Find a successful person and you will find a structured morning routine.
The most successful people in history are often noted for self-discipline, or success by their own standards. Why? They realize trying to live life at optimal levels without structure is like building a house on sand. Habits provide a solid foundation for building a successful life. And a good morning routine—a collection of several positive habits—sets your day, career, and life up for a win.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
While there’s no one-size-fits-all morning routine, we can learn much from studying how successful people start their days. So we polled the collective. As we reviewed the responses, we discovered some patterns emerged. Here are 8 of the most popular groupings of morning habits. Use one or more as ways to build a positive ritual to start your day, a new routine to provide clarity amongst the chaos, and all day focus to tackle life’s tasks with purpose.
1) Get Early Morning Sunlight Exposure to Energize Mind, Body and Soul
The science of why you need sunlight early in your day:
Circadian rhythms—biological processes that change in predictable ways over 24 hours—affect hormones (e.g., cortisol, melatonin), biomarkers of health (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, body temperature), and virtually all physiological processes. Disruptions in these rhythms have been linked to premature aging, many diseases, and metabolic issues like weight gain. In order to minimize our odds of these unwanted health outcomes, and produce robust health, circadian rhythms must be consistently adjusted to be in synch with the natural worlds light-dark cycles. Early morning sunlight acts as a primary timing cue for our light-sensitive circadian rhythms. It acts like winding a watch or setting a clock that’s a bit fast or slow. When thinking in terms of circadian rhythms, it’s important to consider what you do and when you do it...timing matters. In this case the “what” is exposing our eyes to some sunlight every day, and the “when” is early in the sun’s day.
"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house." -Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks
2) Practice a Breathing Exercise
“Immediately upon waking, I smile big and think of something to be grateful for. Then, I go through a 10-minute deep breathing exercise. These practices allow me to get into a positive state of mind and primes my physiology beneficially at its most fundamental level for the day ahead.” -CK Chung, Evothrive
“Light yoga and stretching followed by jumping jacks and full body vibration/shaking on Mother Earth. I always end this routine with power breaths.” -TJ Anderson, Elevate Your State/The Art of Health Hacking
Want more information on breathwork? Read: Box Breathing: A Breathing Technique to Focus the Mind
"Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health." -Dr. Andrew Weil
3) Prepare Mentally for the Day (Visualize and/or Meditate)
“I review my tasks for the day and then during my meditation I visualize myself having the perfect day. This includes finishing most important tasks and getting plenty of time outdoors.” -Chris James, Primal Hacker
The science behind meditation:
Meditation is one of the oldest and most widely used life hacks. Science has been investigating its benefits since the 1970's—improved stress management and mood are consistent findings. Meditation also helps us be our best selves. A large review of many scientific studies concluded that meditation improves positive prosocial emotions (e.g., empathy, compassion) and behaviors.1 Because of its cognitive and social effects, time spent in morning meditation might be an investment that carries over to improved job performance.2-3
"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." -Marcus Aurelius
4) Cold Therapy for Energy & Focus
“A core tenant of hydrotherapy—the use of water to stimulate health—is "always end with cold." This principle can be turned into a daily habit by ending hot showers with 30 seconds of water as cold as you can get it. I do this during my morning and after workout showers. The goal is to simulate a plunge into cold water.” -Dr. Gregory Kelly, Neurohacker Collective
The science of cold therapies:
The idea that we can benefit from ending a morning shower with 30–90 seconds of cold water is supported by a recent study titled “The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work.”4 The main finding of this work was that people who regularly ended their showers with a brief burst of cold water had fewer sick absences from work. The study participants were asked to continue to take showers for as long as they desired with the water temperature as warm as they liked. They were also asked to end the warm shower with a brief exposure to water as cold as they could get it. Since the study was done in the Netherlands in January, this level of cold was quite cold (in the low 50’s degrees F). The participants were divided into 4 groups: 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds of cold water showering, or no cold water exposure at the end of their showers. After 30 days, the people in the 3 cold water groups were told to continue to use cold water as desired for the next 2 months. What happened? Ending a shower with a burst of cold water decreased the number of missed workdays, with 30 seconds working as well as longer exposure. The most frequently reported beneficial “side effect” was an increase in perceived energy levels.
“Boom! Every cell in my body wakes up. It’s like training your nervous system to rock." -Tony Robbins (speaking about his morning routine of cold showers and hydrotherapy on a Tim Ferriss podcast)
5) Fuel the Body and the Brain
"One key to success is to have lunch at the time of day most people have breakfast." -Robert Breault, American Operatic Tenor
6) Energize Your Body With H20
“I start every day by chugging a glass of water. I check glucose and ketones then I head outside for some stretching and movement sequence on the earth (all barefoot).” -Boomer Anderson, Decoding Superhuman
“I wake up every day at the same hour (6 am), drink 2 glasses of water, do a quick morning stretch, take my supplements, eat breakfast, and prepare my daily to-do list.” -Greg Gostincar, Your Inception
"Thousands Have Lived Without Love, Not One Without Water." -W.H.Auden
7) Get Physical: Move Your Body
“Immediately as my feet hit the floor when I get out of bed, I stretch out in a "power pose" and then go into a 5-minute Qigong shaking routine to get my blood flowing. I also perform a mental analysis of how my body is feeling at the time. Then I assume the "Founder" pose to prime my posterior chain for the day.”-CK Chung, Evothrive
“I roll out of bed to wash my face and brush my teeth, take my Qualia mind and a digestive enzyme, then hop on my BEMER for 8 minutes of PEMF therapy. Then I do my morning meditation on my Vibroacoustic Sound Lounge. The whole routine takes about an hour.” -Craig Goldberg, GoldZulu
"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." -Henry David Thoreau
8) Journaling for a Grateful Spirit and Purpose
“I believe you can measure a level of person's success by what they do in the first hour of the day. This is my power hour straight as I wake up and helps me set the stage for the rest of the day. I meditate for five minutes in the morning and then write in my Five Minute Journal. I read my purpose, principles, and passion in my Nepal journal. I will then read affirmations and incantations to myself in the mirror to rule my inner human mind. In this time frame I will also listen to binaural beats to increase serotonin levels and reduce the beta monkey mind.”-Justin Dutra, Primal University
“I avoid connection with the outside world (no emails, phone, etc.) until I’ve worked through my morning routine, spent time in my gratitude journal, and worked out my daily tasks. All this is done free from distractions - they can wait!” -Alex Fergus, Health and Fitness Coach
The science behind journaling:
Scientific research has provided some concrete data that support the benefits of reflective writing. As an example, in one study, a group of undergraduate psychology students was asked to write about their deepest thoughts on a traumatic event—focusing on their feelings about it—for at least ten minutes twice a week. Another group of students was told to write objectively about events in the media that involved emotions and trauma. Both groups were asked to fill out a questionnaire before starting and again after practicing the exercise for a full semester of school. What did the researchers find? The students who wrote about their feelings were better able to see positive outcomes from the negative events compared with those who wrote objectively about non-personal topics.5
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
Create Your Perfect Morning Routine
Habits are the building blocks for routines, and routines are good for us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not only is routine a source of self-discipline, it can also be comforting—grounding us from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep at night. Why not make it a goal to cultivate a love for mornings with a routine that’s right for you?
When starting up your new morning habits, don’t ignore the importance of the night before. As one of our experts shared; “My mental preparations for a successful day begin the night before… So, to wrap up my day before going to bed, I write out my to-do list for the next day and reflect upon three good things that happened that day, which helps me clear my mind and prepare my body for a restful night of sleep.” -CK Chung, Evothrive
Take one, or at most two suggestions that caught your attention and begin adding them to your morning routine. Notice what kind of impact it has on your day. Whatever you choose, practice it for at least 30 days. The goal with new behaviors is to turn them into habits…ritualized practices that will not require big investments of willpower. Repetition is a key part of the recipe for turning a new action into a habit. Each new habit is a step along the journey to a new you and can help hurl you towards success.
Start a new habit tomorrow morning. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
1. Luberto CM, Shinday N, Song R, et al. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors. Mindfulness. 2017;9(3):708. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0841-8
2. Shiba K, Nishimoto M, Sugimoto M, Ishikawa Y. The Association between Meditation Practice and Job Performance: A Cross-Sectional Study. PLOS One. 2015;10(5):e0128287. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128287
3. Cheng FK. What Does Meditation Contribute to Workplace? An Integrative Review. Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture. 2016;6(4):18. doi:10.1002/jpoc.21195
4. Buijze G.A., Sierevelt I.N., van der Heijden B.C.J.M., et al. The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLOS One. 2015;11(9):e0161749. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0161749
5. Ullrich P.M. and Lutgendorf S.K.; Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Ann. Behav. Med. 2002;24(3):244–250. doi.org/10.1207/S15324796ABM2403_10