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The Psychology of a Morning Routine for Mental and Physical Well Being

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What do the highest performers – from Olympic athletes to the US Navy to NASA – do without fail every day? Mind you, this isn’t something that requires an unlimited bank account or many hours of dedication. 

It’s simple: a morning routine, which can be as short as 15 minutes. The benefits are well documented in psychology. The morning routine is a process of habit formation which produces better mental health and sleep patterns

What do most of us do first thing upon waking? We pick up our phones and start scrolling through news feeds, emails, and texts. How could this be good for our brain? It’s not. Research shows us that it spikes our cortisol levels, puts us on high alert, and doesn’t prepare us for the day ahead, which may include tough decisions or challenging conversations. 

No wonder many of us are feeling so burnt out these days. Instead of looking at our phone, we use a morning routine to set the tone for the day. We decide  – purposefully  – what to first expose our brain and body to, rather than turning to whatever article that comes across our social media feed or random email from a colleague. 

Further, it helps you build your focus for the day. You stop and reflect on what matters most and how those priorities fit within your bigger goals. You can also use the routine to build specific learning that might benefit you during this different time. 

If you are not sure where to start, you might want to try the Last 8% Morning podcast. We developed this over the last 24 years working with high performers, including Olympic athletes, NFL and NBA teams as well as individuals under pressure at organizations like Intel, the US Federal Reserve and the FBI. This morning routine integrates movement (going for a walk), Mindfulness and Mental training exercises to help you manage your emotions more effectively. 

This isn’t your typical podcast. You are not a passive listener. No, this is an interactive podcast, which asks you to wake up fifteen minutes earlier than your usual time and walk (though some of our listeners do listen during lunch or after work). I am the voice in your ear as I guide you through the podcast — as this is also my own morning routine. 

While it is a routine that grounds us and prepares us for the day, it is also a form of ‘drip’ learning that helps us grow our emotional intelligence so we take on the most challenging part of our day, what we call the Last 8%. What is the Last 8%? 

Well, that’s the final part of the conversation or decision or situation that most of us find most difficult and that we often avoid or make a mess of. During COVID-19, we are facing more Last 8% moments than ever before, meaning we need new tools to help us build our capacity. 

In the past weeks, we’ve talked about anxiety, why movement matters, what mindfulness does to our brain, and how to stop people from treating you poorly and even why you might want to make your bed in the morning. So many fun topics! See you in the morning!


Image credit: Freepik

Dr J.P. Pawliw-Fry is a top emotional intelligence keynote speaker, leadership thought leader, peak performance expert, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Performing Under Pressure

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