Many people reject routines because they would rather be adventurous, go with the flow, and keep their schedules open-ended. But there’s something to be said about keeping a routine: It can improve overall health, well-being, and productivity.
In the book, The Miracle Morning ultramarathoner and author Hal Elrod details ways to transform the lives of readers and wake up each day with more focus, energy, and motivation.
“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life,” he says.
Focused and productive mornings carry over to successful days, and ultimately successful lives.
There are many ways to get into a routine, but the number one rule is to make it work for you. Just because a routine works for your friend or family member doesn’t mean it’s the best for you to take. Here are some tips to keep a daily routine:
Go to bed and wake up each day around the same time. This is the first step to start a routine. By going to bed at the same time, you program your body to get into a ritual of sleeping a set number of hours. People have different sleep patterns that allow them to function throughout a day. When you feel energetic, studies suggest self-esteem rises. But feeling tired can have the opposite effect.
In order to fall asleep at night, strive to turn off all electronic devices (computers, phones, tablets) at least 30 minutes prior to getting into bed. Allow your eyes to relax and catch a break from the stimulation of a lit screen. Read a book, write in a journal, or write out your to-do list for the following day. By releasing your thoughts in writing, you can also release stress and tension and put your mind at ease.
Set an alarm if you cannot wake up automatically at the same time every morning. Consider adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your pillow to relax and calm the mind before bed. Take a few deep breaths once you lay down to release tension. For some, white noise can also promote relaxation (not to mention help block out any outside distractions). There are noise machines available online and in stores, or there are free apps that play relaxing sounds including beach waves, rain, birds chirping, and more.
When you wake up in the morning and want to feel energized and ready for the day, set an intention or goal for the day. Determine what it is you want to accomplish or feel throughout the day. A daily meditation practice, even if it is brief, can help us feel grounded, at-ease, and more prepared for the day.
According to neuroscientists, meditation physically changes the brain . A MRI research study revealed that experienced meditators had a thicker cortex than non-meditators. This was particularly true for brain areas associated with attention, interoception, and sensory processing. Your practice can be two minutes or 20 minutes, whatever works best for you and your mind and body.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Holistic health coach Tracey Lemle says an eating routine shouldn’t be strict or like you’re being forced to do something. “Our bodies respond really well to repetition even when it comes to eating. It’s like muscle memory but for our stomachs,” she says. Once you wake up, drink a glass of water and try to incorporate protein into your breakfast. Protein helps us feel satisfied throughout the day. Consider oatmeal or quinoa with bananas, almonds, and a little honey for a healthy, easy, low-cost start to your day.
Make it your goal to move in some way every day. Physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve balance and coordination, aid weight loss, and improve sleep habits and self-esteem. One in four Americans don’t get any exercise at all. But when persistently tired people exercised for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks, they felt they had an increase in energy.
Design a program that works best for you. For some people that means taking a 60-minute fitness class four times a week. For others it’s a long run twice a week, and for others it’s a daily walk with friends. Try out different studios, teachers, classes, podcasts, and apps to determine what suits you best. Whatever path you choose, just remember moving benefits your body.
Take time for yourself and keep a routine in your sleep, eating, and exercise. These are three crucial rules for living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Remember, this is your life and you have to do it the way that works best for you.
A version of this article originally appeared on NorthwestPharmacy.com .