As a person living with major depressive disorder, I often wake up with painful sadness. My depression often makes getting out of bed in the morning a very tough task.
Of course, getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult for most people (whether they live with depression or not). “In those early waking minutes, our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic mathematical tasks, and alertness and attention all suffer,” wrote Maria Konnikova in a 2013 New Yorker article, “Snoozers Are, in Fact, Losers.” “Even simple tasks, like finding and turning on the light switch, become far more complicated. As a result, our decisions are neither rational nor optimal.”
Several years ago, I learned that the first 30 minutes of your day sets the tone for your entire day. The first 30 minutes is also called “the slingshot moment.” Whether you snooze, look at your cell phone, or get dressed and go to the gym, your choices will impact your day. Making the most of that time is important.
As I continued to explore this, I learned that the key to getting out of bed and making the most of this time is to have a morning routine. In fact, one of the most common habits that successful people have is a structured morning routine.
What I found confusing was that most people have some difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and people living with depression have more. Then how could someone start a morning routine? The answer is to take advantage of morning motivation.
The catalyst that got me to address my morning routine was reading the book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. In his bestselling book, Elrod suggests that people do Life S.A.V.E.R.S. each morning, i.e.,:
- S stands for Silence. Silence can include sitting still for a period, meditation, reflection, or prayer.
- A stands for Affirmations. Positive self-talk is important for self-esteem.
- V stands for Visualization. Some people prefer guided visualization. You can also use this time to think through your upcoming day or a problem in your life.
- E stands for Exercise. You choose what works best for you.
- R stands for Reading. I’m a big believer in the idea that reading impacts your decision-making and conversations.
- S stands for Scribing. You can write in a journal, gratitude journal, or a workbook.
The Life S.A.V.E.R.S. acronym serves as an excellent foundation to begin thinking about your morning routine. Here’s how to create one:
- List activities that rejuvenate and uplift you from the Life S.A.V.E.R.S. acronym
- Choose one activity to focus on this week
- Wake up each day and do that activity immediately
- Add one activity each week until you hit every one of the Life S.A.V.E.R.S.
- Enjoy happier days
As you go about adding a morning routine to your life, you will more than likely run into obstacles. These challenges include other things that need your attention first thing in the morning (taking care of your kids, for example), or the biggest obstacle of all: snoozing.
Snoozing is my downfall. In fact, I’m more likely to snooze if I’ve taken my anxiety medicine the night before. (Waking up drowsy is a side effect.) One of the things that Hal Elrod emphasizes in The Miracle Morning is that snoozing is actually of way of telling yourself that you are not that important.
In addition, “It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts,” according to Konnikova in her New Yorker article. “But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept.”
Instead of snoozing, force yourself to get out of bed immediately after your alarm goes off. You will undoubtedly find this difficult at first, but it gets easier as you continue to make it a habit.
I have found that paying attention to my morning routine has given me much better control over my emotions and allows me to set up my mind for coping with whatever happens that day. It doesn’t make me immune to depression, anxiety, or stress, but it does make those things much more manageable.
Enjoy tomorrow morning!
Mike Veny is one of America’s leading mental health speakers and a high energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations to meetings and conferences throughout the world. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, Mike was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the healthcare industry. He starred in several OC87 Recovery Diaries documentary films. Check out his compelling TEDx talk, Mental Illness is An Asset.