healing foundations

Stress Management

Creating a Morning Routine

Kristina Wong, WellTheory Health Coach

A Great Night’s Sleep Begins in the Morning!

Yes! In the morning. Why? Exposing your eyes to early morning sun for 5–20 minutes within an hour of waking increases levels of serotonin (the feel good hormone) in the brain. Who doesn’t want to feel good in the morning? That early morning sun is full of blue light that causes wakefulness. Early morning exposure to sunlight is critical to keeping your circadian clock in rhythm. It’s the contrast between very bright light in the morning and dim light in the evening that tells your brain if you should be awake and alert or preparing for sleep.

In addition to serotonin making us feel great, it’s converted to melatonin toward evening. Melatonin is the hormone that prepares your body for sleep, supports the immune system, helps to regulate blood, decreases accumulation of plaques in the brain through a cleansing process that happens ideally between 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., and improves thyroid function and insulin sensitivity. That’s why a great night’s sleep begins in the morning! All hormones have many functions inside the body.

This is why our first step to addressing sleep challenges is going to be creating a morning routine that works for you.

What Does a Good Morning Routine Look Like?

This is your time. You get to control how you spend this time and how you start your day. Some things to consider:

  • Create space for getting ready.
  • Identify any self-care practices you want to include in your routine (such as meditation, reading, yoga, workout, or journaling).
  • Avoid starting your day with screen time.
  • Aim to go outside and breathe in the fresh air within 20 minutes of rising.
  • Delay caffeine intake for 1 to 1.5 hours after waking. The boost you get from caffeine is minimal compared to your normal waking cortisol boost. By waiting until your natural cortisol level starts to wane at 1 to 1.5 hours, you’ll get a nice cortisol re-boost from the caffeine.

In the winter, getting that early morning sun may be more challenging. Our work schedules, unfortunately, usually don’t change when sunrise does. To give yourself a boost, use very bright indoor lighting. When you take a break later in the morning or at lunch, try to have your break/lunch in natural light for at least a few minutes, and try to include more natural light at the end of the work day. Then, be sure to have your home environment dimly lit to have that contrast between daylight and evening.

Where Do I Start?

Designing a morning routine may seem daunting at first. Where do you start? Start with just ONE THING! Natural sunlight for 5–20 minutes (ideally 20 minutes) will get you the most bang for your buck in getting a good night’s sleep, as well as improving your mood and energy throughout the day! If you have young kids, maybe standing at the bus stop for those minutes is a two-fer. If you have a commute to work, parking at the furthest end of the parking lot and slowly walking in can give you that 10 minutes of sunshine. And sometimes just leaving 10 minutes earlier puts you ahead of the morning rush hour!

An ideal routine might look like this:

  1. Wake up naturally, without an alarm.
  2. Enjoy natural sunlight for 5–20 minutes.
  3. Drink about 16 oz of water to hydrate after sleeping (avoid caffeine for 1 to 1.5 hours after waking to allow natural cortisol to have an effect and get that caffeine boost).
  4. Shower and do morning hygiene.
  5. Spend some time on meditation, prayer, mindfulness, gratitude, or journaling.
  6. Have breakfast.

It will take time to settle into your ideal routine. Start small and layer on each new habit. Give it a try for a few days and see how it works for you! Then modify and add on another layer. You will get there!

Take Action!

Now it’s your turn. Create a list of things that you would like to include in your morning routine, and then choose ONE thing to try right now.

You can save this list by writing in this handout!

Recap & Reflection

Take a moment to thank yourself for just getting started and making yourself a priority. Say that “Thank You” out loud! We’ll wait…

As we kick off this 8-week healing journey, we want to get into the habit of reflecting. Life already moves so fast it can be easy to accidentally let little accomplishments rush by without acknowledgment. At WellTheory, we are all about celebrating the wins, big and small, because these are the motivators that keep us moving forward. We also know that healing is hard work. Remember, we are all about “progress over perfection”! Taking a brief moment to reflect can help us hold space for the things that aren’t going the way we wish they would, learn from them, and start to explore new ways of tackling a problem.

Reflection Time

In this lesson, we explored ways of creating a morning routine. For the next 5 minutes we would like to guide you through a time of reflection.

So get comfy, grab a pen and a piece of paper or journal, and move to a place where you can be without any distractions for 5 minutes. If that time isn’t right now, that’s okay! Do what you can today, or pull out your calendar and block off a different 5 minute chunk of time when you can reflect. Remember, we’re going for progress, not perfection!

  1. What is one win you experienced this week? Remember, it can be big or small.
  2. What is one surprising new thing you learned this week?
  3. What is one intention you have for this weekend?

How Can We Help?

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