Routines are important; our brains seem to really like them. They can take pressure off our minds as we navigate through our daily tasks and are beneficial to improving overall mental health.
This November, campaigns like Movember strive to raise awareness for men’s health issues, and one of the more underrepresented in mainstream conversations is Mental Health. Suicide is one of the top killers of men in the US, and even if you struggle with less severe consequences of mental illness, it can have a significant impact on your life.
Morning routines can help you to start your day off right by providing you with peace of mind and improved mental clarity. Moreover, going through the motions of the morning mindfully can help to wake your brain up without any coffee! In this article, we’re going to look at some ways you can set up your morning routine to improve your mental health.
Keep Your Phone Away
For many people, the first thing to get their attention in the morning is their little black mirror. Unfortunately, that’s one of the worst ways to start your morning. Keeping in mind the detrimental effects social media has on our mental health, checking first thing in the morning can compound stress and anxiety.
Checking your phone right after you wake up causes you to focus on outside stimuli, instead of taking time to mentally prepare and set a more positive tone for the day ahead. Thinking about your friend’s Facebook drama, or what some politician said on Twitter, can distract you from what’s important.
It’s okay to stay informed and connected, but try to refrain from reaching for your phone first thing by leaving it in another room before heading off to bed. This rule should also apply to your computer, tablet, gaming consoles and television as well. Developing healthier relationships with your technology can be one of the first steps towards improved mental health.
Talk to Someone
Humans are social animals, even if men are told they’re supposed to be stoic and a lone wolf. Spend some time talking about how you’re feeling in the morning. Externally processing your thoughts and laying out your day can be really beneficial to organizing your thoughts and decreasing anxiety. If you live with a partner or roommate, try to have a quick chat with them before rushing off to work.
If you’re really struggling, consider seeing a therapist and having your appointments in the morning. This probably won’t be part of your daily routine, but with flexible online therapy readily available, you can have your appointments easily accessible before your commute. Some therapists feel that therapy done at the beginning of the day can be more beneficial than when done later in the day, as you are more likely to be focused on longer term issues. If you already see a therapist, consider switching to an earlier time, and if not, think about if therapy is right for you.
Drink Some Water
Drinking water first thing in the morning sets your day off for success by keeping you hydrated. While it’s not everyone’s first choice in the morning (we’ll talk about coffee later, don’t worry), it is important for your health.
Overnight, your body loses up to a liter of water leaving you dehydrated in the morning. Recovering that is vital for setting your day up right, as being dehydrated is not good for your mental health. If your brain doesn’t have the water it needs, it can’t function properly.
Moreover, dehydration has been linked to multiple mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and can cause headaches, brain fog, and fatigue. Prefill a large water bottle and keep it by your bed, so it’s ready right when you wake up. Even having just a cold glass of water first thing sets your brain up with the hydration it needs and has a long-lasting, positive impact on your day.
Switch to Tea
While coffee first thing in the morning can feel great, it’s not the best for your mental health. Caffeine can raise your cortisol levels, which is the chemical associated with stress. Moreover, it increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which does help wake you up, but also can increase anxiety levels.
That’s not to say caffeine should be totally dropped, however. Coffee has a number of proven health benefits. However, in the morning, it can be beneficial to not rely on stimulants to get you going. Black teas, like earl gray or English breakfast, have significantly less caffeine if you need to wean yourself off of coffee or other highly caffeinated beverages. Otherwise, think about turning to something herbal, like chamomile, if you want a warm mug to hold.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
Skipping any meal can be detrimental, however starting your day off right with breakfast has many health benefits, not the least of which is improving your mental wellbeing. Studies have shown that taking the time for just a bowl of cereal can have a positive effect, and people who did were less likely to be depressed and have lower levels of perceived stress.
If you have trouble making time in the morning, try to keep food on hand that can be eaten on the go. Granola bars, apples, or a meal-replacement shake on your morning commute can set your day up for success.
Move Your Body
Getting in the habit of starting your day with exercise can sound dreadful and might seem like the most difficult thing on this list. However, the many health benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. On top of that, they can have a compounding, positive effect on your mental health when done in conjunction with the other suggestions on the list.
While many love to start off with a run, your workout doesn't need to be that intense. Less demanding workouts can have a dramatic effect on your mental health. Try taking 10 minutes in the morning to do some stretching. There are a lot of benefits of morning yoga for men, like reduced stress levels, improved concentration, and healthier posture and mobility.
If you don’t have a morning routine already, take the initiative to set one up with some of these tips. They can have a real impact on your mental health and wellbeing. With Movember upon us, take some time to think about the unhealthy morning habits you might have, and see if you can replace them with some of the more mentally beneficial ones in this list. Having a healthy morning routine can be the first step towards the life you want and deserve.