6 Benefits of Morning Routine Habits to Transform Your Life
There’s a good chance you’re carrying out a habit or routine right now. Whether you’re intentionally fitting in some reading time or taking a break from work, much of our day is made up of repeated actions.
Habits are a way to train ourselves to do high-impact activities on auto-pilot. Over time, they add up to create a lasting change to your physical or emotional well-being. Using your morning routine to develop habits can make them stick easier since your willpower is fresh. It can also set the tone for a calm, focused day ahead.
In this guide, we’re sharing the benefits of habits in the morning and how you can use them to transform your life.
Benefits of Habits and Routines
You probably don’t consciously think about it, but much of our day is made up of sets of unhealthy or healthy habits and routines. These make behaviors automatic. If we had to think about everything we did, life would be really exhausting.
Researchers study how habits are formed so we can understand how to change behavior. Although there are different ways to form them, the habit process typically involves three components:
- Routine. The first step is to identify a routine you can pair with the habit/behavior you want to encourage (or stoop).
- Cue. Next, add in a cue—an event that signals you to start your habit (like the end of a workout signaling it’s time to shower).
- Reward. Having a result or reward after following through on the cue reinforces the behavior. Sometimes, it’s so easy for us to form habits that we don’t even realize we’re being rewarded. Is your mid-day snacking to satisfy hunger, give you a break or to get you out of your chair? Other times, we can experiment with rewards to solidify good habits.
To build a new habit, you can first identify the routine you want to add it to, such as a morning routine. Then determine a cue for it, like working out after you brush your teeth. A reward, like a delicious breakfast after, helps seal it in.
Most of the time, habits are created unconsciously. But we can intentionally use routines to positively change our lives. Here are some reasons why morning habits are so powerful.
Morning Habits Help Us Reach Our Goals
The overarching reason to change habits is so that we can reach our goals. If our goal is to become healthy, we may replace one morning habit with another (like blending a smoothing vs. pouring a sugary cereal). Or, we might add actions that help us achieve that dream (like a short workout session).
These goals can be personal, like reading more, or professional, like picking up a new skill to qualify for a promotion. We can also develop habits that help us clarify what our goals are, like journaling or meditating.
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Once you’ve identified your goals, brainstorm tasks you can do to achieve them. Sometimes, you’ll want to put them in order or make a step-by-step list to follow. For example, if you want to start a business, your first step may be to write a business plan.
- After you’ve prioritized your tasks or determined specific actions, dedicate a time slot in your morning routine to it. In this example, it may be setting aside a half-hour to work on your business plan.
- Next, decide where in your routine to add that new habit, like after eating but before your morning walk.
Morning Habits Harness Willpower
We typically start the day with a full tank of willpower. As the day goes on, it gradually subsides and we might lose focus, becoming less likely to follow through on planned-out events. For example, you may notice you’re less likely to work on your personal business plan after a stressful day at work.
When the day is still ahead of you, your mental energy is at its peak. Take advantage by adding the highest focus tasks to your morning routine.
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- In a journal or mentally, list the behaviors or tasks you’re having trouble sticking to. Think of the things you’re always too tired to do and keep putting off, pushing the goal farther down the line.
- Make another list to prioritize the tasks. Consider which top items to add to your morning routine.
- If you can’t fit in the entire task, break it up into something doable. For example, maybe you know you won’t stick to an hour workout at 7 am. Instead, a 15-minute exercise is more doable. As your willpower for the task builds, you can add more time or complexity.
Morning Habits Keep Us Inspired
Most of our lives are fast-paced, and if we don’t deliberately make time to slow down, we can get caught up in the whirlwind. When this happens, we can get into physical or emotional slumps and creative blocks—in other words, we get burned out.
It’s normal to go through “seasons” of productivity and to feel a lack of motivation from time to time. However, we can prevent it from becoming a setback by making time for ourselves.
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During the rush of your morning, consider what time you can set aside to do something you enjoy or that inspires you. What it is doesn’t matter; as long as it’s simple and you look forward to it. For example:
- Reading a few pages from a novel
- Coloring for five minutes in an adult coloring book
- Giving yourself time to play with your dog before work
- Having a short bath instead of a shower
Get our best tips on morning self-care routines.
Morning Habits Reduce Stress
Since routines are done automatically, they give your mind and alleviate stress. Instead of being overwhelmed by your to-do list, you don’t even think about it because your habit has made it second-nature.
If you prioritize your tasks, you’ll also check them off first thing. This can create a positive snowball effect for the rest of your day. Leaving the task until the evening could cause added stress as decision-fatigue sets in and your willpower diminishes. It might even impair your sleep.
Some research also suggests that having a regular routine may have mood-stabilizing effects. It may be intuitive that knowing what to expect can ease anxiety. However, routine is thought to balance emotion for another reason. It may help regulate your circadian rhythm—your body’s internal clock responsible for many physical and mental processes. A 2011 study found that we develop routines to calm ourselves and manage stress in an unpredictable world. In other words, it helps us feel in control.
How calming your morning habits are depends on the tasks you choose. If you struggle with stress or anxiety, you may consider an activity specifically geared toward mental well-being.
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Here are some suggestions for morning routines that help reduce stress:
- Practice “Worry Time.” Do a brain-dump of all your thoughts, feelings and worries into a journal for a 15-minute period. Having a scheduled time to worry prevents these thoughts from occupying your focus throughout the day.
- Self-reflect. Use journaling prompts that encourage you to think about what’s really stressing you out. Consider what control you do or don’t have over the situations causing you to worry. Remind yourself that you’re more capable than you think.
- Be mindful. Do a meditation or another mindfulness practice, like deep breathing or body-scanning.
Learn a simple morning meditation to brighten your day.
Morning Habits Make Us Healthier
Morning habits provide a way to improve our health. Instead of fitting in your health goals whenever you remember, a morning routine gives you a dedicated time slot, making it more likely you’ll stick to your resolutions. And with healthy habits in place, we can easily get back on track should we fall out of our routine.
Besides improving self-accountability, there may be other benefits to healthy morning habits. A 2019 study found that moderate-intensity exercise in the morning can improve decision-making and attention. Not only does morning exercise boost our productivity, but it also increases the likelihood that you’ll make additional healthy decisions throughout the day.
Having morning habits you look forward to can also give you an incentive to go to bed instead of staying up. Knowing you have a positive, healthy routine ahead of you can lead to a consistent bedtime and better sleep.
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Dedicate at least one time slot in your morning to do something healthy. If you can, try for two—something diet-related and something physical. Start small, for example:
- Drinking a glass of water
- Blending a healthy smoothie
- Taking a quick walk
- Doing a short yoga session
Healthy habits can be hard to build if they take a lot of energy or require you to get rid of a bad habit first. To make it easier on yourself, you can experiment with rewards that incentivize you to continue the action.
No time for healthy habits? Try our 10 easy and healthy breakfast foods.
Morning Habits Build Momentum
With habits, it’s important to realize that small changes can lead to big results. Starting too big can lead to no results if you become overwhelmed and drop your habit altogether. That’s why starting off with a base is ideal. As the habit becomes automatic, you can layer other ones before, after and in between.
The idea of habit-stacking is especially important for hard-to-build habits. You may have heard it takes anywhere from 21 to 60 days for a habit to solidify, but that's not necessarily true. In 2009, researchers studied volunteers trying to implement a healthy habit. They found it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days for it to be fully formed.
To encourage yourself to stick through that time, start easy and stack your habits. A 10-minute walk can turn into a half-hour jog. As your health-kick builds, you might pay attention to your diet, replacing breakfast pastries with nutritious foods. By using your healthy morning routine to build habits slowly, you can build momentum and transform your life.
Take Advantage of Morning Routines
Mornings are a great time to build new, healthy habits. That’s because you can anchor them to already-established tasks, such as brushing your teeth. With everything science is revealing about habit-formation, it makes sense to leverage the power of the morning to build your habits—it’s when your willpower is strongest.
Depending on our needs, we can add tasks for specific purposes—such as calming our anxiety or inspiring us for the day ahead. Although you’ll always have the end goal in mind, focus on the tiny steps that get you there. Over time, you might notice how much happier and healthier you’ve become thanks to your morning habits.