Morning Routines and Your Health

09/20/2016 07:32 pm ET

Waking up in the morning is tough especially when you have chronic health issues or an autoimmune disorder.

The alarm goes off and you already feel defeated.

You’re exhausted, lethargic, and your body hurts. It feels like you didn’t sleep (even though you went to bed early last night).

You’re feeling frustrated because as you fell asleep last night you were hopeful that maybe—just maybe—you’d wake up feeling just a little bit better.

Didn’t happen. Ugh.

Your mind starts going and you already feel overwhelmed by the day—especially if you have obligations and a long list of to-do’s.

Getting out of bed is the last thing you want to do. You love those days when you can roll over and pull the covers over your head.

When you’re struggling with your health you only have so much energy in a day. You know if you overdo it that you’ll pay the price…for days (or even weeks). You know staying in bed can help.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been so tired I couldn’t get out of bed. My physical body hurt and my spirit was broken.

Nothing seemed to help.

And, it felt like as I kept spiraling downward more hope was lost.

Mornings were usually the worst part of my day.

I’d count the hours until I could go back to bed.

But then, something shifted.

Even during my darkest days I knew (intuitively at least) that I still had some control of my life. I still believed that I had the power to change things—I just needed to find that “right thing” that would make a positive change in my life.

And, as a card-carrying member of the self-help club I’m willing to try anything.

Here’s what I did: I changed my morning routine.

And it made a world of difference (and still does).

I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve thought it too)…You’ve got to be kidding me, I can barely get out of bed. I’m not a morning person. I’m too tired in the morning to do anything.

Hear me out.

Many successful people (in life, business, and health) start their mornings with a routine that’s filled with intention and purpose.

I believe this wholeheartedly…if you want to be healthy you have to do things healthy people do (even when you don’t feel like it).

Even though I did lots of things healthy people did (even when I wasn’t seeing the difference) I hadn’t tried this. So I committed to 2 weeks and I changed my morning routine.

I read books on morning routines. I made a plan. I found an accountability partner. And, I got started.

And, let me tell you, everything shifted.

But wait…let me be really clear.

I’m not suggesting that if you struggle with chronic illness that all you need to do is change your morning routine and you’re life (& health) will be better. Absolutely not. It’s not that easy.

This isn’t one of those…”just think positive” and your life will change schemes.

What I am suggesting is that a morning routine is one of the many helpful things that’ve made a difference on the pathway to healing in both my own life and in the lives of my patients.

Healing through chronic illness is a multi-faceted process—and part of that process includes addressing you as a whole-being.

Many of the things you can include in your morning routine can bring healing to your mind and spirit.

Changing your morning routine can be a great way to support yourself while on your healing journey.

For me, things didn’t miraculously happen that first morning but I noticed a shift within that first week.

My attitude was better. I felt less overwhelmed by the day. I naturally gravitated toward healthier choices. And, I was less focused on how bad I felt and more focused on the many blessings in my life.

And even now (when I wake up feeling good and excited to start my day) I still practice my morning routine.

I encourage you to read, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It’s a quick read and it provides an excellent framework for implementing a morning routine. It’s a great place to start. Many aspects of my morning routine have been adapted from this very book.

I’d also encourage you to make your morning routine yours. There are things that will work better for you. You’ll resonate with some things more than others.

Here’s what I do.

After I get up in the morning, I do my very best to follow my routine before I do anything else. (It’s really hard for me not to check my phone and emails.)

And, “first thing in the morning” can be especially hard if you have early mornings or a household of kiddos (or a spouse) that require your attention. Every minute of your morning may be valuable and spoken for.

It may be difficult to find a few extra moments in your morning. It may mean setting the alarm a few minutes earlier (painful as that may be). If that’s the case, I encourage you to start with just a 10-15 minute routine.

For me, my sweet spot is about 30-40 minutes. I usually do a combination of these things: meditate, say affirmations, visualize, practice gratitude, read, journal, set intentions, drink tea and stretch my body.

I certainly don’t do all of these things every morning. I’m one of those women who get bored if I do the same thing in the same order everyday. I like to change things up.

I usually recommend to my patients that a morning routine include aspects of the following things:

  • Quiet Time (Silence, Meditation, or Prayer). Start here. Do what you can to center yourself and connect with your innermost being. Listen to a guided meditation if it helps. Quiet your mind. Take deep breaths and relax your body.
  • Affirmations and Visualization. Find affirmations that resonate with you centered around your health and healing. Say them out loud. Write them down. Visualize the future you want. How do you look? How do you feel? Some patients have found it helpful to create a vision board and look at that every morning.
  • Gratitude. Practice gratitude every morning. Use a gratitude journal. Take just a minute or two and write down at least 3 things you are grateful for. Include at least one aspect of your health or your healing journey.
  • Journal. Journalling can be a very therapeutic exercise. You can write about the things on your mind. Or, you can write down your affirmations and visualizations. Find quotes or inspiring stories and write down your thoughts about those.
  • Set Daily Intentions. Before you finish your morning routine set your intentions for the day and write them down. Even if you have a long to-do list prioritize the three most important things you’d like to get done. Is there a specific time you’ll do them? Is there something you don’t want to do but you’ll be happy when it’s done? Create a plan and stick to it.

This may seem like a long overwhelming list of “to-do’s” in an already busy morning. But, I assure you that going through this list can take as little time as you have.

There are days when I can only devote 10 minutes to these things. And to be frank, there are days when I’m running so far behind that I’m saying affirmations and practicing gratitude on my way to an early meeting.

That’s okay too.

My morning is always better when I set aside time but let’s be honest. It’s not always feasible.

It’ll get easier the more you practice your morning routine. You’ll start to see the benefits and want to make it more of a priority.

Find an accountability person to help you get started. Decide how long you’re willing to commit to a morning routine (I’d recommend at least 2 weeks) and find someone that can support you with this.

It may be a friend, therapist, or healthcare provider. Find a way to check-in with them daily and let them know how it’s going.

Some Final Thoughts.

If you struggle with chronic illness, it’s important to find things that work for you on your path to healing. Many patients have found great benefit in implementing a morning routine…even those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.

You can feel better. You can heal. It takes time but don’t give up. Find doctors and health practitioners that will do what it takes to help you get better. Feeling lost? This may help.

You may be skeptical that shifting your mornings will make a difference (especially because the things listed on “morning routine activities” won’t directly make your fatigue, symptoms, pain or illness go away).

But, I encourage you to just give it a try. It’s made a big difference in my own life and in the lives of many of my patients. You may be surprised at the outcome.

Have you implemented a morning routine? Are there things you’ve found to be helpful? Are you willing to give it a try?

Originally published by Dr. Deborah Anderson on www.DrDeborah.com Find Dr. Deborah on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS