Humans create habits. We love them because we crave familiarity. It makes sound evolutionary logic; repeat the same behaviour in a repeating situation. If it worked last time, it should do again. This limits the need to make a decision and therefore conserves energy.
Studies consistently find that over 50pc of our daily actions are habitual. Our routine habits are the building blocks of our daily life.
The challenge is that habits are typically either very, very positive, or very, very negative. There is little middle ground. And making things worse, it is often hard to become aware of the negative habits that have crept into daily routines unchallenged, because they’re formed unconsciously over time and sap energy.
Get your morning routine right
These are often alluring as they offer instant gratification but have a negative impact on overall energy. It used to be that the appeal of alcohol or the quick fix of a sugar hit topped the naughty list. But topping the modern naughty list is our relationship with digital devices, driven by our fascination with social media. Some studies have shown 75pc of phone users reach for their phone on waking.
As anyone who has quit smoking will attest, to combat the negative bad habits, it is important to replace – or at least displace – them. The first step is becoming more aware of all of our habits. Which ones are serving us and which ones we need to change? Then, it’s time for some positive programming.
And the key battleground to win is the morning. Create a morning routine that works for you and repeat, repeat, repeat until it’s a habit. Research suggests anything from 21 to 69 days of repetition is needed before the actions become second nature.
Why a morning routine?
Because how you start your day is often how you live your life. It will determine how you’ll experience the rest of your day. And in the busy and distracting world that we live, the time when we wake up is often the only time we have to ourselves…
And the truth of the matter is you already have a habitual morning routine – the challenge is to review and improve it.
Firstly, eliminate the negative. Avoid checking your phone first thing. Ideally have your phone charging in another room and go for a radio alarm. And get your laptop out of the bedroom. Don’t start your day focusing on other people’s lives.
Then move onto implementing positive actions. There’s lots of things you can do, but here are some suggestions that have been proven to yield results:
Drink some water
Humans are almost 70pc water. We’re very dehydrated when we wake up so one of the best habits is to drink a pint of water before doing anything else. (If you put a little sea salt in it – a DIY electrolyte sports drink – the body finds it easier to absorb). The benefits are too numerous to mention, so just do it.
Do some exercise
Fasted exercise (doing something physical before eating) has a big impact of your calorie burn as well as waking up the body for the day ahead. Nothing too strenuous. A short and varied press up/sit-up workout. Walking the dog. Go for a swim. The important thing is to do something physical that gets your heart rate up for around 20 minutes.
Learn to breathe deeply
Few things are as misunderstood as meditation. It is not an attempt to completely clear your mind (because you can’t) and it is not the reserve of Shaolin monks. If you can breathe and count to four, you can meditate. ust get comfortable, close your eyes, breathe slowly and inhale for four and exhale for four. Repeat.
What’s your ‘big thing’ for today?
Check in with what it is you want to achieve that day. The more focus you have, the more chance of success as the day takes over. Write it down to keep it front and centre of your mind.
Spread some positivity
Complimenting just one person a day, telling them what it is you appreciate about them can have a profound impact on them and you. It doesn’t have to be daunting. It could be a simple message to your partner or an email to a colleague thanking them for their performance in a meeting.
By correcting your habits, you can command the morning, entering the day fully primed to deliver extraordinary results.
Jim Lusty is a speaker and trainer at motivational coaching company Upping Your Elvis, whose clients have included Unilever, ITV, Spotify, WPP, Roche and Nike