I’m the first to cheer on a friend when she’s training for a marathon or congratulate her for launching her own business. But when it comes to celebrating myself, it doesn’t come easily or naturally (it’s almost nonexistent, TBH). I often play that “I’ll be happy when…” game (you know the one when you think you don’t deserve to pat yourself on the back until you land that dream job, reach your goal weight, save enough for a down payment, or find “the one?”). Sound familiar?
So how do we change our mindset and learn to celebrate ourselves just as we are today? Enter: Mel Robbins. With an impressive resume—motivational speaker, best-selling author, former TV host and criminal defense lawyer, mother, and wife—Robbins knows a thing or two about dishing out wisdom. According to Robbins, all it takes is a simple habit and an easy morning routine to shift your mood and perspective, which she calls the “High 5 Habit.” So I decided to read the best-selling book and give it a go. Spoiler alert: It changed my life.
The daily habit randomly came to Robbins when she was staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror years ago, feeling overwhelmed and defeated after drowning in debt and being in a rocky marriage. In an effort to cheer herself up, she gave her reflection a high-five in the mirror and decided to do it again the next day—and the day after that. By the third day, Robbins started to look forward to seeing her reflection, accept herself as she was in that moment, and feel ready to take on the day with a sense of enthusiasm.
You might be thinking that sounds silly (I definitely did), but let’s unpack the science behind it. In Robbins’ book, she refers to a body of research called Neurobics, conducted by Dr. Lawrence Katz, a neurobiologist and researcher at Duke University. “In a neurobic exercise, you combine a routine activity, like looking at yourself in the mirror every morning, and you pair it with two things: something unexpected that involves your senses and an emotion that you’d like to feel, like celebration or being seen,” she explained. In other words, when you high-five yourself in the mirror (an act you don’t normally do), the mind connects it with positive associations like “Great job,” “You’ve got this,” and “I’m proud of you,” because of interactions you’ve had with the action and other people since you were a child.
Robbins claims that adding the “High 5 Habit” to your morning routine will not only transform your relationship with yourself but also cultivate self-confidence, motivation, and happiness (are you sold yet?). Read on for what Robbins calls a “High 5 Morning,” which is six steps that can set you up for the day by putting yourself first, and my experience incorporating them into my daily routine.
The 6 steps of the “High 5 Morning”
1. Get up when the alarm rings
That’s right: No snoozing allowed. Robbins said that when you hit the snooze button, it’s doing more damage than just delaying the inevitable. “If you always hit the snooze button, your actions are saying you don’t do what you say you’re going to do,” she explained. “And that impacts how your reticular activating system (RAS) filters what information gets kept in and filtered out of the brain. You make a promise when you set the alarm clock at night, and getting up at the time you set is you keeping that promise.” Confidence is just self-efficacy, which means believing that you’ll keep promises to yourself and follow through when you say you’re going to do something (like wake up at 6:30 a.m. instead of 6:35 a.m. or 6:40 a.m.).
As hard as it was to avoid the “just five more minutes” rhetoric in my head and get right out of bed instead of scrolling through my phone, I felt much more at ease and productive after just day one. It was as if I was given more time in the day to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to fit in, like drinking my hot lemon water on my deck in the sun and dusting off my foam roller for some much-needed stretching. A five-minute snooze or 10-minute Instagram scroll in bed may not seem like a lot, but it adds up. Plus, I did feel much more capable when I actually got out of bed when I intended to.
2. Try a self-love affirmation
To decrease everyday stress and increase overall self-love, Robbins suggested placing your hands over your heart and repeating “I’m OK, I’m safe, I’m loved.” She explained that by reciting that affirmation, you center yourself, relax the body, and increase confidence. The physical act of putting your hands over your heart may sound cheesy, but a Polish study discovered that the hand-over-heart gesture can help promote better judgments and behavior.
Whenever I feel anxiety start to creep up, I stop what I’m doing, place my hands on my heart, and repeat the affirmation over and over until the anxiety starts to dissipate. After doing this for just a few days, my perception of each current situation shifted, and I saw things more clearly. It reminded me that my fears are not based on reality, I am safe, and I am deserving of love. Needless to say, this habit is definitely going into my arsenal of confidence-building tools.
3. Make your bed
Yes, the chore you dreaded as a kid had more benefits than just avoiding a fight with your mom. “Making your bed every morning is another way to strengthen the muscle of discipline and commitment to yourself,” Robbins said. What may seem like a trivial task actually has a lot of benefits: Some research shows that it improves your mood and increases productivity. When I walk into my bedroom with disheveled sheets and pillows, my mood totally shifts. Call me a neat freak, but a made bed makes a difference (science says so!). This was one habit I already had in my wheelhouse (high-five, Katherine!), but after trying the High 5 Habits, I’m going to make my bed when I’m traveling as well. “The key to putting yourself first is practicing what you said you would do, no matter where you are, how you feel, or what excuses you might have,” Robbins said.
4. High-five your reflection
Every day, it’s essential to “greet your biggest ally and best friend—you,” Robbins advised. High-fiving your reflection is obviously the most crucial routine to Robbins, but this habit was the hardest for me to adopt. I was so used to looking at myself in the mirror and seeing only flaws (and it felt so…uncomfortable?). But as soon as I started getting used to high-fiving my reflection, I couldn’t help but smile and think to myself, “I got this. It’s going to be a great day.” Putting the habit into practice was like giving myself a pep talk every morning, and when I looked back at my reflection in the gym mirror or checked my makeup in the car later in the day, the harsh critic in me was way quieter. If you’re struggling to adopt the habit, place a Post-it Note on your mirror to remind yourself to follow through with your high-fives (it saved me a couple of mornings!).
5. Put your workout clothes on
We all know that getting a sweat in is physically and mentally beneficial, but it’s hard to follow through. Robbins lays out her workout clothes the night before, which forces her to put them on the next morning before she leaves her bedroom (she calls it “productive guilt”). This promise isn’t anything new or revolutionary, but it helped me celebrate every win, even the small act of getting dressed in workout gear (whether or not I actually worked out that day).
I have recently been struggling with the motivation to go to the gym, so I was especially excited to try this routine. Every night, I picked out my workout OOTD and laid it out on my dresser before going to bed. It was a bit of a struggle to remember the first day, but there wasn’t anything a cute matching set couldn’t fix (nothing is more motivating than fashion!). By the fifth day, it became second nature to get some movement in, be it a 20-minute walk, Pilates class, or lifting sesh, because I already had the outfit on. Try putting on your workout clothes first thing when you get ready in the morning or pack a gym bag with your clothes ready to go if you need to put on work attire.
Robbins encourages “dreaming in the morning” to shift your dreams from the subconscious to the conscious and put them at the front of your mind where they can “act like a searchlight” to help you manifest your happiest life and also gain awareness of what you need. Grab your journal and write down exactly what you’re feeling, which will allow you to be present and process emotions (both good and bad). Then, jot down five things you want (it can be anything, from finding love to exploring Europe). By writing your dreams down, you’re validating them. “A critical part of living a High 5 Life is giving yourself permission—permission to dream big and to want what seems impossible,” she explained.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved lists and found putting pen to paper cathartic, so “dreaming in the morning” was the easiest for me to adapt. When I added this last step to my morning routine, I noticed I was more grounded and had more clarity. Making note of my thoughts and feelings meant they weren’t nagging at and controlling me all day. Instead of being bogged down by negative thoughts, I created space for more positive beliefs and seeing my desires written out made them more real and feel more attainable. I see you, Katherine.
At the end of my week trying the High 5 Morning, I’d give Robbins’ methods a 10/10 for boosting confidence and feeling more connected to myself. The multiple steps didn’t seem daunting, tedious, or silly once I realized I was investing in myself and my confidence. It all comes down to the relationship I have with myself and being my own biggest cheerleader. PSA: We shouldn’t wait to receive a promotion, fit in our favorite pair of jeans from high school, or finally get reciprocation from a longtime crush to feel more confident. We deserve to be happy now. The icing on the cake? The “High 5 Habit” tools are free and easy, which means anyone, anywhere, at any age can benefit from them (you bet I taught my 2-year-old nephew to high-five himself in the mirror). So go ahead and give your strong, confident, happy self a high-five to achieve the confidence you deserve.