Friday Fundamentals #3: Rule Your Morning.

I can picture it now. You wake up in the morning, in a frenzy to hit that snooze button and steal an extra few minutes of sleep before you have to start your busy day. The first thing you do when you get out of bed is check your social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever you can get your hands on… You then rush downstairs, shove a bowl of cereal, a slice of toast or a bag of oatmeal down your throat before leaving the house. Not only are you astoundingly far from ruling your morning – you are actively worsening your entire day. The first hour of our day is easily the most important. It sets the tone, both physically and mentally. So, it’s time to become a morning person. Here’s how.

Step 1: Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day

It doesn’t matter when it is. It doesn’t matter how much sleep you were able to get. It doesn’t matter when you went to bed. All that matters is that you wake up at the same time every single day. At the very least, get close.

Why does this matter? Well, it turns out that inconsistent wake-up times actually have a profoundly negative effect on your body. One of the many things your brain is in charge of doing is keeping track of your biological clock. This is called your circadian rhythm. It has been shown that your circadian rhythm is actually involved in regulating your mood. So, when your rhythm is constantly being changed or disrupted, it becomes more likely that you will experience mood imbalances. You know those lazy Sundays when you wake up at 1PM and wonder why you’re in such a bad, groggy mood, even though you slept for so long? That’s this exact mechanism at play.

So whatever time you choose, stick to it as religiously as possible. I personally shoot for a 7:30AM wake-up time, and I am able to do it 4-5 times per week. Once you start doing this, you will notice a marked difference. Even on days when I get less than my necessary amount of sleep, waking up at 7:30AM still feels better than sleeping in.

So, stop snoozing. Stop changing your wake-up times. Pick a time and stick to it. 

Step 2: Start Your Day With Some Music

It is very difficult for me to be sociable in the mornings. Often, I’d rather sit in silence than say a word to any of my housemates. Instead of wallowing in this kind of negative energy, set your tone with some music. It will blast you right out of the groggy, lethargic dreamworld you found yourself in and place you smack-dab in the centre of a great day.

Use the music to trade-off your inclination to check social media. Obviously, Facebook, Instagram and its devilish siblings are addictive and difficult to avoid, but starting your day with social media is comparable to drinking poison before a meal. Only negativity results. They will leave you feeling empty, asocial and inadequate (not to mention that social media has recently been shown to actually cause depression). If you need to check your social media during the day, then so be it, but leave that until after your morning routine is over.

Stop checking your social media accounts first thing in the morning. Start listening to music. And don’t be afraid to dance or sing along — life is short. 

Step 3: Eat a Massive Protein-Rich, Fat-Filled Breakfast

This may sound counterintuitive. You’ve probably heard stories about people who fast until lunchtime, or tales about the dangers of fats. But the truth is, there’s really only one big culprit when it comes to breakfast: carbohydrates. These sugar molecules are essential in your daily diet; however, when it comes to breakfast, avoid them like the plague.

It has been shown that starting your day off with a carbohydrate-filled breakfast is one of the worst things you can do for your mood. This is especially true if you are particularly prone to stress and negative emotion (this is called being neurotic, in the world of psychology). When you wake up, after having fasted for 8-12 hours, your blood sugar levels are minimal. So, when you go into your kitchen and shove down a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast, these carb-loaded meals mess with your blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar rises dramatically, and quickly. This causes a massive release of insulin (a hormone that mops up all of your blood sugar so your body can actually use it), and a corresponding decrease in blood sugar. This rollercoaster ride of blood sugar is profoundly disadvantageous for neurotic or stress-prone people. It leaves them more likely to respond to stressful stimuli in a very negative and anxious way.

Meanwhile, protein and fats are not as filled with sugar and are not digested as quickly as carbohydrates. This means that: 1) your blood sugar levels will not rise as dramatically, gram for gram; and 2) when your blood sugar levels do rise, and that sugar is taken up by your cells, it will happen over a much longer period of time. That stable rise and decrease in blood sugar is tightly related to increased emotional stability. Add that recommendation to an extremely large breakfast, and you have successfully set a stable and strong physiological tone – you’re not hungry, you’re not suffering from low blood sugar, and you’re one step closer to ruling your morning.

Some great morning options for protein-rich foods include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk and, of course, eggs. Meanwhile, some tasty fat-filled breakfast choices are avocados, feta cheese, goat cheese, mixed nuts, and butter.

Stop eating carbs in the morning. Start eating protein and fat-heavy food for breakfast. And a lot of it.

Step 4 (Optional): Hit the Gym

By this point you will be feeling pretty good. From a mental and physiological perspective, you have sent a message to yourself that you will be taking care of yourself today, and that this will prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead. The last step – which does wonders to boost you into that adrenaline-filled, productive state – is to hit the gym. Weightlifting and running are two of the best options available to you, as the former is a great long-term strategy to battle anxiety and neuroticism, while the latter provides you with an excellent post-workout high. Either way, if you have the time to get to the gym and pump some iron, there should be no excuse. Do it. It will improve your day substantially.

If you have the time, hit the gym. You might as well start your day by doing something productive. 

If you are able to complete these four steps, I can tell you from personal experience that there will not only be a notable difference in the quality of your mornings, but an outstanding improvement in the quality of your days. Over the long-term, that enhancement in the quality of your days will turn into an improved quality of life. So, rule your morning… It will get you one step closer to ruling your life.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

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