Having a mindful morning routine isn’t about ditching tech in favour of a bong-infused Zen hippie lifestyle.
Starting your day without your phone actually matters a lot more than you might think.
We’ll get to all the tech-free ways you can do that in a moment.
First, let’s look at why it’s so important to have a mindful morning routine that doesn’t include your phone.
We’ll also unpack the benefits of instituting no phone routines throughout your day, specifically in the evening as you head toward bedtime.
Why is Your Smartphone So Irresistible?
Is your phone the last thing you look at before you go to sleep at night? What about first thing in the morning? Do you reach for it the minute you wake up?
Don’t feel bad if you answered ‘yes‘ to either (or both) of those two questions. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not weak-minded or lacking in willpower.
The fact that you’re compelled to reach for your phone the minute you open your eyes is by design. You’ve been trapped in the technology web.
In the above 60 Minutes video on Brain Hacking, a former Google product manager explains how Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked.
You may be inclined to fob that off as Big Brother conspiracy theorist rubbish. I get it. The interwebs are full of tech naysayers trying to return us to an age of rotary dial telephones (the horror!).
Two things: First, watch it anyway and keep an open mind. You Googled (ironic much?) ‘what to do in the morning instead of going on your phone’ so chances are you already know something’s amiss. Second, listen to this conversation with Cal Newport.
In case you don’t know who he is, Cal is the unicorn who has never had a social media account. An Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, he’s also the best-selling author of a number of books, including Digital Minimalism and Deep Work.
Adam Alter—an Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business— does his own deep dive on the topic in his book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.
Irrestistable traces the rise of addictive behaviors, examining where they begin, who designs them, the psychological tricks that make them so compelling, and how to minimize dangerous behavioral addiction as well as harnessing the same science for beneficial ends.
Adam continues by saying, “If app designers can coax people to spend more time and money on a smartphone game, perhaps policy experts can also encourage people to save more for retirement or donate to more charities.”
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Anyhoo…now that we’ve ascertained that your scrolling habits are not your fault, it’s time to figure out how to nip them in the bud for good.
Embrace Solitude and Ditch the Blue Light
Ditching the phone in favour of a mindful morning routine can seem daunting when checking it first thing has always been your m.o., but there’s something to be said for embracing solitude.
As wonderful as it can be to have access to so much information right at our fingertips, the onslaught can wreak havoc on our attention, not to mention our overall state of wellbeing.
Setting aside some time when we’re free from the input of other minds is more necessary than it’s ever been. Adopting a mindful morning routine is a good place to instil the habit.
Equally important, however, is the PM bookend of our days. How we wind down will determine how well we sleep and how rested we are the following morning (i.e. how many buckets of coffee we need to get going).
Blowing our brains up with blue light right before bed suppresses melatonin and all but guarantees a bad night of shut-eye. You need at least an hour (two is better) of no screen time prior to hitting the sack.
Use the time to do some stretching or light yoga, enjoy some quality time with your human(s), prepare for the morning (pack lunch, etc.) or read an old-school book. With its adjustable warm light, a Kindle Oasis works too.
There Are Better Ways to Start Your Day
The Dalai Lama meditates for an hour every morning. When asked what he does when he’s busy, he famously replied, “Then I meditate for two hours.”
His point being that the busier you are, the more important the fundamentals become. In the Dalai Lama’s case, that means meditating.
For you, it could be exercising, journalling, spending time in silence, going for a run, preparing a healthy breakfast or going for a hike.
An important first step in breaking your morning phone habit is not using it to wake up. Get yourself an old-school alarm clock. Better yet, hone the art of setting an internal alarm clock.
As for your phone. Leave it in another room, somewhere out of plain sight. Promise yourself that you’ll only look at it once you’ve woken up properly. Which is to say, by employing one of the methods suggested in this post.
Wake Up the Right Way (No Phone Required)
Your mindful morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day. Adopting these simple, yet effective habits will pretty much guarantee you a great day.
Conversely, glotzing at your smartphone (or any other device, for that matter) when you wake up will more than likely leave you feeling enervated and anxious.
Choose a Mindful Morning Routine That Works
If you’re wondering what to do in the morning instead of going on your phone, this list, along with the infographic above, can help with that.
Engaging in a tech-free activity will distract you (in a good way) from the impulsive desire to check your phone for emails, updates, messages, etc.
All of which can wait until you’re done spending time in solitude.
Make sure you choose an activity that appeals to you. Opting for something because you think you ‘should’ do it is going to send you running for your phone in frustration.
Remember, it probably won’t be easy to begin with. You’re dealing with an addiction, after all. Start small. Commit to 15 minutes or half an hour of tech-free time to begin with.
Stick with it no matter what and it’ll get easier and easier the more you do it. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you look forward to your block of solitude. You might even forget to look at your phone after you’re done.
Stranger things have happened.
Meditation is a well-known tool for relieving stress and anxiety. It’s also good for your brain. It improves your memory and focus, slows brain ageing and reduces self-referential thinking. Meditation is a powerful addiction recovery aid as well.
Learning to meditate takes patience. After meditating daily for 60 years, the Dalai Lama says he still finds it hard. Try anyway, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to begin with. The quiet time will ground your day and leave you feeling calmer and more relaxed.
The great thing about exercising in the morning is that then it’s done for the day. You won’t have this ‘have to’ hanging over your head. You’ll start your day boosted by a win, which means things can only get better.
It also means your evening is yours to do with as you please. Whether that’s hanging out with friends, working on a passion project, cooking dinner with your kids or slothing on the couch with a juicy book.
3. Drink Tea
There’s something to be said for rituals. Indulging in a daily tea ritual can have a wonderfully calming effect on the mind and spirit. It slows you right down by bringing you into the moment.
You take note of every step, from filling the kettle and boiling it to scooping your tea leaves into the pot and pouring hot water over them. Even if you’re using a teabag, you can still slow down the process and be present.
4. Go for a Walk
Walking has many benefits. It’s a means to get somewhere, yes. But it’s also a way to get outside, improve your health or lose a few pounds. For many people, mindful walking calms the mind and fuels creativity.
A walk in nature is even better. You can indulge in a little forest bathing at the same time. Developed in Japan in the 1980s, the practice of shinrin-yoku—which means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’—has numerous health benefits.
5. Do Your Chores
Doing your chores requires discipline. Why is that so important? Because discipline equals freedom. When you get up early and start the day right (meditate, exercise, make the bed, do the dishes, etc.), you automatically create space for the things you love later on.
Conversely, when you lie around in bed staring at your phone, you’re wasting precious time. Suddenly you’re late for work and you haven’t showered yet, let alone tidied up, eaten a healthy breakfast or packed lunch.
6. Have Sex
Morning sex is good for you. Yip, you heard it here first. Okay, maybe you didn’t, but still. Sex has been proven to lower stress levels. Plus, it releases oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins. Ergo, you feel closer to your partner, good in general and you get to bask in a post-workout glow.
Ultimately, you could do any number of things when you wake up besides eyeballing your iPhone. The key point here is to avoid screen time first thing. The benefits of not checking your phone in the morning will astound you.
The Phone Breakup Challenge
It could be that you’re not that addicted to your phone after all. Maybe you just got into the habit of looking at it while drinking your morning coffee. However, if you think your digital addiction is out of control, try taking the 7-day phone breakup challenge.
Inspired by Catherine Price’s book How to Break Up With Your Phone, the challenge aims to help you create a relationship with your phone that actually feels good.
Whether you’re reading the news, scrolling through your Instagram feed or responding to work emails, it makes no difference. Checking your phone the minute you open your eyes (or right before you fall asleep) is not a good idea.
Even if you’re feeling a little reticent, try taking a no phone in the morning approach to your day anyway and just see what happens. You never know, it might turn out to be the best idea ever.
Stranger things have happened.
As Outside Online points out, “It’s never a bad time to evaluate your digital addiction.”
It’s one of those nothing to lose and everything to gain situations, so at least give it a try before you veto the idea outright. What do you think, are you up for giving a tech-free mindful morning routine a shot?
Digital minimalism definitively does not reject innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people currently engage in those tools. —Cal Newport