“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Welcome to Part 2 of the Power of a Morning Routine conversation. We've previously looked at what a morning routine is, the benefits, routines of the rich and famous and outlined tips for starting your own morning routine.
Today we dive into the brain & hormonal science of how morning routines can empower you. We also look at ancient teachings views on mornings and the key aspects to what makes a great morning routine.
THE BRAIN'S LINK TO MORNING ROUTINES
A nourishing morning routine can move us from a 'thinking/doing/stress' brain-wave state to a more creative/insightful/inspired brain-wave state.
Research has shown that when we are present in an activity such as meditation, exercise, or something else where are we absorbed and inspired that we move from our everyday 'beta' brain frequency to 'alpha' and also 'theta'.
Beta – cognition, focus, five senses, stress, weakened immune system
Alpha - relaxation, super-learning, alert consciousness, peace, calm, effortlessness
Theta – creativity, insightful problem solving, inspiration, connection, wonder
THE HORMONAL LINKS TO MORNING ROUTINES
Cortisol - hormone = stress, flight/fright
Dopamine - neurotransmitter = happiness, motivation, pleasure
Serotonin - neurotransmitter = regulates mood, enables brain function
Research has shown that a nurturing morning routine can result in a decline in cortisol (a stress hormone) and an increase in dopamine and serotonin (pleasure & productivity hormones). See the diagram below from Robin Sharma's The 5 am Club -
A well-established morning routine allows us to travel into the 'flow zone' or a state of 'automaticity'. Where things seem to happen with ease and grace. It's less about 'thinking' and more about grace.
The pre-frontal cortex’s purpose is to judge, assess and analyze – make decisions. However, when activated, it crowds out other parts of the brain, diminishing our capacity to be creative.
In the sports and arts world, this results in choking; the neural pathways to the cerebellum, the place where practiced movements (automaticity) are stored, are literally choked.
If a golfer practices a putt a thousand times, she can replicate the movement without thinking. However, as soon as she starts thinking, she activates the pre-frontal cortex and chokes the pathways to these preprogrammed activities, often diminishing performance significantly.
So get your morning routine sorted and you too can be in the Flow Zone!
ANCIENT & HOLISTIC CONTEXT FOR MORNING ROUTINES
Ayurveda is the system of natural medicine aligned with Yoga and has its roots in ancient India. Ayurveda shows us clearly that morning routines are potent.
Brahma muhurt is regarded as an auspicious time for Yoga, meditation, and the practice of a skill. It is the time before sunrise and literally means "The Creator's Time“. There is greater potency to any tasks performed at this time than any time of the day.
Doshas are states of wellbeing represented in people and in nature. Vata (Air and Ether), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). The increase and decrease of these three doshas is related to the cycles of time.
Brahma muhurt occurs during the Vata phase of the morning. So if you get up around sunrise you harness the inspiration, creativity and spirituality of Vata, setting yourself up for a beautiful day.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to TCM, health and wellbeing can be related to a body clock which suggests that certain elements and body parts are activated at specific times. To be healthy one honours these systems and works with, rather than against them.
The suggestion is to wake during the metal/large intestine phase between 5-7am. This is the special time for meditation and emptying the bowels (releasing what no longer serves us to create space to bring in the new).
Create time in the morning for the body and the mind to detox so you then move into a positive day.
KEY ASPECTS OF MORNING ROUTINES
Powerful and successful morning routines incorporate all aspects of our being -
Physical -Movement, exercise, sleep, healthy food
Mental - Self-growth, reading, new skills (guitar, foreign language)
Emotional - Releasing negative emotions, creating positive emotions
Spiritual - Tuning into wisdom, instinct, power, creativity
credit - Robin Sharma
Other important aspects to creating great morning routines include -
Nurturing yourself - exercise, spiritual and creative practices
Nurturing your goals - strategising, working on not in business, making long-term plans, building skills.
Nurturing your relationships - being present for family and friends
Credit – Laura Vanderkam
This was part two of the three-part series that will continue with more great information on The Power of Morning Routines.
For a great morning Yoga routine, get your hands on a copy of 'I Am Thriving', the Yoga & Affirmations Guide