Does Your Morning Routine Need A Refresher? Here’s How To Make The Most Of Your Morning.

Does Your Morning Routine Need A Refresher? Here’s How To Make The Most Of Your Morning.

My new year's resolutions started late last year. In an effort to ease into 2023, I decided back in November that I would start making small adjustments to my everyday habits that would lay the foundation for the year ahead. So in order to form better habits, I knew that the biggest changes had to first take place with my morning routine.

After experiencing a huge dip in my productivity and lifestyle a few months back, getting up in the morning became an uphill battle. I would spend my first waking moments on social media apps doom scrolling, losing track of time, only to end up in a poor mood when it came time to start my day. I knew that this type of habit wasn’t sustainable if I wanted to see real, positive change in my life; so bit by bit, I began to make adjustments.

Instead of reaching straight for my phone every morning, I would pray, journal, or start drafting my to-do list. While every morning wasn’t perfect, it was the start of a system that illuminated a vital principle: if I wanted to see a big change in my life, I had to start with small, daily shifts.

Our mornings set the tone for the day ahead and how we approach our day, eventually impacts our lifestyle. And as life moves in cycles, things can become stagnant. We have times when we aren’t as motivated or inspired to live at our highest potential, which calls for a fresh start and approach to our morning routine.

To help us get clear on how to make the most of our mornings, we tapped Licensed Clinical Psychologist and founder of Center for Inclusive Therapy + Wellness, Dr. Janelle S. Peifer for where to start.

If you feel the desire to establish a new, steady routine for yourself, you can feel relieved to know that it’s an inherent human need. According to Dr. Peifer, humans are naturally wired to thrive and rely on routine to shape our psychological, emotional, and physical health.

“Having a predictable routine helps us translate conscious efforts into habits that we can build from,” Dr. Peifer tells xoNecole. “A morning routine can enable us to set the tone for the day, centering our well-being and values before the onslaught of external demands grabs our attention and energy.”

“A morning routine can enable us to set the tone for the day, centering our well-being and values before the onslaught of external demands grabs our attention and energy.”

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As Dr. Peifer explains, forming a morning routine is especially important for those who may experience depressive episodes or mood disorders. Now that we’re on the tail end of the months when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is most common, Dr. Peifer shares that there are a plethora of ways to get back into your groove and find your morning rhythm again.

“Using affirmations, journaling, and ending your day with a gratitude practice, can be helpful,” she says. “Moreover, creating routines that get you moving, out of the home, doing self-care behaviors (like hygiene), and connecting with others… can also help us connect into social support that is so essential to our mental health.”

She also says that having a practice to address the barriers that are maintaining your depressive symptoms can be helpful in regaining a sense of agency over your life, as opposed to despair and hopelessness. “Of course, all of these steps require that you are well-supported. It isn't just a matter of willpower,” says Dr. Peifer. “Engaging in therapy, a support group, speaking to a spiritual leader in your community, taking medication, or engaging in a holistic health practice can give you the boost you need to get into a groove, enact, and sustain a routine that can help maintain your wellness.”

And while some people can "fake it until they make it” in their daily routines, Dr. Peifer adds that others may need additional support and resources in order to build and maintain their wellness routines.

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Whether that be having an accountability partner, a wellness group chat, or frequent check-ins with your therapist, it’s important to listen to your needs and limit the distraction of outside influences—whether online or your inner critic—to establish a routine that works best for you.

“It can be tempting to see others' routines, especially on social media, and feel like you have to follow a specific, narrow pathway to be doing it ‘right,’” she says. “In reality, various factors will shape what routine will work well for and be sustainable within your life. When are you most awake and aware? What is your family and work situation?” she adds. “While 5 a.m. may be perfect ‘you’ time, it may not be — and that's okay! You can be in the 9 a.m. club and crush it!”

When it comes to finding the routine that truly maximizes your morning, Dr. Peifer shows us where to start:

Set your phone down. 

“If you notice an urge to pull up your email, check socials, or text your boo right when you wake up, consider pausing. Take a moment--even just 5 deep circular breaths to ground yourself in your body with awareness before diving into the noise and busyness of the day.”

Start with gratitude. 

“Research suggests that a gratitude practice can improve mental health and self-esteem. Beginning your day with an expression of gratitude that feels real and authentic to you can be helpful.”

Take care of your body and spirit.

“Taking a moment to do a restorative, self-care practice, be that mindfully brushing your teeth, a luxurious skincare routine, or a slow shower with music can bring you into your body and into the moment.”

Do a reflective practice. 

“A practice of journaling, voice recording, creating a video, or a brisk walk around the neighborhood can help you reflect on what you need most and what you hope your day will entail. Find a reflective practice that works for you and give yourself grace on practicing it.”

In all, Dr. Peifer recommends that when it comes to the early days of refining your morning routine, always give yourself grace and practice patience with yourself—because this too, is a journey.

“Any routine requires grace and flexibility. Practicing compassionate self-talk is a great resource as you're building new skills and habits,” Dr. Peifer says. “To stay on track, recognize that behavior change is typically nonlinear and loops through periods of relapse and growth. That doesn't mean you're doing it wrong! That's just how human behavior change happens and with grace and self-compassion, you're much more likely to stay with the process rather than try to escape feeling inadequate and like a failure.”

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