. The reason is fairly simple once you think about it. When you start the day going full tilt, you don't have time to collect your bearings and focus your mind. You'll be swept up in the morning maelstrom rather than calmly (and productively) controlling the flow of the morning.

Rather than rushing to wake the kids or get your spouse up and running, take at least a half hour to enjoy some quiet time alone, sipping a cup of coffee or your favorite energy-boosting tea. After all, alone time helps you be more productive, more creative, more empathetic, and mentally stronger. And all of these are critical to managing your morning and getting the day started on a positive footing. Even if you need to wake up a bit early, the difference it will make in your day will be worth it.


Feed your body

You've probably heard all your life that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It may be a cliché, but clichés are often true. And this one is very much so. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is critical not only for your physical health but also for your mental and emotional well-being.


Eating a nourishing breakfast every morning helps with weight control, increases energy, enhances cognition, and enables you to make better food choices throughout the day because you're not ravenous and exhausted by mid-morning. Because your breakfast has given your body the nourishment it needs to keep you energized and functioning, you're less likely to reach for a sugary snack or caffeine-packed energy drink to get you through the day.

This means that taking the time to eat a healthy, nourishing breakfast is critical to having a positive day. This is not always easy, of course, especially if you have little ones at home, but the effort will pay dividends for your overall health, happiness, and productivity. It sets the stage for a great day!


Laugh like no one's watching

Have you ever noticed how laughter makes you feel good all over? It's like an adrenaline rush and a full body workout all at once. And science now confirms what we humans have always known instinctively — laughter really is the best medicine. For example, laughter enhances organ function, decreases the body's stress response, boosts the immune system, decreases pain, and increases your sense of happiness and well-being. That makes laughter a prime stress reliever, which is certainly helpful when you're facing a busy morning.


So, why not start the day with some laughter? Boost your endorphins and slash your cortisol levels with a belly laugh or two before you head to work or school. Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom or listen to a comedy performance — or call a buddy who always makes you giggle (and who won't mind an early-morning phone call). Do this and you'll set the stage for a happier — and laughter-filled — day ahead!

Dance like no one's watching, too

Remember when you were a kid and you bopped around your bedroom to your favorite band while you got ready for school? How did that make you feel? Pretty darn happy, right? It turns out, there's good reason why dancing gives you such a rush.


Dancing releases an array of neurochemicals that not only make you feel great but also help to decrease the body's stress response and blunt pain signals. And it gets your muscles moving and your blood flowing. That's why dance therapy is increasingly being used in the treatment of everything from depression and anxiety to chronic pain and addiction. Dance therapy is even linked to a reduced risk for dementia and an overall increase in cognitive function.

So, why not inject a little of your own special dance therapy into your morning routine? You'll infuse your day with a little rhythm and a lot of joy.

Spend some quality time with the fur child

Every pet parent knows that a fur baby brings a special kind of magic into your life. But did you know that your little Fido or Fifi can actually help with your morning routine? Spending some quality time interacting with your pet at the start of your day is great for them — and for you.


Just like dancing and laughing (and you'll probably do quite a bit of both during playtime with your favorite pooch or pussycat), engaging with your beloved animal companion helps relieve stress, boost your mood, and even increase your overall physical, cognitive, and mental health.

So, why not start the day by taking Rex or Ruby for a brisk walk around the neighborhood or with a vigorous game of fetch in the dog park? Or break out the cat teaser and give little Grizabella a fun workout? They'll feel better, happier, and more relaxed for the coming day — and so will you!

Prep the night before

There are few things worse than waking up to feel as if you're already behind. When that happens, all of the critical self-care rituals we've talked about here pretty much go out the window. You're going to cut corners and rush to get everything "more important" done first. This means you're less likely to eat a nourishing breakfast, hydrate, or write in your gratitude journal. And you're certainly not likely to make time to dance, laugh, or play with the fur baby.


But the good news is that you can escape the morning frenzy with planning and preparation. A great way to ensure you'll start your day off right is to prep the night before. Go ahead and lay out your clothes, makeup, and accessories so you're not scrambling to put something together in the morning. Above all, plan and prep your healthy breakfast so all you'll have to do is pull it out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave — no excuse to skip (or opt for that sugary cereal or fatty drive-thru biscuit).

Cultivate good sleep hygiene

Unfortunately, coronavirus isn't the only pandemic we're dealing with today. We're also in the midst of a pandemic of sleep deprivation, which impacts an estimated 1 in 3 adults, according to the CDC. This means you may well be affected by sleep deprivation — and sleep debt – yourself. And that can have a profoundly detrimental impact on your morning routine and on the day as a whole.


But there's hope, and it lies in practicing good sleep hygiene. Healthy sleep hygiene involves creating an environment that is conducive to restful sleep and establishing a pre-bedtime ritual that helps you settle down and rest the whole night through. Ideally, for example, your bedroom should be cool, quiet, and dark, with no distracting electronics. In addition, you'll want to begin preparing for sleep at least a couple of hours before you actually go to bed. Listen to soft music, do some gentle exercise, meditate, read, journal, or take a warm aromatherapeutic bath — anything that helps you unwind. A light snack and a soothing cup of herbal (non-caffeinated) tea can also be helpful.

Above all, nix the digital devices at least two hours before sleep because mounting evidence shows that the blue light they emit may impede melatonin production. With consistency, your sleep hygiene rituals will leave you feeling rested, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed for a great morning and a positive day ahead!