One of the high points of the past few years is the attention we’ve put on mental health. Finally, after centuries of neglect and stigma, we’ve placed value on taking care of our minds, moods, emotions, and general mental wellbeing. And to ensure we’re doing our part to take care of our mental health, it’s essential to have mental health hygiene in your life — the routines and rituals you have in place to take care of yourself and support your mood, including your morning rituals. Are you setting yourself up for success?
The Importance of Morning Rituals
You might think it’s a trend (especially with so many TikTok stars and influencers sharing their own morning routine), but mental health professionals swear by morning rituals and healthy habits when it comes to maintaining a happy, peaceful, stress-resilient mind. And given that our world is particularly stressful lately, why not put a little more emphasis on something as simple (and powerful) as a morning routine?
Ahead, six morning rituals (and a bonus tip!) from three incredible clinical psychologists — experts in the field of mental health and wellness.
6 Best Morning Rituals According to Mental Health Experts
#1 Don’t Check Your Phone
Have a firm no-work boundary in the morning. “Morning is one of my favorite times of the day, so I try to protect it from work,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D. To achieve this, he sets a mantra… of sorts! “My go-to statements to myself are typically ‘Nope,’ and ‘Not now,’” he explains. “I want to determine the pace and subject of my morning, not stress or worry or some to-do list. I’m not going to let [obligations] dictate my behavior that early — otherwise I’d be cooked by 2 pm!”
In place of checking phones, emails, and work to-dos, Dr. Gilliland says “I like to read and move my body; it’s become my favorite time of day because it’s still quiet.”
All the experts we spoke with encourage a meditation practice — and meditate themselves. It’s one of the best things you can possibly do for your brain! To get started, try some of our favorite morning meditations:
#3 Start Your Day With Gratitude
“Most of us have much to be grateful for, even in the most stressful of situations — But it is easy to forget,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Forrest Talley, PhD.
Do you find yourself waking up stressed or cynical? “Our minds are wired to focus on the negative,” Dr. Talley explains. “This leads to a downward spiral in mood. So intentionally perform a ‘reset’ each morning by saying several things for which you are grateful. Just reflect on these blessings for which you are grateful. It takes only a couple minutes.”
#4 Here Comes the Sun
Even if it’s a gloomy day, you need some natural light. “Get yourself five to 10 minutes of sunlight (I know, at certain times of the year this will not be possible first thing in the morning),” says Dr. Talley. “What does this do? It stimulates the neural circuits of your brain that control the release of melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones affect sleep, and by exposing your eyes to sunlight, you help regulate their release. Not only does this help you begin to quickly feel more mentally clear, some research finds that it will help you sleep better at night as well.”
#5 Don’t Snooze!
We know it’s tempting, but it might not be great for your mental health — which includes your sleep cycle, of course. “Set a time to wake up and be out of bed, then be sure to do it,” encourages Dr. Talley. “Don’t press the snooze button! Starting your day by getting out of bed at the time you planned for starts your day with a victory. No, not a standing ovation accomplishment (although you will be standing), but a victory nonetheless. This sets the tone of the day… objective was established, target was met, move on to the next objective.”
#6 Create a Routine
When it comes to creating your own morning ritual, blend a little of everything! A simple, customized routine can set the tone for a positive, peacefully productive day. Clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, PhD shared her own routine that she uses each day:
- Begin the day by saying positive affirmations
- Breathe in peppermint essential oil
- Journal — I write my ‘brags,’ desires, and gratitudes for one minute
- Yoga flow (however much time I have designated)
- Meditation for 10 minutes
You can create a routine that fits your style, tastes, and health goals — or copy Dr. Cohen’s! Her routine comprises nervous-system soothers and activities that shift her mindset and focus toward positive emotions — an easy way to get up on the right side of the bed.
BONUS: A Morning-Supportive Nighttime Routine
Dr. Talley says in order to maximize his morning routine, a nighttime routine is essential. “The following is really critical,” he explains. “Prepare the night before to have a successful morning.”
He’s got a point — especially if you have a busy lifestyle. “Running around in the morning trying to prepare lunch, get the kids ready for school, make sure the dog gets out, etc., is a recipe for a bad start of the day,” he says. “So instead, take 15 minutes the night before, and go through your checklist: Lunches made – check! Clothes laid out – check! Car keys/briefcase by the door – check! Coffee ready to be turned on – double check!”
Prepping for a morning routine is crucial when you’ve got a lot on your plate, especially when you want to start the day in a good headspace (we all do, right?). “Those 15 minutes spent in preparation can make all the difference in starting the day feeling in control and eager to go, versus overwhelmed and wanting a do-over.”
And Don’t Forget — Get Good Sleep!
It’s hard to do any of these morning rituals when you haven’t slept well. So don’t forget: sleep hygiene. Make sure you’re getting those restorative Zzzs so you can get up and kick butt the next day — and feel positive.