Habits are both difficult to get rid of and challenging to start, but once you’re able to create and identify a routine that works for you, it can be as simple as how you start and finish your day.
The purpose of creating and practicing healthy habits is to facilitate a level of utility that provides you with an optimal level of efficiency and improves biological function.
Because everyone is different in countless small ways it’s difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all solution, but there ARE some simple steps to be taken that can ensure that your days are as productive and efficient as possible.
There have been countless blogs, articles and even books that have preached this message: the first 90 minutes of your day can help set up and prepare you for the rest of your 12- to 18-hour day.
We often wake up in a rush to get to work, so we shove food down our throat, chase it with a hot coffee and spend up to an hour in traffic (sometimes more) and all we’re capable of thinking is just how badly we wished we were back to bed.
On the other hand, what if we woke up 20 minutes earlier? That way we could spend that 2 minutes making our bed and another 10 to 15 minutes prepping our brain with some simple meditation OR jump-starting our nervous system with a quick morning stretch and Yoga flow!
How to get going?
When I started building better habits, I started off small: I wanted to become more organized and more mindful. A simple strategy I use to achieve this is by making my bed first thing in the morning. It seems trivial, but by accomplishing simple tasks such as this, it will instill you with a sense of pride that encourages you to keep moving. It also helps when you’ve had a long day at work and you just want to pass out!
By practicing meditation or performing some simple warm-up exercises for the first 10-20 mins of your morning, you will help wake up your nervous system which enables a better state of awareness, and allowing you to function to your best ability.
A 10-15 min morning meditation will help clear your mind and balance your thoughts; this could be the key to providing you with the happiness or affirmation that you need to bump your thoughts from erratic to perfectly calm.
Being caught in the ‘rat race’ all the time can distract us from the importance of keeping tabs on a healthy mind state, but we can bring ourselves back into a state of awareness by activating our brain and nervous system through a series of simple meditations or movements.
Activities to get you going
Over the last two years, I have worked on applying a simple morning stretch and exercise routine that helps to wake up my nervous system and get my blood flowing:
- 10x Squat Jumps
- 15x Good Mornings
- 60sec Downward Dog / Upward Dog flows
- 15x Body Squats
- 10x Burpees
- 15x V-Sits
- 10x Sit-ups
- 15 Glute Bridges
- 20x Standing Front Lunges (10 per side)
- 10x Push-Ups
Even if you decide the exercises and stretching aren’t for you, at least try to do 5 to 10 reps of one of the above, or perform a simple 5-minute shake-up. Don’t worry! – this is not supposed to be a workout; the intention of applying this routine is simply to help you prime your body for best state of mind. The best suggestion for a quick 5-minute shake-up would be a yoga flow that includes a couple vinyasas (downward dog, upward dog, 3-legged dog, warrior 1 x2 and back into downward/upward dog).
The simplicity of these physical activities helps awaken your physical body and gets you out of your head, but believe it or not, this helps affect your mood positively. I ALWAYS follow this quick exercise with a warm shower and finish it off with 30-60 seconds standing under freezing cold shower (as cold as you can go!); this helps wake up your nervous system and deliver oxygen to your brain.
Next up: fuel
After you get out of the shower, get into the habit of drinking ¾ of a litre before dousing your stomach in hot, acidic coffee. Water helps lubricate your joints and since human beings are made up to 60% of water, you’re better off starting your day by re-hydrating!
To assist your body in metabolizing the caffeine you’re about to pour into your system, add some healthy fats like Coconut oil, or take it one step further and add MCT oil. These both help improve the cognitive effects of caffeine by providing your brain with some healthy dietary fats; they also help your body burn fat, they suppress your hunger, they strengthen your gut bacteria, and improve your overall stamina.
Don’t forget this!
One FINAL step before heading out to the office with your coffee… JOURNALING! The journal process is one of the most effective for establishing and achieving your goals.
Even if your goal is to have a good day, it’s much easier to achieve that through spending some time and identifying what it is that you can do to improve your day and help conclude it with a happy finish.
It will only take ten minutes out of your day: five in the morning (write down what you are grateful for, create a positive daily affirmation, and establish what you would like to achieve), and 5 minutes in the evening (write down 3 good things that happened, and how could you have made it better). Not too bad, right?
Your path is unique, so take the first step
Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach! What I’ve tried to give you is a baseline on how you can start your day on a better foot. What you’ll still have to do yourself is sit down and figure out what you want to realize with your revamped morning routine.
Keep it simple, but try to incorporate some movement, some improved fuel sources, and some mindfulness, meditation or journaling.
It’s a powerful foundation, and it will astound you of how it changes you. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
Wes Van Hart is a personal trainer, nutritionist (and far more), located in Toronto. Wes is an advocate for constantly improving both physical and mental health, and as such, he is dedicated to advancing his knowledge base, certifications and ability to help his clients, no matter how that looks.
Wes was the very first FitIn affiliate, and is a regular contributor to the FitIn blog.