When the alarm goes off in the morning, it’s inevitable that almost all of us pick up our phone first thing.
Most of us are using our phones as alarm clocks, timers, the weather channel, and sources of important daily information that we wouldn’t want to miss before starting our day. But once the alarm is cancelled and the weather is checked, it’s too easy to open one of our favorite social media apps and begin the scroll.
When you start your morning by filling your freshly rested brain with an overload of content, you’re sending your thoughts into stimulation overdrive.
By opening yourself up to outside information before you’ve done anything for yourself, you risk running out of time to create your best day possible.
- You could fall down the scroll hole and not look up until you’re running late.
- You could learn something alarming that throws off your morning before you’ve even started.
- You’re taking in new information before you’ve had a chance to think about how you will show up today.
- You might take in work information before you’re on the clock, before you can actually act on that information, and then have it on your mind for the rest of your morning.
No matter what, you interrupt any chance at starting your day with self-care time.
Don’t get me wrong, checking your phone in the morning can be enjoyable. But next time, consider setting time aside to check what matters on your phone.
What matters to you?
Much of what we do is governed by routine, even if we’re not fully aware of the pattern. When you wake up in the morning and instantly open social media, is it because you are excited for a specific person or topic? Or is it just that you opened the app first thing yesterday, and the day before, and the day before…
Take moment to journal about what actually matters to you on your phone. My list looks like:
- Checking the weather so I know how to dress.
- Seeing any DMs from Instagram friends overnight.
- Watching Instagram Stories from friends I don’t see often (especially those that feature their pets).
- Checking my email for newsletters and blogs I’ll want to read with my morning tea.
Create a list for yourself so you can prioritize where you land when you do check your phone in the morning.
Why are you getting on your phone first thing in the morning?
I want you to ask yourself this question. Because seriously, why is it the first thing? Why not brushing your teeth? Showering? Washing your face? Having a cup of coffee?
Maybe it’s convenience. If your phone is the first thing you pick up in the morning, it’s right there to entertain you before you even turn the lights on.
But doing something out of convenience isn’t all that beneficial if it’s actually working against us. Instead of checking your phone out of convenience or availability, think about what you’d do first thing in the morning in your ideal world. Then prioritize that.
If you’re trying to figure out where your phone time fits after you’ve woken up, but aren’t sure how to stick with the new habit, remember it’s easiest to replace an old habit with a new one.
Instead of checking your phone as soon as you wake up, you could:
- Set aside 15-20 minutes in the morning to sit with your cup of coffee and read or review the important things on your phone after you’re out of bed
- Check your phone on your commute, saving any offline reading for times when your phone might not have service on the train.
- Watch videos during another activity, like cooking or applying makeup.
- Start your workday without any distraction and save social media for your mid-morning break.
It may seem crazy or unnecessary to schedule phone time, but consider how productive and creative you could be if you weren’t thinking about the four different blogs you skimmed, the latest news commentary from Twitter, and your friend’s new puppy (giving you instant puppy fever). As delightful as each of these bits of content might be, they send your brain on a roller coaster, staying with you long after you’ve closed the app.
The easiest way to not check your phone first thing in the morning is to schedule it at another time. If you’re not sure what to replace as your “first” thing in the morning, consider this list of 8 activities which benefit your mind, body, psyche, relationships, and wellbeing – all before checking your notifications.
Activities to do for yourself before you check your phone after waking:
Self-care and shower.
You set the tone of your day with the first thing you do. When you make that thing self-care, like washing your face, brushing your teeth, or taking a steaming shower, you’ve established a precedent that your feelings and comfort are important. Showering first-thing get your blood flowing through your body after being still all night long, which wakes up your cognition and gives you a boost of energy.
If you’re not into the morning shower, even just splashing water on your face and completing a nurturing skincare practice – which can be a wash + SPF moisturizer or a multi-step regimen – will awaken your senses and make you more coherent throughout the morning. That means less instances of misplacing your keys, and maybe even skipping that second cup of coffee.
10-minutes of meditation (with an old-fashioned timer).
Starting your day with a clear mind is a recipe for success. The benefits of meditation are seemingly endless, but especially morning meditation gives you a host of life improvements, including:
- a quieter mind (less distraction)
- an easier time switching into a flow state
- more mental clarity when it comes to problem solving
- a decrease in sensitivity to stressful situations.
Just 10 minutes of meditation can give you a slight boost of energy and turn the volume way down on the woes we wake up with each morning. If you have a big project at work, a new coworker who is turning out to be difficult to work with, or a sick child at home – these stressors will be less triggering to you when you start with a mindfulness meditation.
Get up and work out (with a downloaded playlist and your phone on airplane mode).
Did you know you can download your playlists on most streaming services and enjoy them while your phone is in airplane mode? Skip the notifications and distractions during your morning workout by cranking up the tunes and getting your sweat in first thing in the morning.
If you’re not sure how you could work out first thing, activities like pilates, yoga, plyometrics, and even some crossfit activities can be done from home with just a few simple tools. You can queue up a youtube video with a free workout on your computer the night before so all you have to do in the morning is hit play.
Plus, when you work out first thing in the morning, you won’t be able to give the ‘scheduling conflicts’ excuse for why you didn’t work out that day. Your workout is already complete and your metabolism and mindset are reaping the benefits all day long.
Take your dog or child for a walk or play outside.
It’s likely you’re already starting to hear more about play from the voices who tout self-care, mindfulness, and self-development. Our society is arguably working itself to exhaustion, so taking time for play has a myriad of benefits. Getting out to play isn’t just for kids – even when adults take time for play, it has the propensity to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, and stimulate creativity.
Get out and play with your dog, your child, your partner, or even with yourself. Bounce a ball off a wall, shoot hoops, practice your cartwheel, fly a kite, and take 10 minutes to laugh, move, and boost your creativity before you start your day.
Read a book or the daily paper.
How fitting, as reading the daily paper was arguably the quintessential morning activity for millions of people before computers and smartphones came along.
You may come to love the tactile experience of newsprint paper between your fingertips, thought-provoking content to consider, and the ritual of reading quietly each morning. (Another benefit: traditional newspaper writing tends to be less inflammatory than blogs and TV, which means you won’t be jumping right into a strong emotion first thing in the morning.)
If you’re not into the daily paper, consider reading just 5 or 10 pages in a book you’ve meant to finish. Or, pick up a special interest magazine and go essay by essay each morning, spending just a few minutes in solitude without a screen.
The special benefit to reading in the morning is that you start your day off by single-tasking. You improve your focus all day by starting with focusing on a single point of information.
As you read, you comprehend and enjoy, but are hopefully not darting back and forth between a phone, email, cooking, kids, or other responsibilities. This focus extends through your whole day and helps you maintain concentration even when the distractions of work and life begin to impede.
Make coffee or tea.
It’s common practice to make your morning beverage with the push of a button, eyes still half-closed and your brain not fully comprehending what you’re doing until the first sip hits your lips. But, even without changing your normal habits, the ritual of making coffee or tea can become an act of mindfulness.
Consider the steps of making a cup of tea: boiling water, which takes time; choosing your favorite mug, combining hot water and a tea sachet or loose leaf steeper; waiting a bit more time before you can enjoy, then sitting quietly with your cup of tea, sipping slowly while you wake up gently.
When you’re rushed in the morning, the idea of sitting down to do anything slowly and mindfully may seem like a joke. But, this is an opportunity to make space in your morning to prioritize your mindset. If it means getting up 15 minutes early (and subsequently going to bed 15 minutes earlier), it’s worth the benefits you enjoy throughout the rest of your day.
Enjoy breakfast with your partner, pet, or distant friend via phone.
Breakfast at home is a luxury that each of us can enjoy, at least with a little bit of planning. When you start your morning with breakfast before you even check your phone, you’re giving your brain all the fuel it needs to wake up, show up, and be the very best.
Without even touting the numerous health benefits, having a nourishing breakfast that is shared with someone, even if that someone can only be with you via Facetime or phone call, wakes up the social part of your brain and releases endorphins.
Make time to connect over a meal in the morning and you’ll find yourself feeling less stressed, easier to connect with, and more ready to face the challenges of the day ahead.
Set up your day for success.
What can you do the night before to make tomorrow smoother? Or maybe you wake up with energy, and you can take a step or two first thing in the morning to make the rest of your day easier. You might find that arranging your clothes, setting out your breakfast, and preparing your work bag before you start your day mentally calms anxieties that arise when we wake.
Just like finding joy in cleaning your room before a big test or a big presentation at work, doing a bit of self-organizing first thing in the morning settles any chaos in your brain and makes it seamless for you to leave on-time, fully prepared for a great day.
Rather than making a case to not check your phone in the morning, we want you to see how it impacts your mental landscape to postpone the scroll until after you’ve done something for yourself.