After one too many mornings spent doomscrolling in bed, writer Nupur Trivedi decided to reclaim her day. Here’s how she learned to start the morning on a positive note.
When you read articles about how the most successful people start their day, none of them mention sleeping through three alarms, leisurely drinking two cups of coffee while still in bed, and mindlessly trawl through social media for an hour or more. I’ve never read of a hot shot CEO doomscrolling right after waking up and then going on to have a positive and productive day. Nor have I read about anyone starting their day in a good mood after seeing the latest inane Twitter feud first thing in the morning.
But this is exactly what my mornings have been like this winter, and I have no doubt that Arianna Huffington would disapprove. This routine that I’ve unintentionally fallen into – one that’s spurred on by lockdown and cold mornings – has left me feeling lethargic, lazy, and anxious. Staying in bed on my phone for an hour after I wake up makes me feel more tired than if I had just gotten up straight away. I’ve noticed that beginning my day with emails, notifications, and awful news headlines makes me feel overwhelmed and puts me in a negative headspace that I carry with me for the rest of the day.
“A good way to start your day is with a positive frame of mind. So, regardless of whatever external input you’re exposed to or that you’ve chosen to put into your brain, if you’re feeling positive and determined to start your day in a happy and constructive way, that’s your best defence against anything life can throw at you,” social psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley told me.
My current routine definitely doesn’t fit this bill, so I sought a solution which came in the form of the book The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8AM by Hal Elrod.
The book’s premise sounded effective enough to me, but I couldn’t stop cringing at how utterly hyperbolic it was. It reads like a parody of a self-help book, complete with testimonials from people who have tried the routine and resulted in losing a huge amount of weight, finding their life partner, making loads of money, and unlocking their personal power – all in less than two months! Right, I wasn’t convinced this morning routine would completely transform my life over night, but if it could at least help me have a more productive morning, I was ready to give it a go.
I’m not one for self-help books, so I skimmed through the pages and went straight to the good stuff: the six habits. These six habits are silence (or rather, meditation), affirmations, visualisation, exercise, reading, and scribing (ie journaling). Which fit into the memorable little acronym of SAVERS.
Admittedly, I was actually excited to dive in and see if this new morning routine could help me to have a more positive day – especially the meditation and exercise part.
Meditation is something that I’ve tried sporadically but have never kept up with – even though I’ve always wanted to commit to it. I spoke to Suryagupta, chair of the London Buddhist Centre, to see what benefits a morning meditation might have on my mental health.
“We have been asleep for several hours; maybe dreaming, maybe restful, maybe not. So, by starting the day meditating, we give ourselves the chance to really wake up, to know how we are doing, to process the night or the previous day. We have a chance to start the day afresh, both emotionally and mentally, and with a clearer mind and a more open heart. We never really know what will unfold during our day, so to begin with these qualities can be both useful and deeply supportive in orienting us how to act.”
That sounds much better than starting the day with a mind full of stressful news and emails. So I began each day with the Insight Timer app to do different 10-minute guided meditations. It usually took me a few minutes to quiete my mind, and I don’t think I ever did it completely, but even that little bit combined with some deep breathing left me feeling more calm than when I had started.
I never tried affirmations before, but had heard about it from Dr Deepika Chopra, an optimism doctor on Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh podcast. However, Chopra explained that blanket statement affirmations don’t work – they have to be specific and detailed. With this in mind, I went for an affirmation on wanting to achieve more in my job and with my fitness.
While standing in front of a mirror, I proclaimed: “I am committed to becoming a better runner every day.” In my head I sounded strong and confident, but out loud I mumbled it quietly, afraid my boyfriend would hear me from the next room and have a giggle.
To be honest, I only tried the affirmations for three days and for about 15 seconds each day. Frankly, I felt silly talking to myself in the mirror, trying to subconsciously make myself a better runner or writer. I know that affirmations work really well for a lot of people, but I think I might be a bit too cynical to commit to it myself. But I did have more luck with the next step: visualisation.
On that same podcast, Dr Chopra, who is also a visual imagery expert, talks about how the brain doesn’t know the difference between you thinking about something and you actually doing it. This is what makes visualisation an effective tool for achieving things. “If you can visualise something, it is much more likely that your brain is going to think that it can happen, and it will put forth the energy to make it happen,” says Dr Chopra.
Again, I decided to focus my efforts around improving my running and to be as specific as possible.
I’m training for a half marathon at the moment, so I looked up the finish line of the race that I’m training for. Then I sat down, closed my eyes and visualised myself running towards it. I imagined what the weather might be like, how the sun will feel on my skin, and seeing my family standing at the end cheering me on.
I quite enjoyed the visualisation step in this routine. I did it for about one minute each day and it really did make me feel like reaching that goal is more attainable. That race isn’t until September, so it’s yet to be determined how successful this visualisation exercises has been, but it has motivated me during my training runs, which are steps towards achieving the big goal.
After visualisations, I moved on to journaling (referred to as scribing) and reading.
The benefits of journaling are manifold, ranging from helping to process traumatic events to simply clarifying thoughts and stresses that occupy the mind. I actually used to write in a journal everyday but fell out of the habit over the last year. So I really enjoyed picking up this habit again.
Intentionally dedicating 10 minutes of my morning routine to getting my thoughts down on paper has been so effective in helping to clear my mind in the morning and to also get back into the habit of writing more frequently.
In The Miracle Morning, author Elrod suggests reading self-help books to inspire you. I can only handle one self-help book at a time, so instead I’ve been opting for The Best of A.A. Gill, a collection of articles by the legendary journalist – inspirational to me in my own way because it helps motivate me to be creative and continue writing. I set an alarm for 10 minutes for this step as well, but often find myself exceeding that time.
Reading in the morning has a different purpose for me than the other steps in the Miracle Morning routine. With the other parts, I’m taking actions that clear my mind, readying it to be open to what’s ahead. But reading feels more like I’m booting up my brain, filling it with thoughts and inspiration to take into my day and, as a writer, into my work. I also take genuine pleasure in reading, so starting my day with it feels like a nice way to enjoy myself.
I save exercise for last in my morning routine. I’m already doing half marathon training runs which involve four runs per week, so I thought I’d add a short yoga session (usually a morning stretch video by Yoga with Kassandra) on my days off of running. It’s been a nice way to stretch out the kinks and knots in my body after a night of sleep. Yoga has also become another tool in helping me to clear my mind.
Altogether, this routine takes me about 40-50 minutes to complete. Apart from the affirmations and visualisations, I do each step for about 10 minutes – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending how I feel – but those times work for me and my schedule. The book doesn’t suggest any set amount of time you should do each step, but I’ve learned that even spending just a few minutes doing each could offer benefits.
After doing this routine every day for a week, I do feel happier and lighter throughout the day. Journaling and meditation especially, make my mind feel more clear and ready to take on the day’s challenges – while reading relaxes me and puts me in a good mood.
On top of that, simply doing positive actions in the morning provided a sense of achievement and pride that I carry with me throughout the entire day – and it’s all before breakfast so have the rest of my day to do as I please.
I may have dropped affirmations from my routine, but if I can keep up with at least five out of six of these habits, I’m still setting my mornings up to be more successful than they were when I was starting the day hitting snooze or going down a social media rabbit hole. And I can always try to pick affirmations up on the days that I need it the most.
In the end, I’ve found that The Miracle Morning routine is working for me, and it’s something I plan on continuing in some iteration every day going forward – at least during the working week. Sure, the draw of staying in bed when I wake up is still there, but weighing up the pros and cons is an easy motivator to get me up and ready to start the day on the right foot.
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