Morning Routine

For people learning to live with moods, it is often very important how the day starts. The morning sets the stage for the rest of the day and, for instance, we know that one of the best ways of getting depressed, is lying in bed after you wake up for the first time thinking about how you really “should” get more sleep….

I outline here some thoughts that people have found helpful in establishing a morning ritual.  What works best is for you will be unique, you should do some experimenting.

The time of getting out of bed in the morning should be roughly the same every morning. I suggest no more than 45 minutes of variation from day to day… and don’t think that you can “catch up” on sleep by sleeping in on the weekend, many studies show that it doesn’t work.

You should get up early enough that you have at least a half an hour for things other than eating breakfast, getting dressed, getting to work, etc.. Starting your day in a rush is a bad idea. You will feel behind the entire rest of the day. All that it takes is getting up a few minutes earlier to feel in control.

Interestingly enough, you can sometimes get up earlier and feel more rested… It sounds odd but if you use one of the many techniques designed to wake you up at a time when you are in a light sleep (which happens every ninety minutes) –  for example setting a pre-alarm that will softly signal it is time to get up, not loud enough to wake you from a deep sleep but loud enough to get you up if you are sleeping lightly – you will actually feel more rested than if you wake up a half an hour later from a deeper sleep. You can improve your odds of doing that if you go to sleep 7 and a half hours before you plan to wake up (7 and a half hours is 5 90 minute cycles – so at around that time you should be more alert and ready to wake up).

Many people find that a cup of coffee or tea is a useful way of getting started in the morning.

To the extent possible, things should be set up so that that beverage is ready soon after getting out of bed.

Some people like to go straight into a bath or shower, others prefer to take some time for the morning ritual right after getting up.

The ritual itself involves taking at least 30 minutes to sit in a place where there is abundant natural light, preferably even a view (if that isn’t possible consider buying a therapy light). This time is spent either in meditation, yoga practice, or in thinking about the day in a planful way, not an anxious way. Email is NOT a good way to start the day as it is often about urgent, but not terribly important, messages. Instead you should think about what is truly most important to you based on your personal values, and how to integrate those values into what you do.