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7 Steps To Creating A Morning Routine That Sticks

Caroline Muggia
March 3, 2019
Caroline Muggia
By Caroline Muggia
mbg Contributor
Caroline Muggia is a writer, environmental advocate, and registered yoga teacher (E-RYT) with a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College.
Image by Sophia Hsin / Stocksy
March 3, 2019

Mornings can be daunting. Whether you're tired from not getting enough sleep the night before or you don't want to leave the coziness of bed, we get it. Even those of us who believe we are morning people struggle from time to time.

Darria Long Gillespie, M.D., is an emergency physician and the mother of a 2- and 5-year-old, so optimizing her morning routine is especially important so she can spend more time with her family. Over time she has shifted her habits to create a morning routine that is so ingrained in her and her children that it's practically automatic. In her new book, Mom Hacks, she shares the tips and tricks that make life easier for everyone, including moms. "The point of hacks is that if you do the hacks that automate decisions, you will have saved time, Dr. Darria said.

So how did she get to this point? It started with little tweaks to her habits. Here are the hacks she lives by and that will help you create a morning routine that fits into your life:


Wake up with bright light.

"The minute you wake up get bright light," said Dr. Darria and while this may sound agonizing, "light is the No. 1 biggest signal to our brain to shut down the sleep hormone melatonin." Light resets your internal clock and will make it easier to sleep that night, explained Dr. Darria. A bright light could take some getting used to but isn't necessarily adding anything to your to-do list. It only should take a few seconds to turn on the light and will signal to your brain that you are ready to start the day.


Get up a few minutes earlier.

While Dr. Darria explained she is not a morning person and doesn't like to wake up, she found simple hacks (like turning on bright lights) helpful in getting her out of bed before the kids wake up. If you are currently waking up at 7 a.m. and want to have a few extra minutes to meditate, wash your face, or walk around the house, start with setting your alarm at 6:45 for the next few days and notice if you were able to do it. If this time worked, consider sticking with it or setting the alarm a little bit earlier. This process is how you start a habit. The key is to start slow, and if you set a goal and realize it doesn't happen, then cut your target in half, recommends Dr. Darria. Once you can sustain a goal, you are on your way to a sustainable habit.


Try to wake up at the same time every day.

While there are times when external circumstances get in the way of our sleep, the more you can stick to a consistent sleep schedule, the easier it will be to wake up. If you are up later than you would like because of a deadline or travel, then it's OK to take an extra hour, but if you were awake because of insomnia, it is more beneficial to stay on your sleep schedule even though this may feel counterintuitive, explained Dr. Darria.


Wake up before the kids do.

The mornings can either be a stressful time or a peaceful time depending on how you spend them—planning to wake up before your kids can give you time to check in with yourself and listen to what your body needs. Maybe that's going for a run like Dr. Darria or making a cup of tea and enjoying the stillness. Whatever calls to you during that time, whether it's five or 30 minutes, is probably what your body needs.


Making everything as routine as possible.

Decisions take time, so if you can cut down the time spent deciding on what to make for breakfast or what the kids are going to wear, this is going to help make your routine automatic. A great way to develop a seamless morning routine is to prep the night before. A few ways to prep ahead are making lunch and putting it in Tupperware, picking out outfits the night before, or making smoothies that are ready to go when the sun comes up.


Connect with your kids.

When you get into a rhythm of a more automatic routine, you may notice you're less rushed and have more time to gently wake up your kid, maybe snuggle for a few minutes, scratch their back, or hold hands while walking to breakfast. This mutual connection can help start your day and your child's on the right foot.


Keep it simple.

Building a morning routine is not about adding to your to-do list; it's about developing habits and streamlining what you are already doing. Dr. Darria's five-step routine includes waking up with a bright light (while she puts her contacts in), drinking an 8-ounce glass of tap water (no lemon needed!), putting on music and grabbing a magazine, going for a run, and eating a healthy breakfast with her kids. This routine developed over time as she made small changes to her habits, like prepping her breakfast muffins and berries on the weekend, and recognized the hacks that worked for her.

Creating a morning routine that works for you is not going to happen overnight, but you can rest assured knowing that it comes down to what Dr. Darria calls "leveraging your body's intrinsic signals," such as waking up with a bright light, and "changing your environment, so healthy decisions become automatic." This way you can make choices about how you want to spend your time because now, you have it.

Caroline Muggia author page.
Caroline Muggia

Caroline Muggia has a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College. She received her E-RYT with Yoga Works and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. A writer and environmental advocate, she is passionate about helping people live healthier and more sustainable lives. You can usually find her drinking matcha or spending time by the ocean.