You can’t control the days getting darker and colder. But you can choose how you start your day, which can make all the difference in the winter.
“Morning routines are an important part of success. How we start our morning is how our day will go,” says yoga life coach Pamela Holt. “It’s even more valuable for those who live in the northern parts of the world and experience seasonal changes. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a real thing!”
For example, if you start your morning snoozing a bunch of times and drinking your coffee in a rush, you’ll feel scattered for the rest of the day. On the other hand, carving out a little bit of time for an energizing ritual can help you stay calm and collected throughout the day, says Holt.
“On a professional level, whether you are a CEO or a doctor, you work in an office or are a truck driver, it doesn’t matter. We all have a job to do. When we complete our morning routine, we have strength in our body, clarity in our minds to make better decisions and calmness for when things get crazy during the day.”
Winter also comes with an additional set of challenges that can make it tempting to ditch our good habits. But you must resist the temptation to do so.
“We get sluggish. We stop moving. We stop getting up early. We become rushed and scattered. Our immune and metabolic systems drop. We get sick. Then we definitely can’t get up because we need to rest to feel better. And there’s the never-ending vicious cycle,” says Holt.
And with Covid-19 adding even bigger stress to the usual seasonal slump, your morning ritual can help you stay healthy and energized so you can also be a source of positivity and support for those around you.
“A morning routine, quarantine or not, is going to be your best friend. It will get you up. You will strengthen the body. You’ll boost your immune system and metabolism. You’ll mentally have more willpower and discipline. And you will motivate others with your energy,” says Holt.
Here’s how to optimize your mornings to tackle the upcoming months feeling strong.
Start as soon as you open your eyes
The trick to staying consistent regardless of temperature changes and daylight savings? Just get up, says Holt.
Start your morning ritual as soon as you open your eyes. Don’t hit the snooze button. Don’t look at Instagram. Set yourself up for success by prepping what you’ll need for your morning routine the evening before. That can also mean removing what won’t help you and put your phone out of reach before you go to sleep.
Focus on your breath
Your breath is a powerful tool. “Our bodies involuntarily do one thing: we breathe. That is our life force energy,” says Holt.
“We can use it to motivate ourselves. A simple way to wake up is to incorporate the breath in rhythm with a simple body movement to get the body oxygenated and blood flowing. It can even be done sitting on the edge of the bed.”
Holt recommends putting your hands directly in front of your shoulders, with your index and thumb touching and your fingers pointing up. Breathing through your nose, inhale while sending your arms straight overhead and exhale as you drop them back to shoulder level. Do this for a couple of minutes to get moving.
Include three elements
According to Holt, an effective morning ritual includes three things: some type of movement, a mindfulness practice, as well as mindset work.
If you’ve never meditated, don’t be intimidated. You can keep things simple by staying on the edge of the bed or sitting on the floor. Holt recommends putting your palms on top of your knees or thighs, closing your eyes and rolling your shoulders up to your ears then back down so you can sit nice and tall with your chest open. That’s it, you’ve done the hard part. Now all you have to do is breathe.
“Inhale and exhale through your nose. Follow the breath When the mind wanders, and it will come back to the breath. If you need a focus, focus on things you are grateful for. Stay as long as you need. Three minutes is a great start — you can work your way up to more, she says.
As for mindset work, it’s all about doing something to get your mind moving and learning. Whether you choose to write a gratitude list in your journal or listen to an inspiring podcast, incorporate an activity that helps you get into a positive state of mind.
Shift your perspective
“If you say it’s too early, it’s too cold, it’s too dark, you’ll believe it,” says Holt. “And if you say, ‘Oh I’ll just do it after work when I’m more awake,’ you’re only lying to yourself. After work, it’ll be dark again and still cold. You’re tired of working all day. You’ve got to go home and make dinner for your family or help your kids with their homework.”
In order to stick to your morning routine in the winter, tell yourself a more positive story about it. “What if you told yourself the opposite? It’s really an energizing feeling. You’re a badass –you woke before the sun!”
Find your routine-boosting activity
No need to take your morning routine too seriously. You’ll be more motivated to keep it up if you make it enjoyable. For example, Holt enjoys dance, kundalini yoga and listening to audiobooks.
Perhaps you’ll discover you love blasting music and dancing around in your PJs. Maybe your version of a mindset ritual involves watching a documentary or reading a nonfiction book. And there are so many ways to exercise you don’t need to settle for one you hate. “We are lucky today to have so many options. Gym. YouTube videos. Fitness apps” says Holt.