I want you to imagine your favorite food. It can be anything. Your favorite snack food, dessert, or dinner. See it now in your mind’s eye – that place in your brain where you see images. Now, see yourself eating and enjoying it. It’s so good right?!
One of my faves is a good mix of salty sweetness. That’s one reason why I love sea salt in my dark chocolate. There’s a reason why one of the major chip companies says that their chips are so good, “you can’t just have one.”
Each time we take a bite of our favorite food, our brain feels pleasure and sends a neurochemical called dopamine, which signals to the reward system in our brain that we must have more! If we eat more, we are rewarded with more of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine and consequently great tasting food. And, the cycle continues.
The same thing happens when we are enjoying our favorite activity. If you have kids who love video games, you will know what I mean here!
Neuroscientists call this the dopamine-reward system. You hear a lot about this reward system at play with those that have addictive behaviors from alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, etc. The more you engage in the behavior you get “pleasure” signals from your brain (aka dopamine ), the more you want to engage in that type of behavior because it feels good!
This is a simplistic explanation of the dopamine-reward system. Neuroscientists who study this stuff recognize that our brains are complex and that there may be other neural networks utilized during activities that invoke good and pleasurable feelings. However, this is one major neural network center that is prominently discussed and activated during pleasurable activities, such as eating great-tasting food or enjoying your favorite video game or shopping spree date.
What’s also true is that the dopamine-reward system isn’t only activated during those times we crave junk food or the less than admirable activities. This system is also activated during all the good things, like eating healthy, enjoying your favorite exercise, and hanging out with friends that have a positive impact on your life.
It can also be activated during our morning routine. But, you may be saying you don’t have a morning routine. If so, hang with me here.
Let’s break it down into good habits and bad habits.
~ Bad Habits
I just talked about those. So, I won’t spend a lot of time on them here. Again, it’s your classic seeking pleasure from stuff that isn’t healthy for you – too much TV, too much screen time, alcohol, junky food, drugs, etc.
~ Healthy Habits
I alluded to this one, too. Healthy habits are things like making sure you’re getting enough greens in your diet, getting enough sleep, learning to regulate your emotions with mindful breathing, movement, and/or meditation. There are so many other healthy habits, but I’m not going to list them all here. You get the idea.
~ Breaking Bad Habits
The formula is pretty simple. If you put unhealthy stuff in your body and brain the output will be pretty unhealthy. Too much alcohol, you get a fuzzy mind and memory loss. Too many video games (depends on the type), we may lose our ability to focus on other cognitively demanding activities. We have to break the bad habit cycle and it hurts to stop doing things we enjoy! How do we do that? We replace it with something better, and eventually, more rewarding.
~ Establishing Healthy Habits
In order to break the bad habit cycle we have to make our healthy habits more enticing. Think of it as little brain tricks to essentially reprogram our dopamine-reward system. The healthy habits we want to adopt may not seem or feel enticing at first, but we have to make them more meaningful in order to override the old reward system that has us entrenched in unhealthy behaviors.
~ Establishing a Morning Routine as a Healthy Habit
This is the fun part! Anytime we adopt a new healthy habit we create meaning around it. The great thing about this process is that we create our own meaning around the new healthy habit versus something we may have grown up doing and never questioned until it started negatively impacting our adult life!
Starting a morning routine is the first big step in breaking some bad habits that are getting in the way of all the cool stuff you want to do! What new meaning are you going to create around your morning routine? As I said, the fun part is that you get to create that. Mainly, that you are going to take accountability for how you want to create your day. That’s pretty powerful stuff. Hang tight, I’ve got some juicy tips.
~ Morning Routine Don’ts
When you get up, don’t run to your phone or computer and check e-mail or social. If you do, you run the risk of igniting your dopamine-reward system that will reward you for all the “pings” and “likes” your brain is devouring. Also, don’t get up at the same time your kids or your spouse gets up. And, don’t leave home without doing this one thing for your brain and heart. I talk about that one thingnext.
~ Morning Routine Do’s
Do get up an hour earlier than your kids and spouse. This is your sacred morning routine time. You can make adjustments with your time, but an hour is good measure. Give yourself the space to sit quietly and drink your morning cup of joe so you can get your good vibes and mojo rocking strong. Perhaps you like reading. Write your thoughts in a journal. Go for a walk. Meditate. Pray. You get the idea? Take the time to get in a quiet space and do this just for you. It may be hard at first, but eventually your brain (and heart) will love it.
Your Morning Routine is Your Daily Compass
Create a new meaning around your morning routine. Visualize how much stronger, focused, filled with joy and ease, and more productive you will be in your day… and your life. That’s pretty enticing, right?
If you are tired of going nowhere in your life, meaning, you are trying to accomplish things and you just aren’t doing it, it’s time to rethink adding this life-changing practice into your day. Maybe you have a lot of life stressors and it’s impacting your health. You might be the person that does everything for everyone else, but nothing for you and you cope with drinking or too much TV. Maybe you wonder why you get nothing done in a day. Or, you keep saying you will get to it tomorrow and it doesn’t happen. Perhaps you notice your attention is focused on all the distracting stuff and none of the important stuff that really matters.
If you find yourself in that description, a morning routine may save your life. You are meant to live a joy-filled and pleasurable life that impacts you and those around you in a positive way. That’s not going to happen when you don’t take control of your day by taking control of your brain and heart before your day starts. A morning routine gives you the opportunity to prime your brain and heart for a successful day.
We become (and follow) what we focus on, so focus on the good stuff early, and save your life one morning routine at a time.