My dream morning routine goes like this: wake up naturally with the sun, enjoy warm water with lemon or a cup of coffee with collagen while I meditate for 20 blissful minutes, diffuse citrus essential oils and go through a 10-step skincare routine before fitting in a Pilates workout. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? The truth is I have a greater chance of getting woodland creatures to help me get dressed in the morning (à la Snow White) than I have when it comes to achieving even half of the things on this list.
Life gets busy, mornings are crazy, and the odds are that we’ll never achieve an ideal morning routine every single day. We should stop putting pressure on ourselves to get a nutritious breakfast, fit in self-care, layer on skincare, and still manage to be on time (not to mention if you’re in charge of taking care of other living beings like children or pets). However, the morning is a crucial time to set yourself up for success and stress management throughout the entire day. Here are 12 morning routine hacks you can easily do to make your days better.
1. Set out everything you need the night before
The key to a stress-free morning begins before the day even starts. Prepare whatever you can the night before; lay out clothes, set out or pack everything you need for a workout, or get your work-from-home station ready to go with a fully-charged laptop and your daily planner, pen, and blue-light glasses on your desk or table. You can even meal prep your breakfast beforehand by freezing individual bags of smoothie ingredients or chopping veggies for an omelet. While you’re at it, make sure the dishes are cleaned and your room is tidy before you head to bed, so you can wake up focusing on the day rather than cleaning up from yesterday.
2. Don’t check your phone for 30 minutes
If anyone understands the morning scroll addiction, I do. A few years ago, I figured out that I was spending approximately 180 hours a year just scrolling through my phone in the mornings before getting out of bed (talk about a colossal waste of time!). We have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé, but the difference is that she doesn’t spend as many of them scrolling through Instagram as we do (if I had to guess).
Wasted time aside, if you check your texts, emails, or Instagram feed within the first 30 minutes of the day, your mind immediately jumps to your to-do list or goes into work mode. Even just innocently scrolling through Instagram or TikTok can put your mind in a state of FOMO. Instead, leave your phone out of the bedroom and spend the first 30 minutes of your day doing something that makes you feel good (more on that below). After your relaxing routine is finished, you can email to your heart’s desire, but it will make all the difference having 30 minutes to yourself.
3. Wake up 15 minutes earlier for “you time”
If your mornings feel like a race against the clock, consider waking up extra early to have a slow, calm start to your day. You might have limited control over your mornings (like an early work start time, or a child or two that you need to take care of), so waking up just 15 minutes earlier than you need to will help you feel more in control and calmer throughout the entire day. Whether you spend your time meditating, indulging in a luxurious skincare routine, or just brewing a cup of coffee with a moment of silence, you will not miss the 15 minutes of extra sleep (I promise!).
4. Buy a timed coffee maker
Welcome to 2023: we have meetings over Zoom and coffee brewed on a timer. Technology may be running our lives, but sometimes it can be used to help our mental health rather than hinder it (see: 180 hours of wasted time scrolling through Instagram). Coffee brewed on a timer means one less step in the mornings and five extra minutes that are typically spent running to the kitchen to start brewing a pot. Imagine floating into the kitchen after 15 minutes of “you-time” to a perfectly brewed cup of coffee waiting for you. It will be the highlight of your morning. Invest in a high-quality coffee maker that you can set on a timer or delay on the days you actually get to sleep in.
5. Start the day with gratitude
It seems like everyone is talking about the benefits of gratitude, from Harvard Medical School to Oprah, and for good reason. Gratitude can improve relationships, boost happiness, and reduce stress. When you start your day with gratitude, you’re setting yourself up for a calmer and less stressful day. Include gratitude in your morning routine by writing down five things you’re grateful for in your daily planner, listening to a meditation on gratitude, or gratitude journaling. Simplify the practice and think about how grateful you are to be alive when you wake up, which is a habit that has undoubtedly changed my life.
6. Don’t hit “snooze”
Maybe hitting snooze is as much a part of your morning routine as a cup of coffee. Perhaps you set six different alarms over the course of 30 minutes, knowing you’re going to ignore every single one except the last, or maybe you go to bed with the best intentions but keep hitting “snooze” until you’re running late. While the “snooze” button is how many of us start the day (the bed just feels so cozy!), it can have a negative impact.
Hitting snooze messes with your circadian rhythm, which can cause grogginess that lasts for hours. Plus, the few extra minutes of sleep you’d get from snoozing through your first alarm just isn’t worth it. Sleeping a little longer won’t make you more well-rested since your body won’t be able to go through a full REM cycle. Instead, go to bed earlier and try an app like Sleep Cycle, which wakes you up during your lightest sleep so you’ll be less tempted to snooze the alarm.
7. Get some sunlight
Getting sunlight first thing in the morning tells the body that it’s time to wake up by stopping melatonin production, giving you more energy (AKA you may not even need that second cup of coffee). As soon as you wake up, open the blinds and turn on the lights to get your body energized and ready for the day. Also, try to get sunlight as much as possible, whether that means taking your dog for a walk or having a morning coffee on the patio (just don’t forget your SPF).
8. Meditate while brushing your teeth
The mornings are tough enough. If your morning routine is hectic, adding acts of self-care meant for relaxation like facial massage or journaling might just feel like more things on the to-do list (that you probably won’t stick to). If your mornings are too busy, instead of scheduling extra things in your morning routine, add acts of self-care into the mindless habits you already do.
For example, try to meditate while you’re brushing your teeth by mentally repeating an affirmation or listening to a two-minute meditation on an app like Headspace. You can also try meditating while cooking breakfast or waiting for the coffee to brew. Whatever method works for you, the key is sneaking in moments of peace around your habits, instead of scheduling extra time that might feel undoable.
9. Move your body
Getting your body moving in the mornings has many health benefits like better focus, less stress, and more energy. The most important part here is to listen to your body. If your body is energized and ready to move in the morning, schedule workouts before your day gets started to reap the benefits of a morning workout. However, if your body wants to wake up slowly (and you’re more of an afternoon-workout person), don’t force yourself to exercise. Moving your body in calming ways, like a walk outside or some yoga stretches, will give you all the same benefits for a much calmer morning.
10. Make a morning playlist
Sometimes all it takes to feel ready for the day is a killer playlist. For me, it’s a combination of Taylor Swift and Broadway (don’t judge), and for a playlist that we all love, “The Everygirl Listens: Good-Mood Songs” will absolutely make your mornings better. The goal of a morning playlist is to combine all of the songs that energize you, destress you, or make you want to dance. Turn up the volume while you’re making breakfast, taking a morning walk, or sipping coffee, and remind yourself that the purpose of life is to enjoy it.
11. Make your bed
At the risk of sounding like your mom, please make your bed. Not only does it take less than a minute and is easy, but it will set the tone for the entire day. Making your bed may be a minor accomplishment, but it will encourage you to accomplish more throughout the day. Still think making your bed is not worth the time? In research for her book “The Happiness Project,” Gretchen Rubin found that one of the most common changes that led to happiness was making the bed each morning. Small changes make a big impact, and making your bed can have a huge effect on your day.
12. Schedule everything
A calmer day means not having to decide if you’re going to work out at 10 a.m. or at 5 p.m. or stare in your fridge at every meal, contemplating what to eat. Either the night before (if your mornings are crazy) or in the morning (only after your “selfish time”), schedule out everything for the day. Plan your meals and schedule time blocks for everything you have to get done (including breaks!).
Before you dive into your workday, make a to-do list and rank your tasks from the most important to the least. Plan how to time batch tasks (like spending 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon answering emails instead of checking your inbox throughout the day), and don’t forget to schedule one thing you’ll look forward to (like dinner with your significant other or playtime with the kids). Scheduling out every detail of your day will not only reduce decision-making (therefore reducing stress) but will help you feel in control of your day.