Dr Charlotte Hay
How to have the Best Day Ever (in 6 easy steps!)
A great day starts with a great Morning Routine.
Back at the start of my own health journey, one of the first things I learned about was how important it is to set yourself up for the day in the best possible way, and which are the key practices to help you do this.
My own morning routine evolved gradually out of this research, and through trial and error – finding out which things worked for me and which weren’t sustainable (or enjoyable!), how much time I realistically had, etc.
I will say that I am very privileged to be able to set my working hours most days, and to give myself the time in the morning to be able to do these things (if I did everything I wanted to, it would take me over 2.5 hours, which I realise is not feasible for most people!). On the other hand, I made the conscious choice to create my life around my lifestyle and these practices, which are so essential to my physical and mental wellbeing that, to me, they are non-negotiable. This is one of the main reasons why I decided I wanted to work for myself, online... which hasn’t been easy, and also has its trade-offs and sacrifices, but, for me, the benefits of being able to prioritise my wellbeing are far greater.
With that said, here is my current morning routine to set me up for a successful, productive day.
7.30-8am: wake up
As a Highly Sensitive Person, I need at least 8 hours sleep, preferably 9, before I can even feel remotely normal or ready for the day. I try to wake up slightly earlier in the summer, around 7.30am, but in winter I allow myself to sleep until 8am. I use a sunlight alarm clock with bird sounds to wake me up gradually, although I admit, sometimes it’s too gentle!
Step 1: Nauli kriya (2-3 mins)
The first thing I do most days is a quick nauli kriya. This is something I learnt on my Ashtanga-Vinyasa training, as a way of waking up the digestive system in the morning, as well as strengthening the abdominal muscles. I don’t practice this when I have my period, or if I’m in a rush.
Step 2: Lemon water
I then head straight to the kitchen for my lemon water. Starting the day with a (huge!) glass of lemon water has now become a non-negotiable in my life – it feels so strange if I ever have to miss it out! It was one of the first things I started adding to my routine back in 2013, when I learnt about the importance of hydration and reflected on the fact that, by the time we wake up in the morning, we’ve been without water for probably around 12 hours... there’s no doubt we’re massively dehydrated! Adding the lemon to the water helps things to get moving (in the digestive system), and is also anti-bacterial and helps support the immune system. If you’re someone who is prone to being cold you can also have a cup of hot water with lemon, or have your water room temperature. It’s best to use a straw (reusable of course!) as the lemon can be quite acidic for your teeth.
Step 3: Meditation (10-20 mins)
After my lemon water, I’m ready for my meditation. Again, this was one of the first things I started doing on my own wellness journey, and one of the things that helped me get through one of the darkest and most stressful periods of my life (you can read more about my journey here). When I decided to commit to a daily meditation, I started out by using the Headspace app (which I would highly recommend), which got me into a habit of doing 10 minutes of meditation each morning. I’ve tried various other styles throughout the years, such as guided meditations and visualisations on youtube, counting meditations, using a phrase (etc.), and am currently doing the meditation from “Breaking the habit of being yourself” by Joe Dispenza, which requires up to 20 minutes a day. I’ll admit, this can be challenging, but, because I know how amazing and life-changing meditation is for your wellbeing, I make sure that, even on the days when I’m in a rush, I always get in at least 5 minutes of some kind of meditation each morning.
Step 4: Pranayama (5-15 minutes)
After meditation, I then do a short pranayama (breathwork) practice, specifically: nadi shodana. Nadi shodana, or alternate nostril breathing, is a form of pranayama that is highly recommended for all kinds of hormonal imbalance, and for pacifying most constitutional imbalances, according to Ayurveda. Ideally you would do 15 minutes a day, but even 5 minutes is better than nothing!
Step 5: Yoga (20-60 minutes)
I then do my morning exercise, which for me is yoga. Despite loving my sleep, I’m also a morning person, so exercising in the morning is a must for me – not only does my body feel so much better for the rest of the day if I've moved as close to waking as possible, but I also know that my motivation wanes through the day, so I’m much more likely to skip an afternoon exercise session! It’s about finding what works best for you, both in terms of the time of exercise, and also the style. I used to be very rigid in my practice and my thinking - that it had to be at least one hour of (Ashtanga) yoga every morning - but this just wasn’t sustainable for me. While I still try to do as long a practice as I can, I feel that setting a goal of just 20 minutes in the morning is a lot kinder to myself, and usually much more realistic (especially in winter, when I sleep later!).
Step 6: Breakfast
Once I've done my yoga, it’s time for my favourite part of the morning (maybe even the day!): breakfast. Since I cycle-sync my food*, my breakfast changes depending on what part of my cycle I’m in. My favourite, though, are my green smoothies (which I usually have in follicular and ovulatory phases). Again, these were one of the first things that I added to my diet when I started on my own health journey back in 2013. I know many people who think the idea of a kale smoothie is gross (I find that usually they haven’t tried one, and definitely not mine!), but for me they are one of the yummiest things ever, and something that made me feel so good both physically and mentally, that they genuinely gave me something to get out of bed for when I was at my lowest. For this reason, they will always have a special place in my heart!
If you're someone who tends to skip breakfast I would encourage you to try adding it back in (even if it's a bit later in the morning - personally, I need to be up for at least an hour before I can even think about eating!), and experimenting with different types of breakfast (sweet or savoury) to see how that impacts on the rest of your day - your mood, energy, stomach, etc.
*If you’d like more information on cycle-syncing your diet, keep a look out for my upcoming webinar on this exact topic! Sign up to my newsletter or follow me on social media to be the first to hear when the date is released. You can also sign up to receive a free short guide to cycle-syncing your diet (which I will expand on during the webinar) here, and check out my previous article explaining what cycle-syncing is.
So there you have it, these are the practices that I personally use to set myself up for a calm, productive, happy day. Try incorporating one of these steps into your own routine and notice what happens. How do you feel by the end of the day?
Do you have a morning routine? Which of these practices do you already do, or would you like to start? Let me know in the comments below!