‘Happier’ With Dave Flynn


Morning Routines part 2

The tactics of a morning routine

Good morning dear Happier Community! 

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and maybe implement some ideas from last week’s piece into your own morning routine.

Building on last week’s Happier column and Part 1 of Morning Routines, here is a more tactical piece on morning routines and how you can design your own. Ready to dive in?

You can think of your morning routine as a unique ritual, almost like  a personalised recipe. While there are fundamental ingredients that contribute to a nourishing start—elements like self-care, food, and movement—the ways you can combine them are infinite. Craft a blend that works for you, and watch as your days begin to transform magically.

Morning Routine Principles: 5 Secret Ingredients to set you up for Long-term Success

Before we dive into the specifics of crafting your morning routine, there are some overarching principles to consider:

  1. Sleep – The foundation of any good morning routine is a good night’s sleep. It’s the cornerstone upon which the morning’s structure is built. Without restorative slumber, even the most well-intentioned routine can crumble (and I’ve recently had to redesign my own routine, given that I now have a 7-month old and as you can imagine, sleep isn’t as plentiful as it used to be!).
  2. Flexibility – Your morning routine needs to be ‘baggy’ enough so that it can ebb and flow to constant changes in your life. In my perspective, it can’t be too rigid. Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching said “The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”
  1. Variety – If your morning routine is on autopilot and becomes boring in one sense, then it is likely time to freshen it up. As Mother Happy Pear always says, variety is the spice of life after all!
  2. Remove choice from any core elements! By contrast, removing optionality from core elements in your morning routine is equally as crucial. These are the aspects that require no deliberation or exertion of willpower; they simply unfold. Take my daily sunrise swim in the sea as an example, I don’t have the deliberate ‘will to swim today’, it just happens automatically, as I have removed any choice, it has now become a ritual that happens – rain, hail or snow (and trust me, it is coooold in the winter months)! 
  1. The magic of morning is its peace—the stillness of dawn and the fresh promise of the day. It’s a cherished interval to tap into the quiet potential that lies ahead. Not a morning person? Seek this type of calm energy at day’s end instead. The key is to start (or finish) your day gently, easing your way into the day not in a frenzied rush.

The Macronutrients of a Sustainable Morning Routine (plus a bonus one!)

1. Movement – Waking up, my body often feels the weight of sleepiness, thanks to adenosine, the sleep hormone. To shake off this grogginess, I engage in exercise, which not only raises my body temperature waking me up but also triggers a rush of adrenaline and mood-boosting hormones that clear the sleep fog.

Integrating movement into your morning routine is about more than just physical readiness; it’s a mental ignition. It’s not solely for the immediate burst of energy—though this is a welcome benefit—but for the lasting uplift in mood and vitality that carries you through the day. This has been backed by numerous studies: regular morning exercise doesn’t just combat the morning haze, it propels us into a day of clarity and dynamism.

2. Sunlight, nature & being outside

Not surprising, starting your day with a dose of morning sunshine can work wonders. It nudges your brain to stop producing melatonin, a sleep hormone, while boosting your serotonin levels, thereby lifting your spirits and helping you stay calm and collected. Morning light also keeps your internal clock in check, ensuring better sleep that night and more “pep in your step” as days go by.

The other day, my teenage daughter was telling me about phytoncides, that her woodwork teacher was waxing lyrical about. They are compounds that trees give off to protect them. When we spend time in green spaces we absorb these phytoncides improving our immune system. So, nature works as a stress buster that also sharpens your mind. It’s like a deep breath for your brain, setting you up for a day where you can face whatever comes your way with clarity and creativity.

3.Make the morning sacred!

Sacredness is a beautiful thing to factor into your morning. It can be as simple as turning some routines within your morning into rituals (as I talked about in my first Happier column), imbuing them with more intention and awareness and using them as triggers to become fully alive, present and mindful in the moment.

Witnessing the sunrise is a daily marvel for me, an experience that remains awe-inspiring—even under the often grey skies of Ireland! Watching the world transition from dusk to daylight is a humble reminder of life’s grand scale and my own small place within it, an insight that I find liberating. If you can’t watch the sunrise due to buildings etc, simply being outside as the day transitions from darkness into light can be a transformative experience – your mood lifts and rises with the sun.

4. Mindful activities

There are countless activities that can help lift your spirit in the morning and bring you into the here and now. Breathwork, for instance, is amazing at getting you into heightened states of mind, literally ‘getting high on your own supply’ can help set your day in a glorious direction. There are lots of apps with simple 5 and 10 minute breathwork sessions you can follow along. Personally, I use a free ios app called ‘Breathing app’ and I usually do the 5:7 breathing for 5 minutes, it helps my thoughts drift away and brings me back to the here and now.

At times, I’ve embraced the ritual of brewing herbal tea and dedicating 30 minutes to journaling. I found it very therapeutic, a blank page of paper willingly accepts all of your thoughts and woes without judgement. Having a few good prompts or questions can focus your journaling such as ‘What am I afraid of today?’ or ‘What is going on inside me that I am not listening to?’.

5. Food & Drink

I normally eat my first meal at 7.30/8am and rise at 5ish. Most research on the topic suggests that it is generally best to wait at least one hour to eat upon waking, however your body might function differently.

Drinking water is an important first activity as you lose lots of hydration overnight while asleep. For a double whammy drink, warm water with lemon is ideal, which will not only hydrate you but also will help kick start your bowels (which is great for detoxing)

What you eat for breakfast depends very much on your personal tastes, your moods and the time of year. As I said last week, I normally eat Chia seed pudding but during last week, the Irish sea has been cold, so I have been eating porridge for brekkie to warm me up and kickstart my internal heat!

The Secret Superpower and Bonus Macronutrient: Cold Water Exposure 

I know it’s such a cliche to mention cold water exposure, but give me a second to explain why I feel like it’s highly beneficial not just for me but for everyone else( maybe I am just justifying myself here).

Even having swum pretty much everyday for the last decade in the cold sea at sunrise, I still find it hard. I regularly have a voice in my head that says ‘You don’t have to do this, Dave’or ‘Just take a day off’. Yet, the practice has become an ingrained habit, a non-negotiable part of my morning that unfolds without conscious decision-making.

Cold water ironically triggers your core body temperature to rise which wakes you up by kickstarting your brown fat which lines your organs (this is the type of fat associated with better metabolism and lower risk of many diseases). 

In essence, the challenge of immersing yourself in cold water each morning is not just a test of willpower. It’s a deliberate and powerful way to activate your body’s natural defences, sharpen your mind, improve your mood and likely contribute to better overall health. It’s a plunge into vitality, setting a tone of resilience and energy for the day ahead.

Wrapping it all up.

Integrating these macronutrients – movement, exposure to nature, sacredness, mindfulness, and nourishment – into your morning routine is not just about starting your day; it’s about setting a powerful tone for personal success – aligning your physical, mental, and emotional states to create a symphony of productivity and well-being that resonates throughout your entire day.

Your morning routine is more than a checklist; it is a deeply personal daily ritual of self-care and purpose. As you shape your routine, do so with mindfulness, recognising it as a springboard that sets you up for the day ahead.

Remember that this is your very own journey, and as you refine your morning rituals, they become a reflection of your inner growth. I believe that the way you greet the day isn’t just an action; it’s a statement of how you choose to live—with thoughtful presence and an open heart, ready to receive.

As you stand at the threshold of a new day, ponder this: What narrative will your morning weave into the tapestry of tomorrow? How will the initial brushstrokes of your day colour the canvas of your waking hours? Embrace the quiet potential of each new dawn as a playground for personal experimentation. Tweak, transform, and tenderly craft the rituals that launch your day forward.

But please don’t let your journey be a solitary one—I invite you to join the conversation below.

What rituals have become your sunrise symphony? What changes have sparked a revolution in your daily rhythm? Share your tales of morning triumphs and the insights that have illuminated your path with our Happier community. Together, let’s build a strong community where each comment is a shared sunrise, each story a beacon for others navigating their own mornings.

Your narrative is still being written, and every dawn offers a blank slate. So tell us, how will you script the opening sentence of your day?

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