Winning morning habits
by Douglas Ross on Thursday 13 January 2022
5 min read
Looking for ways to get your morning routine to include healthy habits, and bring to you health, happiness and productivity to your day?
Creating morning can make it easier to prioritize your mental and physical health throughout your day. Researchers Dr Katarzyna Stawarz et. al., suggest 'contextual cues' play an important role in facilitating behaviour change, meaning habits need these 'contextual cues’ in order for it to kick in and stick.
In other words, you wash your hands as a habit (the action) after using the bathroom (the contextual cue). There needs to be something that causes you to make that action to eventually turn it into an automatic response, and feels second nature.
The benefits of creating habits, according to behavioural researcher Dr Benjamin Gardner, cross over from the physical to the mental. The more systems you establish for daily processes, such as cleaning, exercise, goal setting, mental exercise etc. the more space in your head you have to allow creative or problem-solving thoughts to occur.
With the concept of ‘contextual cues’ firm in your mind, here are a few ways in which you can use habits to start your mornings off on the right track.
Break up your morning
Some parents may scoff at the idea of a child being conducive to good habits, but children can be the contextual cue that inspires healthy habits. Use their love for arts and crafts to create visual cues that you collectively follow in the morning (if you don’t have children, this is still a great methodology).
Be as creative as you like, like sticking colourful visual cues on the fridge to give you a structure to follow and make it easier for you to delineate your mornings.
These can be as simple as writing down your morning routine like have a short shower, eat a nourishing breakfast, brush teeth, make the bed, watch 10 minutes of TV etc.
Train your body clock
Your mind can be trained to get up just a little bit earlier each day and contextual cues can make it easier to establish these good habits.
Separate yourself from technology within your bedroom. For instance, put your phone in the living room and rely on an alarm clock place away from the bed - that way you'll physically get up from bed to turn it off.
If it’s cold, place a jumper near your alarm clock so you aren’t tempted to run back to bed.
Lastly, consider sleeping with the curtains/blinds drawn out, especially on weekends. You may occasionally wake with the birds but your mind will grow used to waking up with the morning light, making it easier to gradually set your rising time back.
Create a blank slate
10 minutes of meditation can be enough to create the right emotional base for the rest of your day.
Goal setting or reflecting can also be an effective and quick way to exercise your mind and set out your expectations for the day. For instance, note down the tasks you want to achieve each day, or alternatively you can exercise the left side of your brain and note down how you are feeling that morning.
You are going to have plenty of distractions thrown at you throughout your day, which is why the morning can be a great opportunity to eliminate any unnecessary distractions to allow for contextual cues to do their work.
One big distraction to avoid, and one that is at the pointy end of your morning, is listening to music or the radio when driving. Limited research has been done into the effects of listening to music when driving, but it seems obvious that having no music or radio means there are fewer external influencers on your mood, allowing you to enter the working part of your day with a more balanced mood.
Book your morning
While you can create all these habits at home, it is important to get yourself out and about. Try out one of the many group exercise classes at Virgin Active that fit your morning schedule. This is a great way to stay accountable to your morning routine, and stops you from hitting the snooze button.
Pack the evening before, so your morning routine feels seamless and you won't be fumbling to rush out the door. It's already done for you before the morning starts! Pick a couple favourite classes that you look forward to weekly, and stick with them.
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