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6 morning habits for a better day — and life

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I get asked a lot about my morning health routine that I wrote about in my book.

I’ve found that having a set morning routine is fundamental to preparing for the events and challenges of the day. What you do (and moreover — what you don’t do) in that period immediately after you wake can put you on a path to a stronger and healthier day.

Your morning habits may not mirror mine, and they don’t have to. But if you need some tips on how to get up on the right side of the bed, I’m glad to share what’s working for me.

Here are my 6 morning habits (in the specific order that I follow immediately on waking):

  • I don’t check email or social networks for at least 45 minutes. Your social and work communications have been on hold (hopefully) for a full 7 hours of sleep — and they can wait another 45 minutes (or more!). Resist the temptation to dive down the rabbit hole of the latest cat or [insert mindless title here] video. Checking your email also sets you off on the path of “I must answer that now — it can’t wait!” rather than allowing you to focus on preparing yourself for the day. Nothing is usually that urgent that it can’t wait. Which brings me to my second task…..
  • I meditate. This is without question the #1 one thing that prepares me for the day ahead — which I do immediately upon waking. I keep my meditation mat next to my bed and roll straight on to it at 5.30am. I could write pages and pages on the benefits of meditation but just trust me — you need to start doing it. For beginners I recommend using the Headspace app. It’s 10 minutes a day and a great introduction to the practice. And once you get a basic understanding you can develop your own practice and spend more time on it (I do 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night). Meditation provides the foundation on which to build clarity of thought and purpose. It helps manage anxiety, stress, and depression — as well as having many other proven benefits for your health. It’s like eating Brussels sprouts — you know you should be doing it right! So start tomorrow!
    1. I meditate. This is without question the #1 one thing that prepares me for the day ahead — which I do immediately upon waking. I keep my meditation mat next to my bed and roll straight on to it at 5.30am. I could write pages and pages on the benefits of meditation but just trust me — you need to start doing it. For beginners I recommend using the Headspace app. It’s 10 minutes a day and a great introduction to the practice. And once you get a basic understanding you can develop your own practice and spend more time on it (I do 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night). Meditation provides the foundation on which to build clarity of thought and purpose. It helps manage anxiety, stress, and depression — as well as having many other proven benefits for your health. It’s like eating Brussels sprouts — you know you should be doing it right! So start tomorrow!
    2. I roll out. Now that my mind is taken care of I move to my body. I’ve been immobile for 7 hours and it’s time to warm things up. What’s the first thing I focus on? My feet. Probably not what you expected right! But your feet are the nerve triggers to stimulate pretty much every part of your body. I use these little torture devices — a stick foot wheel massager — and keep them spread around my home and office so I can jump on them whenever I can. I also use a golf ball for that next level of masochism. A good foot roll involves the type of pain you will grow to love.
    3. I journal. I’ll let you in on a well-kept secret: A pen and paper can serve as a powerful life tool. I started journaling first thing in the morning about 7 months ago after listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast on “The Five Minute Journal” — which is what I now use to record my daily thoughts and intentions. Journaling allows you to start (and end) the day with a positive focus and expression of gratitude. With just five minutes a day you can create empowering habits that drive positive change in your life. Most of my journaling and affirmations are around two things: being “better” and making “progress”. Better in all aspects of life, and progress towards my goals and ambitions. Those are the two key principles that drive my life and which I affirm every day in my journal. I love it — and I’ve given copies to a lot of my closest friends (oh, “note to self” — that’s a good reminder for Christmas presents).
    4. I test. I’m not diabetic but I test my blood sugar every morning before eating using a blood sugar test kit. I keep a close eye on my blood sugar as it’s a key metric of health and how my body is responding to my diet and exercise program. I tend to wander in and out of being pre-diabetic in my blood test readings so it’s important for me to know what’s influencing an elevated reading on the test. I can then look back at the previous 12 hours and make adjustments to my lifestyle/diet to get me back on track. I also do 2 other tests: I use a Bluetooth heart rate monitor and the SweetBeat Heart Rate Variability app to determine the state of my immune system. HRV measures the stress load on your nervous system and provides an indication as to how hard you can exercise; or whether to take the day off. And I also measure my Ketones in a urine test to determine if my body is burning fat or sugar — again, so I can make the appropriate lifestyle/diet adjustments to get me back in a fat burning state. I’m fanatic about testing. I also just got my latest testosterone results back that showed a 9% increase to 893 ng/dl since my last test 3 months ago (I’m 53) so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing as it seems to be working!
    5. I fuel. Only after all the above do I turn my attention to fueling. For me, every day is different — and my nutrition is driven by what I’m going to be doing that day. If I’m going to be sitting on the 405 in traffic for 4 hours I probably don’t need to eat. But if I’m doing an obstacle course training session that morning then I need to fuel appropriately for that. My message is you should “fuel for the day”. Eat (or don’t) what you think will provide you with adequate nutrition depending on the specific day ahead. You don’t need to eat a standard breakfast every day. You need to eat whatever is required to fuel you — period. And that depends on whether your day is sedentary or has you sprinting hills or lifting weights or just walking the dog. You don’t need to eat what you’ve been conditioned to eat (eggs every day) or on the timetable you’ve been conditioned to (3 set meals? Where did this come from anyway?). So think about what your day holds for you. And think about what you need to fuel you through that day. For me, sometimes breakfast is just a tablespoon of coconut fat. Other times I need more. It all depends.

    That’s it — my morning routine. The key for me is creating a place of calm before the day starts. That’s why it’s so important to not rush down the digital rabbit-hole and to use that first 45 minutes upon waking to set the framework for the rest of the day. My morning routine is like exercise — if I don’t do it, I know I won’t be as productive throughout the rest day — and the benefits I get from sticking to it far outweigh the time lost from doing it

 

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