I struggled with depression and anxiety for years, beginning in my early 20s. I even went to therapy to cure it but it was little to no help. Though it might be very beneficial for some, especially if you find the right therapist for you. For me listening to my own needs helped much more than sitting on a couch complaining about my childhood for hours.
I started my self-healing with the firm decision to want to “be better” and then working out the how. Which wasn’t as easy as it might seem. I knew I did not want to follow forced methods that don’t feel good. For me, positive reinforcement is what helps me to gain momentum with whatever I do. So I tried out many things for a while and created an Excel sheet in which they were all listen along with how they effected me, how it worked, what results showed up, etc. Then the columns were right next to each other so I could easily compare them. I copied the best working ones to a new sheet and started to work with them. This way I could find what helped me to move forward.
I struggled for years to get out of bed each day. I just didn’t see the point of moving and didn’t look forward for another shitty day. But once I started to stick to these routines, I realized I felt more and more motivated to curl out from under my sheets. Because I found activities for myself I genuinely enjoyed it naturally resulted in me feeling excited about them. There was something good to anticipate!
What helped me tremendously was creating a morning routine out of these special rituals and activities and then sticking to it. This routine changed a lot through the years and with my own personal evolution, growth, healing and needs. But one thing is certain: still sticking to a morning routine. Whenever I stop or allow myself to slip on it, I find myself falling back into old patterns. So clearly a healthy morning routine positively affects mental health.
When building your morning routine, it’s important to consider how much time you have. Even if you only have 20 minutes each morning, you can use that time to promote good mental health. If you have a very limited time in the morning, I’d suggest you go to bed earlier and wake up a bit earlier, that way you don’t deprive yourself on sleep yet gain more time in the morning. On the long run it will help you to sleep better as well.
It happens with me too, that I have appointments or errands to run and I have less time in the morning. In those cases I stick with the routines that benefit me the most.
Don’t forget, you are your best support, so sticking to your morning routine will be as successful as your bedtime routine. To make it easier, include some things in your bedtime routine that support your morning routine, such as preparing your clothes, bag, or even your breakfast. You save a lot of time with this.
These might not sound natural for you if you suffer from depression, so you might need a reminder. I used to write all these down on a paper and had it by my bed, so when I woke up I could just run through the steps.
My list looked like this:
– Wake up
– Drink water
– Open window
– Stretch in bed
– Gratitude journal
– Make bed
– Change clothes
– Wash face, brush teeth
– Listen to uplifting music
These are some basic things everyone should include in their morning routine for good health, like drinking water to re-hydrate yourself or opening your windows to let fresh air in. I like to just quickly make my bed, too so I have the feeling of accomplishment first thing as I rise and it sets the tone and I don’t need to think about it again. Plus fixing your pillow and your blanket only takes a few seconds.
Gratitude journaling helped me to move out of the passive, negative state of mind. It was hard to begin, for weeks I didn’t write anything on my list but “I’m grateful for being able to sleep all day.” After a while I started to add other things, like “I’m grateful for my cozy pillow and my warm blankets.” Naturally, the list expanded without me even noticing it.
Stretching in bed was really useful to get the juices flowing and get rid of the sleepiness that would hold me back in bed.
Having breakfast might look silly at first, but when I was depressed I didn’t bother with eating. Even if I did eat, I just ate something like cereal or toast. Basic things I didn’t like anymore, so I wasn’t looking forward to it. I had to make effort to add other nourishing ingredients to my cereal, like dried fruits that I was excited to eat Then of course I grew out of this phase and I literally jumped out of bed to prepare something amazing for breakfast.
Changing clothes, washing your face and brushing teeth—well, yeah, if you’re depressed you don’t really bother about personal hygiene, do you? Sounds gross but as easy it is to abandon yourself, nothing matters. But just as easy it is to leave this as good it feels when you force yourself to wash and feel good after. But you have to stick to it too to make it a habit again.
Listening to high vibe music helped me to get moving and yoga saved my life, so I sticked with it ever since.
Later I made the decision to not look at my phone before 10am, and I added other things to my routine as well:
– morning meditation right after waking
– hot drink (usually tea or cocoa, seldom coffee)
– reading or journaling
– pranayama (breathing exercises)
– morning walk
-listening to inspirational podcasts/youtube videos
–yoni egg practice
Now, I do not stick to all of these every single day as performing the full morning routine would take about 3 hours or even more. But I like variety, so I stick with some basic things I perform each day and the rest varies each time—I wake up, hydrate, meditate for 10 mins in bed, stretch in bed, let air in, make my bed, wash my face, perform my Ashtanga practice, breath work, longer meditation, breakfast is the base. I try to stick to this even on busy days.
The rest comes depending on what is on the to-do list of the day. If I don’t get to do any of the items on the list, I do them later in the day (going for a walk in the evening) or move them to my night time routine—like reading, journaling would totally end up there.
So how did my life change after I started to stick to my mourning routine?
I’m sure you can imagine—my physical and mental health improved a lot, I lost weight, my posture, skin and hair improved a lot, got stronger in body and mind, my cognitive functioning got better, my memory improved, my mood swings evened out and an overall good mood replaced it. My relationships got better, what better? I basically had no relationships back then, so I got them all back and they were stronger and deeper than any of my relationships before. Not to mention my negative thinking pattern got rewired on its own and my depression faded away. While I stopped complaining on the sofa of my therapist I got more space for allowing in positivity by focusing on good feeling activities.
When starting a journey of a productive morning routine many of us will find this difficult and may not even stick to it straight away. I’ve been guilty of this myself. Whether or not you believe in willpower fatigue, I’ve found that changing my environment helps to keep me on track. Now, I don’t say you should move but maybe reorganize your room?
Another thing that held me back when I started out was the fact that as I grow and heal, my needs change and often I tried to stick to a routine that didn’t serve me (enough) anymore. So I either had to think about replacing it with something more useful for me or upgrading it. So when I figured I got bored of my morning Hatha yoga, I didn’t ditch it but looked for new styles of yoga. I found Ashtanga that is very challenging but just as beneficial so I built it in my routine. There was a time when going for a run in the morning helped me the most because I had a lot of tension in my body. I had nightmares from PTSD and running helped to release the stress I accumulated overnight. Once the nightmares were gone, going for a run felt draining so I had to change it.
My advice is to keep checking in with yourself monthly to see how your habits support your health and well-being and adjust accordingly. Stick with things you like and that elevate your vibration and you won’t fail.
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Photo: Ruslan Bardash via Unsplash