If lockdown has left you with a haphazard daily ritual, try following these simple steps when you wake up to build a better routine that will help to give you more energy.
WORDS: Eve Boggenpoel
What does your ideal morning look like? An energising workout or calming yoga flow followed by a healthy breakfast that sets you up for the day? Or perhaps you like to meditate, reflect on the week ahead and set your intentions? The pandemic has changed our lives in many ways, but creating a morning routine is a great opportunity to mitigate some of the effects it’s had on our mental health and wellbeing, as it gives us a sense of control.
‘I’ve always been a fan of morning routines but they’re even more important in the Covid era,’ says Dr Rangan Chatterjee, GP and host of the Feel Better Live More podcast.‘When I have my morning routine I’m calmer throughout the day, and I’m a better husband, a better dad and a better doctor.’
If you’re not sure where to start, try adding a new routine onto something you already do on a regular basis. ‘The very best way to make a new behaviour a habit is to “piggy back” it onto an existing habit,’ says Dr Rangan. ‘For example, most people have a cup of tea or coffee within an hour of waking in the morning, so they could do some quick bodyweight moves while their morning cuppa is brewing. That way it’s locked into your morning, and you don’t need to find extra time to work out.’
Want to give it a go? Here are our top 10 ways to supercharge your morning.
TRY THE THREE ‘M’S
‘If you need help structuring your routine, focus on the three ‘M’s,’ says Dr Rangan. ‘The first M is mindfulness, the second movement and the third mindset. Mindfulness could be a meditation on an app or a breathing practice, movement could be a couple of hip stretches, a bodyweight workout or yoga flow, and mindset is anything that puts you in a positive frame of mind, such as reading from an inspirational book.’
Feel energised in the morning by sleeping well the night before. Research in the journal Nutrients shows amino acid tryptophan can reduce the time it takes to reach REM sleep. ‘Make your evening meal rich in tryptophan with poultry, tofu, oily fish, eggs or seeds,’ says Rob Hobson, Healthspan head of nutrition and author of The Art of Sleeping ‘To ensure the uptake of tryptophan to the brain, team the food with carbohydrates.’
FEED YOUR GUT
Your gut is smarter than you thought. New research from Australia shows nerves in the GI tract pass information to the brain that influence mood far more than previously understood. ‘So what you have for breakfast is going to influence how you feel in the morning and possibly longer,’ says Alison Cullen, practice nutritionist and A.Vogel education manager. ‘Consider having something with a prebiotic effect, such as live yoghurt or a small portion of sauerkraut.’
CRACK THE COFFEE CONUNDRUM
Some scientists advise not having a brew too early, as cortisol levels peek between 7-9am. ‘I don’t like giving hard and fast rules on this,’ says Dr Rangan, ‘as it depends what else you’re doing in your life. But if you’re not sleeping well because of coffee, you could be getting into a vicious cycle by consuming it first thing.’
SEE THE LIGHT
Your circadian rhythm affects your sleep and mental health, but getting outside helps keep it in check. ‘When you’re in diminished light, your brain produces melatonin, which suppresses your mood and motivation,’ says elite sports sleep coach Nick Littlehales. ‘Indoors, a light meter only registers 200-300lux, but on cloudy day outside it registers 80-100,000.’ Get outside for 30-45 minutes within an hour of waking for the best way to reset your body clock. Use the time as an opportunity to get a workout in, listen to an inspiring podcast as you up your stepcount for the day, or simply catch up with a friend for a chat.’
GET SOME HEADSPACE
Try this mindfulness meditation from Eve Lewis, director of meditation at Headspace.
● Sitting or standing, breathe in through your nose, focusing on the sensation of your body filling with air. As you breathe out through your mouth, feel your muscles soften.
● Focus on where your body touches the floor or chair, and take in the sounds around you.
● Bring your attention to the top of your head and work towards your toes, evenly scanning. As you become aware of the physical sensations, reflect on the quality of each breath, asking without judgement: is it long or short? Deep or shallow? Fast or slow? Allow your thoughts to come and go, and every time you get distracted return to your breath.
● Stay in this moment, not thinking about the future or the past.
TAP INTO YOUR POTENTIAL
Tapping is a neuroscience-backed method that helps interrupt pre-programmed emotional responses by stimulating meridian points. ‘Tap on your collarbones saying “I feel… because…”,’ explains Poppy Delbridge, founder of Rapid Tapping. ‘Continue tapping to the top of your head as you repeat the sentence, then return to the collarbone, take another breath and say, “But I choose to love and accept myself anyway, and begin my day well”.’
DO AN EARLY WORKOUT
If you really want to boost your energy, put on your trainers! ‘To power through your day, sneak in an early morning workout,’ says high-performance psychologist Dr Aria Cambell-Danesh. ‘In a recent study, exercising for 20 minutes was found to increase feelings of vigour by 20 per cent and decrease fatigue by 65 per cent.’
Calm your mind with the qi gong practice ‘Return to the mountain’ from Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners Emilia Herting and Maeve O’Sullivan. ‘Inhale as you bring your hands from your hips to your shoulders, wrists crossed and palms facing you. Exhale as you spread your hands to the sides and lower them, letting go of any negative thoughts. Continue, this time bending your knees as your hands fall, standing straighter as they rise. Repeat seven times.’
TAKE YOUR MEDICINE
Research shows when you visualise improving health, your body moves towards greater wellbeing. Try the Foundation for Contemplative Studies’ Medicine Buddha Meditation: Breathing and Cells. It’s a gentle practice where you visualise a tiny medicine Buddha in every cell of your body. Find it at Insight Timer.
Want more? Here are 5 ways to take control of your health and supercharge energy levels.