Have you ever attempted to workout in the morning, do some self-care at night, or an activity midday, but life’s demands take it away? We’ve all been caught in this dilemma. In our minds, there is simply not enough time to do everything, let alone, do the things that are good for us AND make us happy.
The truth is, there IS time to focus on YOU.
And the secret to finding that time lies in how you structure your morning and evening routine. Some of you may be working, others taking care of kids, others running errands. Or maybe it’s a little bit of everything. Or maybe you’re one of those few lucky folks that have time in the day, but you still can’t seem to structure it in a way that’s fulfilling for you. Whichever the case may be for you, we all thrive off of routines that support our lifestyle.
Follow my 5 simple steps below in building a morning/evening routine that is not only satisfying and long-lasting, but that will help you feel better, sleep better and ultimately be more productive.
1 — Find Your “Why” and hold on to it.
Ever wonder why it’s so easy for some people to jump out of bed in the morning and be ready to take on the day? It’s not because that person has life all figured out or that they have an endless supply of dopamine. It’s simply because they’ve uncovered that one spark of joy, their “why”, that gets them excited and going for the day. This could be someone’s vision to look more toned and fit therefore motivating them to hit the gym at 5 am. Or, it could be someone’s desire for peace and tranquility, prompting them to take a stroll every morning and evening to catch the sunrise and sunset.
In fact, we could have multiple whys and our whys are evolving every day. Whatever your why is, discover it and don’t let it go. The more we can visualize and obsess over what makes us happy, the more motivation and willpower we’ll have to do the things that help shift those dreams into reality. Finding your why is crucial for building a healthy routine because it is ultimately what your routine will revolve around to keep it alive and running.
2 — Optimize Sleep
Would you rather have time for yourself in the morning or evening? For many, the demands of the day either drive us into feeling lazy in the evening or trying to accomplish everything we couldn’t get to earlier in the day. Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, the early morning hours are the best time to do energy and focused-driven tasks and the evening time is best for rest, self-care and winding down from the day (without tech). Why does this matter? Because how we use our morning and evening time directly impacts our sleep and what impacts our sleep impacts our circadian rhythm.
Our circadian rhythm (the 24-hour built-in clock that helps us function during the day) has a huge impact on how we feel and how we sleep at night. The solution? Align your wake time and bedtime in accordance with sunrise and sunset. This means waking up right before sunrise and going to bed (and eating) no more than two hours after sunset. This can help reset our circadian clocks, lower and stabilize blood sugar and balance hormones – specifically your cortisol and thyroid hormones. And the result? You’ll feel happier, healthier and more productive to take on the things you’ve always wanted to. Bottom line: go to bed as early as you can, sleep between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am (the best hours for REM), wake up before sunrise, if possible. In the end, you may very well feel like you’re one step ahead of the world, because the truth is, by doing all of this, you are.
3 — Optimize Light Exposure
We typically think of ways to improve our sleep, but not many of us think about how to improve light exposure when building a healthy routine. Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning is absolutely essential to mental and physical health. Why? It triggers the timed release of cortisol (a healthy level of cortisol) into our system, which acts as a wake up signal and promotes wakefulness and focus throughout the day. It also starts a timer for the onset of melatonin later on. Now, you may be wondering, can you look through a window to get sunlight? This isn’t as effective, mostly because windows filter out a lot of wavelengths of blue light that are essential for stimulating the eyes and the wake up signal.
Another form of light therapy is catching the sunrise and sunset each morning and evening. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that waking up right before sunrise and catching dawn (the time before sunrise) has an enormous positive effect on our mental state. Unfortunately, for many working from home or working night shifts, doing this can be challenging. That’s why it’s vital to keep your workspace well lit during the day and dimmed during the night and to avoid artificial light from the hours of 10PM to 4AM, if possible. And, if you aren’t in those unique situations but you still plan to be on tech or keep the lights on, do your best to minimize screen time and artificial lighting or use orange-tinted bluelight blocking glasses. All of these methods will help protect your eyes and keep your hormones in check.
4 — Master Your 5 Core Habits
When creating a healthy morning and evening routine that is long-lasting, it can be tempting to try to load a bunch of tasks or activities into those periods of the day which can end up being unrealistic to commit to in the long run.
That’s why starting small (in anything really) is key to long-term success! Choose 5 core healthy habits that you want to master for a while when establishing a solid morning and evening structure. For example, the morning could look like (1) drinking water upon waking, (2) hitting the gym (3) eating breakfast (4) journaling (5) meditating or praying. The evening could look like (1) Not checking your email past a certain time (2) taking a walk (3) eating a healthy meal/not eating after a certain time (4) doing a low-intensity activity with your kids (5) getting to bed by 9:30 or 10pm.
When we start small and focus on mastering a select number of things for a given period, we increase our ability to take on and master more later. And even if we don’t master more, sticking to your core 5 will surely fulfill you and provide you with peace of mind knowing that you accomplished them and the day didn’t sweep them away. And if 5 habits to tackle in the morning and in the evening are too much, work with what you can manage and accomplish and build up from there. Remember: progress, not perfection.
5 — Maintain & Revise (but don’t give up)
This step is probably the hardest, because it depends on keeping up with all 4 steps above. Of course, you are going to have days where you may want to sleep in those extra couple of hours, or stay up those extra couple of hours. Or you might want to throw the whole routine out the window and just do what feels right in that chunk of time. The fact of the matter is you can! Life isn’t perfect nor are the routines we put in place for ourselves.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to how you structure your time, because the time is yours and you know what works best. But, if you are wanting to commit to a routine for the long run and master it, here are my few tips (1) don’t beat yourself up if the routine fails (2) bring in support whether that’s your partner, your child, your best friend or anyone else that can help you get back on track (3) Listen to your mind and body. You aren’t going to feel the same way everyday and that’s ok. Learn to work with what you’ve got and tune into how you’re feeling (4) And lastly, assess what’s working and what isn’t and learn to pivot and adapt. This is where true growth and opportunity come into play.
A Final Word on Establishing Routines
Routines are essential to humans and our way of living. We are hardwired for structure and simplicity. The key to building sustainable routines, believe it or not, really lies in what I mentioned in step #5. Keep it exciting, keep it interesting, keep it fresh and keep it YOU without giving yourself a headache. Just like we can get bored of eating the same thing everyday, we can get bored of the same activities we pile onto our plate. With that said, leave room for flexibility and variety and you will be well on your way to becoming a routine ninja!
Written by Health Coach Lydia, NBC-HWC