You may think that the first thing you should do in the morning is grab your phone, right? Same here. After all, one minute, you‘re turning off your alarm; the next, you’re checking work emails and texts and Insta Stories — and, suddenly, an hour’s gone by and you haven’t even had your coffee yet. And you wonder why you start your day frazzled and anxiety-ridden. So it’s probably not surprising that wellness experts say the best morning routines should be phone-free. Well, unless it’s to listen to a meditation (but do not check emails or social media first!).
“People say they don’t have time to meditate, but most of us are doing a 10-minute Instagram meditation every morning (or email, texting, Facebook, etc.),” Justin Michael Williams, transformational speaker, meditation teacher, and author, tells TZR in an email. His book, Stay Woke: A Meditation Guide For The Rest of Us, gives readers practical tools to meditate and wake up your mornings. “Here’s an easy way to change your life: As soon as you wake up, check yourself before you check your phone,” he says.
According to research by Deloitte, a lot of people check their phones shortly after waking up: In fact, 76% of people do so within 30 minutes; 62% of people do so within 15 minutes; and 43% do so within five minutes. But just because “everyone’s doing it” doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Here’s why and how you should go phone-free in the morning for optimum physical and mental health.
Your Morning Sets The Tone For Your Whole Day
What you experience in the first few minutes after you wake up has a consequential influence on your psyche and mood, and sets the emotional trajectory for your entire day, Williams says. And research backs this up, too. “So be sure to check in with yourself — with your own emotions, with your own sensations, with your own health, with your own desires, with your own aspirations — before you let outside influences check in with you.”
Lennart Klipp, an emotional wellness coach in Los Angeles, CA, agrees. “We don’t often realize it, but waking up in the morning is an important time of the day,” he tells TZR in an email. “It is a time of transition. We come out of a deeply restful state of relaxing and recharging, and we transition into doing, into action. Unfortunately, we hardly give ourselves time to make this transition.” Instead, he says many people tend to jump right back into life, immediately plugging back into the matrix. “We catch up on the news, emails, texts, social media posts that we missed,” he says. “Our partner, kids, or pets might require attention. Work is waiting. We reconnect to the outer world so immediately that we forget to properly reconnect to ourselves first.”
As a result, our mindset and well-being suffer and we start the day feeling disconnected from ourselves, he adds. “We forget to slowly come back to awareness and ask ourselves fundamental questions like: What does my body feel like today? How do I feel, mentally and emotionally? What is my intention for today? All incredibly important questions for our well-being.” He notes that it’s important to transition from rest into action slowly and mindfully, and to gradually bring your awareness back into your body and into your life. You can start by checking in with yourself by saying things like, “Good morning! How are you? Why are you here?” he says. “This way, you start the day more mindfully, more intentionally, and more purposefully.”
Speaking of which, Brooke Sprowl, clinical director and owner of My LA Therapy, tells TZR that one’s habits set the tone for the way they are primed to relate to each moment of the day. “It’s about conditioning yourself, which depends on what your goals and values are,” she says. “Setting yourself — and your nervous system — up to be calm and grounded will shape the way you do everything in your day versus waiting until the end of your day, when you have reached your limit. If you don’t have a morning practice that grounds you every day, you will be in reactive mode not proactive mode.”
How To Maximize Your Morning
So how does one reprogram their brain so that they start their morning in the best possible way? Sprowl says that in order to maximize these initial hours of the day and achieve peak performance, never check emails or the news in the morning. Instead, save them for a time where you are not at peak awareness. She suggests following a set morning routine offline — and it doesn’t have to take long or be too labor-intensive. “Drink a big glass of water (at least 16 ounces), do a light workout (like yoga or a 20-minute walk), and listen to a meditation,” she says. “These can all set the stage for preventative medicine versus corrective medicine.”
Williams seconds that, noting that every stimulus, thought, and emotion penetrates the brain more deeply in the moments just after waking up. “So if one of the first things you see is a fear-mongering news article or an annoying email from a colleague who needs something or a notification that you overdrew your checking account last night, you are at risk of being negatively impacted for the rest of your day,” he says. Plus, research has found that people who watched as little as three minutes of negative news in the morning were a whopping 27% more likely to report having a bad or unhappy day six to eight hours later, he explains.
How To Stay Motivated
What if you’re having separation anxiety from your phone — how can you not check it first thing in the morning? Sprowl says it’s simple: Just replace your phone habit with a new habit, like meditation. “If the first thing you do is grab it, start playing a meditation app instead,” she says. She likes “Waking Up with Sam Harris,” a nine-minute meditation on YouTube. Or, you can listen to one of many different meditation apps, like Brightmind, Ten Percent Happier, Headspace, or Insight Timer, she says.
Williams, too, has a few recommendations that can help you avoid getting into the “phone zone” in the morning. “Get an alarm clock instead of using your phone to wake up,” he says. “There are some really cool (and cheap!) ones available both online and at your favorite brick-and-mortar stores.” Next, he says to turn your bedroom into a “no social media zone.” “This will benefit more than just your meditation practice, especially if you have a special someone,” he says. Finally, he suggests deactivating the notifications from your phone’s lock screen. “This way, after you turn off your alarm, you won’t see any alerts waiting for you,” he says. “If you use your phone to listen to guided meditations, turning off your notifications is even more important.”
The question is: Does all this work? Williams guarantees it does … with practice and consistency. “I have recommended this phoneless morning practice to thousands of people, so I know with certainty that it works,” he says. “But I’ll warn you now that you’ll probably feel a bit of anxiety when you try to give it up. In a world where we often feel so alone, the desire to connect is strong. I feel it, too. But take the 10 minutes you would have wasted scrolling through your phone and spend it meditating instead.” This way, you can use that desire to connect with others and transform it — even just for a few moments — into an intimate connection with your higher self, he says. “Meditation only takes a few minutes. You have time. You just have to commit.”
Sprowl says that, over time, you’re going to start to feel different — in a good way — throughout the day and week. Although you won’t see overnight success, “the more you do it, the more cumulative the benefit is,” she says. Instead of indulging your impulses (i.e., checking your social media feeds), you’ll gain a new skill and awareness and presence (i.e., a healthier, phone-free morning routine), she adds. You’ll also develop a new metaphorical muscle — working out your mind — that is more restrained, and you’ll have more self-control. And that’s how you’ll know your new phoneless morning routine is working. “Your nervous system will be more calm and grounded, and you’ll feel less panicked and frantic,” she says. “This will be its own reward and motivate you further.”