Why Morning Routines are Essential in Sobriety. I have been struggling with my morning routine lately and I’m not sure why. I love my mornings and waking up fresh, rested and clear headed every single day is one of the joys of sobriety, this feeling is what got me through the early days.
I know that morning routines are essential in sobriety and that a good morning routine helps set the tone for the day and makes for a calm and peaceful me, yet this summer I have been allowing the days to run away with me and I know it is because of my morning routine (or lack of a consistent one!)
Here’s why morning routines are essential in sobriety.
Well, routines in general are important when we are recovering from anything. Regular routines help us to stay grounded, gives us something to focus on, stops us from having too much idle thinking time, and it also helps us to feel a sense of achievement. If you can leave the house knowing you have made your bed, eaten breakfast and done one thing you wanted to, then that feels so good.
Also, if (like me) your mornings used to be staying in bed until the last minute, wading through the first few hours with a hangover and painfully rushing everybody out of the house on time feeling guilty, ill, regretful and not quite with it, then a nice relaxing start to the day is worlds apart and just feels, well, nice.
Morning routines are essential in sobriety because they help us to form new habits, build confidence in ourselves again, show ourselves we are worth the time and effort and help us to start the day on the right foot, feeling calm.
I was never one for scrolling through social media first thing but apart from checking my emails whilst still in my pyjamas and making sure the rest of the house was ready for the day, I didn’t really do anything.
One evening, about eight months into my sobriety my husband suggested we try something new. He noticed that we had been flopped in front of the TV for hours in the evening, not really achieving anything, then getting up jumping on the laptop and not really achieving anything. We were always tired and living with a sense of ‘what am I doing with my life?’
He suggested shifting our day and moving it forward a couple of hours, so that’s what we did. The next day the alarm went off at 5 and out of bed we jumped (crawled.) That first morning was so hard but like making the decision to quit drinking, I made the decision to commit to this new routine. We walked the dogs, and then I did yoga. By the time my kids were getting up for school I was wide awake, had exercised, eaten, and even ticked off a few things from my list.
It felt great and as the days went by, it got easier to get up without wanting to pull the covers over my head and hide. I felt energized, productive and just got stuff done. I kept this up until the summer rolled around and it all went out of the window, but picked it up once things cooled down, only for it to go out of the window again at the start of this summer.
Having had the experience and knowing why morning routines are essential in sobriety this lack of structure in the morning bothered me and this summer has been spent with me wanting to change my routine but never actually getting around to it. The one thing I have noticed is that while waking up at 5 is never a problem, I have been lying there in bed allowing my thoughts to take over.
“It’s too dark to go for a walk, it was too hot to sleep and I am tired, I can’t do yoga because the TV is on, I am still sleepy and therefore can’t meditate, I have too much to do and need to get straight to work…” Excuses, excuses.
I knew that I needed to switch things up and when one of my friends set a Miracle Morning challenge I signed up. I lasted three days before I decided it was too restrictive, didn’t fit into my day, I was too tired and didn’t like being forced into doing things I didn’t want to do. I love the idea of the Miracle Morning but something about having to do 10 minutes of six different things just didn’t feel right. Maybe I was making excuses again…?
One of my favourite quotes found its way back to me recently which made me think and decide to take action:
“Nothing changes if nothing changes”
Like a light bulb moment I realized that I have been getting in my own way again. Much like those months before I quit drinking I would think, wish and dream a lot but never actually ‘do’. At around the same time, another friend of mine began a ‘Morning Flow’ session over Zoom with just a few lovely women who also wanted to begin their days on a nicer, calmer, more loving note. This was more like it.
So far we have had seven gorgeous mornings together where we do some stretching or yoga, listen to something inspirational, write our gratitude list, follow a guided visualization and set our intention for the day. The day’s intention is not what we have to ‘get done’ but rather how we want to feel which changes everything. Before the session begins I still have time to walk the dog, meditate, eat something and I have even been managing to read for a while which is lovely.
It is still early days, but I feel I am settling into a pattern that I will be able to keep up on my own as the weeks go by.
As you can see it has taken a bit of experimenting and really thinking about what I want to find a morning routine that feels good and because morning routines are essential in sobriety, it is important to find something that you love if you are going to make it stick.
Here are some ideas on what makes for a good morning routine.
This is probable the most important part of the routine. Try and give yourself an hour before you would usually have to be up and doing other things so that you have the time to commit to this new practice without feeling rushed.
Go to bed an hour earlier, move your alarm across the room and get rid of the snooze function. It might be a struggle at first so go easy on yourself and just aim to get out of bed if you have problems at first. Even just peeling yourself away from the covers and sitting with a cup of tea and your journal is a great way to start. Plus, there is something very calming and relaxing in having some alone time in the stillness of the morning before the rest of the world is awake.
Exercise forms one of the critical pillars of sobriety, it gives you a natural boost, helps improve fitness levels and is a proven way to combat depression and anxiety. Also, if you move your body in whatever way you like first thing, it gets rid of that groggy, sleepy feeling. Aim for at least 10 minutes and it can be anything from gentle yoga stretches to a HIIT workout. Plus, if you exercise first thing then you won’t fall victim to the excuses of the ‘ I haven’t got time, or I am too tired’ excuses if you exercise later in the day.
After all those hours of sleeping, you will be dehydrated so try and drink a big glass of water first thing. This will also flush out your system of toxins and help to energize you.
Practicing meditation, and some form of mindfulness is one of my favourite ways to start the day. Just sitting in stillness for ten minutes will help with the healing process and allow you to begin your day calm, collected and at peace. Doing this first thing means, like exercise, you get it done as once the day kicks off it can sometimes be tricky to find some peace and quiet later on. Meditation has so many proven benefits, especially in sobriety and is essential to help you with your mind, body, spirit connection – something which is sorely lacking when we drink.
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I am not a fan of breakfast first thing and unlike my eldest son who can have full on bacon and eggs at 6am, I never feel like eating anything but I know good nutrition, especially in sobriety, is important. Of course I do, it is the one thing I make sure my kids do before they leave the house. One thing that has helped this is making overnight oats.
A friend of mine suggested it and because I can prepare it the night before, it takes away the thought of what to eat or reaching for a biscuit, marshmallow, or left over pizza. I just take the bowl out of the fridge, add banana and off I go. This also stops me form losing focus later on in the morning or grabbing a pastie on the way back from the school run.
Get your thoughts out
I noticed that I lie in bed thinking a lot. What I have to do, what I should have done, what went wrong yesterday and stressing about my to-do list. Beginning a morning journal practice is a brilliant way to get all your worries, troubles, thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper to make space for yourself. There are lots of websites with information on how best to do a journal practice but honestly, just writing for a few minutes will help to get things off your mind and pave the way for a clearer head.
Check in with yourself
What I like about my morning flow sessions is that we get to choose how we want to feel that day. Setting intentions and consciously choosing how we want to feel or what we want to do is so powerful. Perhaps you want to repeat a mantra or affirmation or do some visualization that will help you to be more intentional and focused when you go about your day.
Try a little bit of self improvement
Spending a little bit of time working on yourself first thing will reap the rewards and benefits further along the line and if you have long, busy days then this time in the morning is probably the only chance you will get. You don’t have to sit and study for ages but just a little reading, practicing a new skill or even writing in your journal to help you work through issues is time well spent. It doesn’t really matter what you do but getting into the habit of doing something in this area of your life helps with recovery and healing in the nicest possible way.
Go to bed early
Simple and essential. If you want to make time for yourself in the morning and have a good night’s sleep, then you have to let go of the day a little earlier. I found this to be really easy as I love going to bed early anyway and it makes sense too. Instead of mindlessly flicking through Netflix until the early hours, tell yourself the time tomorrow will be far better spent.
If you want to work out then get your workout clothes ready the night before. Make your overnight oats, chop up your fruit and freeze it for your smoothie. Get your meditation apps ready or your journal and keep it handy. In his book, ‘Atomic Habits’ James Clear says that in order to make a habit easier to stick to, everything surrounding that habit should be visible and within reach.
If you have to hunt around for your trainers or you can’t find your pen for journaling then you will waste time making it easier to rush through the activity or not do it at all. This ties in with the point above, turn off the TV 10 or 15 minutes earlier and get everything ready that you need for the next day.
You don’t have to do these things in the order above which was my problem with the Miracle Morning I think having to do things in a specific order. There are people who meditate in bed and then read and journal before getting up and exercise.
I need to move my body straight away otherwise I will fall back to sleep so getting up, drinking water, cleaning my teeth and then going out for a walk is my preferred method. I can then come back in and do the lovely relaxing things feeling alert and focused. Try things out, move things around and just experiment until you find a pattern or structure that you like.
Do something you love
The key to having a good morning routine is to choose something that you love. It shouldn’t feel forced or restrictive but should be loving and nourishing. I think that’s why I love the morning flow sessions so much, they are gentle, lovely and yet hugely inspirational and helpful. Start small and just pick one or two thing you want to do at first. Make these thing non negotiable and when you are ready you can start adding in more things should you wish.
While morning routines are essential in sobriety, they are also your mornings so make them lovely. You can be flexible and you can change things as you grow. I have different morning routines for summer and winter and that works for me.
No matter what it is that you do, once you have found something you love then stick with it. it is okay to adapt if something happens but the only way to really feel the benefits of anything and to form long lasting positive habits is to be consistent. Keeping up with your routine every single day, even on weekends will make it part of your day, something to look forward to, it will become automatic and just be part of who you are and what you do.
I hope that this has helped you to understand why morning routines are essential in sobriety and to offer you some inspiration about what you could start to incorporate into your life to help you to start the day the right way, every day.
Let me know in the comments if you have a morning routine that you love or if you need help in building one.