How You Start Your Day Matters
And a lot more than you may think.
We already know that the right morning actions can make us more productive and successful.
Just take a look at any high-achieving entrepreneur that we look up to as a society: they all have their own morning routine that optimizes their clarity and energy for the upcoming day.
But beyond setting us up to get more done, starting our day strategically can greatly increase our physical health, our mental well-being, and add years to the long, happy life that we are working so hard to create.
The problem is, even if we have a routine in place, most people are still sabotaging their health, vitality, and well-being by overlooking some critical components when structuring their mornings.
By allowing ourselves to be exposed to certain stimuli early in the day, we are letting our brains fall into an anticipatory response mode which causes a cascade of stress hormones and chemicals to flow through our mind and body. Consistently creating this type of chemical environment inside of our body can not only sabotage our productivity and energy levels for the day, but it can also have long-term side effects on our physical health and mental well-being.
Without getting too nerdy about the neuroscience here, we need to quickly discuss the body’s stress response and how it impacts the success you can achieve…and how long you’ll live to enjoy it.
Our brains are trained to react powerfully to the external stimuli that appear in our environment.
When we were cavemen and women, this overly protective survival mechanism helped keep us on high-alert when danger was lurking in abundance. If something or someone jumped out to attack us, we could quickly enter fight-or-flight mode to greatly increase our chances of not getting eaten.
This mechanism still exists today, although the threats are a lot less prevalent.
And when this stress-response is initiated every so often, it’s not a big deal.
Our bodies create short-term chemicals like adrenaline to get us pumped to handle whatever threat is around us.
But when this stress-response is initiated frequently, our bodies can’t keep producing high levels of adrenaline, so they settle for making the stress hormone cortisol. Consistently putting ourselves in situations that increase the amounts of cortisol that are flowing through our body expose us to a slew of physical and mental side effects:
It weakens our immune systems (so we got sick more often).
It decreases our thyroid function (so we gain unhealthy weight which leads a whole plethora of further health implications).
It makes us more susceptible to mental depressive disorders (so we don’t enjoy the life we are working so hard to build).
When we allow reactive stimuli to barge into our world, especially in the morning, we are setting ourselves up to experience the harmful side effects of cortisol throughout the entire day. In order to address this quickly, we need to create boundaries with our morning routine to downregulate the cortisol flowing through our body.
First, let’s identify some of the external stimuli in our world that are causing our human stress response to grossly overreact.
Start thinking about any quick and intrusive updates that make us think our attention is immediately required.
Hmmmm, let’s think…..what could it possibly be?
Oh wait, there are smartphones.
They are literally engineered to be as stimulating as possible, so as a rule, you should probably avoid them while starting your day.
Don’t respond to texts or check emails first thing in the morning (if it’s insanely urgent, they will just call you a million times).
Don’t check the latest headline on CNN or your news app of choice (as a sales technique, these headlines are created to prey on your brain’s overprotective tendencies….don’t let them win).
And, please, do not check social media.
Super intelligent scientists are paid millions of dollars to make these apps as addicting as possible so that you view as many advertisements as possible. (I could write an entire article about this, but for now, just trust me. The social media update can wait until lunch.)
By checking updates and responding to messages, you immediately put your brain into a reactionary mode where it freaks out, wasting valuable energy and clarity.
Take Your Life off of Autopilot
Intentionally removing these sources of stimuli in the morning will give your brain the chance to start the day on its own terms.
You set yourself up for success and happiness when you start your day proactively instead of reactively.
When you create space in your morning to actually catch your breath, you create clarity to develop your priorities in a peaceful and productive way.
When you intentionally start your day in a distraction-free way, you create more time to connect with the passion that fuels your purpose.
You get a chance to express gratitude for all the good things in your life (you woke up and have breath in your lungs, not a bad start).
You give yourself the opportunity to masterfully plan and create a day that will serve you and your goals instead of one that will stress you out and shorten your lifespan.
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.