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Morning Routine: Recipe for Motivation

by Mary Laughlin

Our level of motivation is closely tied to our mental health, especially for those struggling with depression or anxiety. Seemingly endless winter days can make it especially challenging. 

Routines, on the other hand, can create energy and the positive reward (dopamine!) that are brains are often searching for when we are feeling unmotivated. One completed task often leads to another, propelling us in forward motion and giving us the motivation we need as a byproduct.

Consider the following list for creating your own morning routine recipe. Then, write it down and put it on your fridge or bathroom mirror. You could even assign times to when you are going to do things. Get creative with the format and give yourself permission to add to the routine as you regain motivation!

  • Morning mantra: This is what you say to yourself when you wake up. A friend I know says “It’s a great day and I feel terrific.” Other’s that I’ve heard are based on poems, religious teaching, or simply “5, 4, 3, 2, 1….Go!” Whatever it is, consider words that you want to be true, even if you don’t necessarily believe them at the moment. This idea is loosely based off of Cognitive Behavioral Theory, or the idea that our thoughts affect our emotions, which affect our behaviors (and our motivation!). 
  • Morning pages: This is a term coined by author Julia Cameron that helps people tap into their subconscious and connect with their truest self. The idea is to write three pages without editing yourself. You can write about anything that comes to mind during. The purpose is to both notice, write, and help clear cluttering thoughts so that you are more attuned in your day. For more information, listen to the author here describe the process (Cameron, 2016). 
  • Meditation: This could be as simple as sitting in a comfortable spot for a few minutes and focusing on one word, phrase, or religious writing that is meaningful for you. Notice if your thoughts drift to other things, and then gently redirect your focus back to your word or phrase. Check out recent research on the benefits of meditation or utilize a guided meditation like this video or this  faith-based meditation. 
  • Move: Get moving. If possible, a short walk outside where your eyes can face the morning light. Walking may be the most underrated form of movement, but in the psychology world, is known to have multiple benefits for your motivation, mental health, and even resetting your circadian rhythm. Did you know, for example, that getting just 10 minutes of horizontal light from the morning sun can help you get a better nights sleep- which could, in turn, affect your level of motivation the next day! Other options might include gentle stretching, a “10 minute tidying” of your home or office space, or doing the same number of pushups as the calendar date. 
  • Three things: Get out a legal pad, your calendar, or the notepad app and write down your three most important goals for the day. 
  • Before your cup of joe, try H20. It may sound cheesy, but cheesy helps us remember, right? In full disclosure, this is one of my new goals. I’ve been a long time coffee-first-thing-in-the-morning drinker, but also know hydration is key to good mental health. Recent research has even shown a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms when individuals are properly hydrated (or rehydrated). 

What’s in your morning routine recipe?

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