Top 10 Morning Routines to bring Lifestyle Medicine into your life
Updated: Sep 23
With schools and universities going back and a feeling of routines starting again, what better time to create some new good habits.
As doctors and healthcare professionals, we have a lot on our plate and many of us find having a good routine is crucial. It can help with productivity and efficiency, and often starting the day well can lead to a much better day as a whole. Morning time can be the perfect time to practice some Lifestyle Medicine on yourself!
How good is your morning routine? If you want to enhance it then read on!
After a good night’s sleep, our body and mind are rested and ready to take on the day. Whilst we have been sleeping, our creativity has been allowed to roam free and we can come up with great ideas and solutions. A morning routine can potentially hold on to some of that creativity and take it forward into your day.
There are significant hurdles to those benefits however, with research now demonstrating that within 15 minutes of waking, 89% of us reach for our smartphone (Deloitte, 2017).
Instead of turning to a loved one and say good morning, have a nice stretch and look out the window we could falling into the trap of reaching for our phone. We check our never-ending emails, we check our likes on social media, and we check our messages to see if we've missed anything. Once we have seen those inevitable notifications, it serves to lead our mind down a path of all the things we need to do today that we should have done yesterday…Stressful!
What can we do differently?
So enough on the current problem, what can we do differently to bring Lifestyle Medicine into our lives right from the moment we wake up?
Whilst there are 10 recommended habits here, we are not suggesting that from tomorrow you add them all to a morning to-do list. That would definitely defeat the purpose of reducing stress! How about starting with one that resonates with you most, try it for 4 weeks and see if feels right? If not, try a different routine. If it feels great, bring something else in. Note how you feel each morning! These tips are not only for us as doctors and healthcare professionals, but also for our patients and families.
#1 - Stop using your phone as an alarm clock
Okay this is probably the first thing to consider. If our phone is our alarm, then it is almost impossible not to make it the first thing we look at each morning. Consider getting a small bedside clock (preferably not digital to reduce the melatonin-draining light in your face all night!). If you really cannot bear the thought of not having your phone by your side, then at least keep your phone on airplane mode - the alarm will still work and you avoid seeing the notifications.
#2 - Say goodnight to your phone
If you have managed to get a separate alarm clock then the next thing to consider is keeping your bedroom a phone-free zone. It can charge overnight in a different room, where you won't be tempted to check it first thing. A recent study has found that moving your smartphone outside of your bedroom leads to higher levels of happiness and better quality of life, with over 90% of participants at least considering keeping the phones out of the bedroom following the study (Hughes. N & Burke. J, 2018).
#3 - Keep a pen and paper or a journal next to your bed Try doing just 5 minutes of journaling first thing in the morning. It might be to jot down some ideas you have had overnight, write down 3 things you are grateful for or just offload how you are feeling. Journaling is such a great Lifestyle Medicine tip to give us a few precious minutes to focus solely on ourselves, hopefully reducing our stress and encouraging better habits for the rest of the day.
#4 - Rehydrate
We often don’t think about it but if you sleep for 8 hours, that’s 8 hours without taking a drink. You will be dehydrated even if you don't feel it! Keeping a glass of water by your bedside to rehydrate first thing is a great way to start your day and a super simple habit to get into.
#5 - Affirmations
Statements that begin "I am" can be really helpful in framing your day. It might be something you don't really believe, but want to, or a value that is really important to you. Having just 1 or 2 affirmations to read aloud each day can be incredibly powerful.
Ideally keep affirmations short. "I am productive and efficient", "I am energetic" or "I am intentional in my decisions" are all great examples.
#6 - Mindfulness
Mindfulness does not have to be meditation. It can be taking 5 minutes to look out the window, or when you drink that glass of water first thing, doing so without distraction. It might be noticing every little thing about your first coffee of the day – what it looks like, smells like and tastes like.
For some people however, mindful breathing can be an excellent tool to build into your morning routine, allowing you to focus and be ready for a busy day ahead. Mindful breathing comes in different forms, for example you can breathe in for 3 and out for 3, or try box breathing or alternate nostril breathing.
Mindfulness has been shown to be an excellent tool for boosting productivity and decision-making capacity, and lots of large companies are investing in mindfulness support for their employees (Ribera. A & Guillén. J, 2014). In fact, I feel it is one of the easiest and most beneficial Lifestyle Medicine tips to give yourself and your patients as it is so flexible and quick, yet has loads of benefits! It’s something we have previously published a blog post on courtesy of Dr Daisy Kumar, as well as delved into deeper in our online course with Dr Lisa Thomas.
#7 - Movement
Morning is a great time to get some movement in, even if it's just 5-10 minutes. That doesn't have to be a HIIT session (although well done if it is!). It can be some simple stretches, gentle yoga, or a walk around your garden. Exercise is one of the cornerstones of Lifestyle Medicine and fitting it in during a morning routine can really set you up for the rest of your day. If you are a junior doctor you might still be getting 10,000 steps in your day in the hospital. If you are a GP and using the call board to call in patients it might be challenging to move enough in one day. It might seem non time efficient to walk to call patients in but you may find you have more energy doing this and end up more productive. More of us are going to meetings online now or seeing patients remotely so this will reduce our movement even more. Again building in some movement breaks into the day may leave you feeling more energised.
#8 - Reading
So many of us have books we haven't found time to get stuck into it. By the end of a busy day we often feel tired and our brains and eyes can't handle more time concentrating. In the morning however, try reading one chapter or 5 pages of a book. This is all about taking those first few minutes of the day for ourselves.
#9 - Fresh air
At the moment, many of us are working from home. Unlike when we were at the office or clinic, this can mean even less time outside if we aren't even walking across the car park! Opening the window first thing or having your breakfast outside (even on the doorstep!) lets you get some beautiful fresh air, first thing, before your mind gets busy.
#10 - Set intentions for the day ahead
Whilst we want to build a routine that's relaxing, we’re also aware that our days come with an influx of requests to respond to, notifications we need to be aware of and constant demands. Starting the day by creating some intentions - things we absolutely need to achieve that day, can be really helpful in creating structure. It can help us remain focused and reduce procrastination if we know what we need to check off that list.
And that's it! My top 10 tips to build a morning routine that will bring you happiness, introduce some Lifestyle Medicine to your day and boost your productivity!
We would love to hear from you about what worked and how you've adapted these tips to suit you.
Tag us into any social media posts and share our blog if these tips would help your friends.
Deloitte, 2017, UK public are ‘glued to smartphones’ as device adoption reaches new heights [online], available at https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/uk-public-glued-to-smartphones.html, accessed on 6th June 2020
Hughes. N & Burke. J, 2018, Sleeping with the frenemy: How restricting ‘bedroom use’ of smartphones impacts happiness and wellbeing, Computers in Human Behaviour, 85, pp 236-244
Ribera. A & Guillén. J, 2014, Mindfulness: Multiply productivity through undivided attention [online], available at https://mindfullife.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Article-IESE.edu-Mindfulness-multiply-productivity-through-undivided-attantion.pdf, accessed on 6th June 2020
By Dr Katie Blissard Barnes
Content Writer at Inspired Medics
Edited by Dr Angela Goyal
About the author - Dr Katie Blissard Barnes
Psychiatry Trainee in Leeds
Dr Katie Blissard Barnes is a Core Trainee in Psychiatry and Content Writer for Inspired Medics. She has a keen interest in Lifestyle Medicine alongside Environmentalism and Public Mental Health. She was co-author of a chapter of The Oxford Handbook of Public Mental Health - “Occupational health and Public Mental Health”. She has also completed a Sports & Exercise Nutritional Advisor course and holds an Online Mindfulness Certificate with The School of Psychology.