We’re so excited to share this guest post from podcasters Kyle and Jeremy, The Social Ninjas! They talk about the power of a good morning routine and how it can lower your anxiety and boost your life satisfaction. Anyone who suffers from anxiety or depression can benefit from having some type of routine in their lives. Starting the day off right sets the tone for the rest of the day, so a morning routine is a great tool to have for better mental health.
What is Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue is something that social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister discovered. It is the idea that you have a limited cognitive ability to make good decisions. The more decisions you make, the more the “gauge” on your brain for cognitive energy decreases. Questions like “What should I wear?”, “What should I eat?”, “Should I go to the gym today?”, etc. all have an impact on that “gauge” by making your brain process different decisions it needs to make which uses up that energy. The goal is to keep your limited cognitive ability as long as possible throughout the day.
Decision Fatigue Might Be a Source of Anxiety
Think about it. According to Dr. Annabali, brain scans show that those with anxiety have too much activity in the basal ganglia (the part of the brain responsible for worry, feeling anxious, fear, etc) and the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for survival fight or flight reactions of what you fear). Now, think about how decision fatigue might impact your basal ganglia and amygdala. The more decisions you are making the more stimuli your brain is processing, which is straining your brain more than it needs to. Now you just have to learn how to limit that decision fatigue, but how can you do that?
Create a Morning Routine!
Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a huge advocate for morning routines. This is probably the single best thing you can do to reduce decision fatigue. By creating a morning routine of self-care and doing the same thing every morning, you eliminate so many decisions that you would normally have to make.
I start by waking up at the same time every day so I don’t have to ask myself what time I should wake up. I eat the same thing every morning, so I don’t have to figure out what I want to eat. I do the same things at the same times every morning so there is no decision at all for me to make. Right now, I have my morning routine created to where I don’t make a single decision for the first 3 and a half hours. This helps my brain stay at a high energy level and keeps any anxiety I might usually have to a minimum.
Eliminate the Unnecessary Stimuli
Pick Your Clothes the Night Before
This just eliminates another decision you must make in the morning. I have even heard of people buying the same colored and style of hangers so that they all match in their closet. This helps make it easier on their brain to process the stimuli involved in picking out the clothes.
Clean Morning Area
Wherever you are going to be spending your morning, make sure it is spotless clean. It helps your brain and makes you feel so good. Think about the last time you went to a hotel and the feeling you got after walking into the spotlessly clean room. You probably felt good and relaxed. Keeping your brain relaxed can help your decision fatigue and anxiety decrease. Now think about how you feel when you eat breakfast at your table with tons of junk on it. This increases your decision fatigue and anxiety and you miss out on that “clean-hotel” feeling.
No Social Media or News
Stay off the social media and news channels, especially in the morning. Think about what you do when you wake up. What’s the first thing you do? Most people check social media, turn on the news, check email, etc. This increases your decision fatigue so much by doing this! You are forcing to process so much stimuli and follow-up thoughts. After the first hour of being awake after doing this, you have already used a ton of your mental energy and have very little left to manage your anxiety.
Add a Healthy Practice to Your Morning Routine
My morning routine changes from time to time depending on the environment or situation I am in. For example, I had to tweak my morning routine when I had a newborn in the house and also when COVID came about, but here are a few of the key things I ALWAYS keep in my morning routine.
According to Dr. Annabali’s book Reclaim Your Brain, “Meditation helps to eliminate feelings of anxiety and anger. Using MRI scans, researchers at the University of Wisconsin looked at the brains of meditators and discovered that during meditation their amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight impulse) switches off, and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain responsible for feelings of peace, compassion, and happiness) lights up.”
Ever since I learned that I started meditating 10 minutes a day every morning as soon as I wake up. This helps reduce stress, promote emotional health, improves sleep, enhances self-awareness, and so many other benefits!
2) Practice Gratitude
Gratefulness is more than just a nice or polite thing to do. It actually has been proven to improve mental health. A study was performed of almost 300 adults who were seeking mental health counseling to see if gratefulness had an impact on their mental health. The divided the participants into 3 groups. One group wrote a letter of gratitude to one person every week. Another group wrote about negative experiences and feelings. The last group did nothing. After only 4 weeks, the participants who wrote letters of gratitude every week reported much better mental health.
Gratitude does more than we think. One insight that the study showed from this was that gratitude might actually be impacting our brains. They took MRI scans of brains and showed that people who express more gratitude “showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex”. Something as simple as gratitude can actually have a MAJOR impact on your brain and your anxiety.
You now know that gratitude does well for your prefrontal cortex but there are also seven other benefits of showing gratitude, according to Forbes’ Amy Morin.
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
- Gratitude improves physical health.
- Gratitude improves psychological health.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
- Gratitude increases mental strength.
I like to practice gratitude every morning by writing down five things I am grateful for that are relevant to the last 24 hours of my life. This quick and simple practice has been so beneficial to me and those around me.
Feed your brain with knowledge. I like to read self-help books or take online courses about things I want to improve upon or just to learn something completely new. There is something about learning on a daily basis that really gives a boost to my self-confidence. Being someone who struggled with self-confidence in the past, I always keep this in my routine.
I challenge you to take the time to build a morning routine for yourself. Start small with one thing or maybe start with just eliminating toxic decision fatigue factors for your morning. Try it out for 1 week and I can guarantee you will feel much better about yourself and your life.
Listen to the social ninjas podcast: https://www.thesocialninjaspodcast.com
KYLE MITCHELL is a mental health speaker, podcaster, advocate, and social media influencer who is passionate about solving the problem of poor mental health in the world and the impact that mental health has on people, especially the youth.
Kyle graduated from Indiana University Southeast in 2015 and received a Business Degree with focuses on marketing and management. Soon after graduating, he realized that his purpose in life is to help people understand what mental health is, why it is important, and what we all can do to improve our own mental health as well as help others improve theirs.
Kyle is a member of NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illnesses) Louisville and is a certified Ending the Silence Speaker for NAMI where he goes to schools and spreads his message about mental health. Kyle is very effective at connecting with his audience by being vulnerable and sharing the struggles he has had with his own mental health.
Further, Kyle Mitchell currently resides in Indiana, loves to run Spartan races, travel, read, and spend time with those who matter most, especially his beautiful wife Paulina & their three kids Braileigh, Avalynn, and Kadyn.
JEREMY GREENE is a social coach, podcaster, and influencer. Growing up, Jeremy struggled with severe social anxiety. To overcome this, he decided to become a Social Ninja and now shares his knowledge and experience with others that seek help connecting with others. To attain his skills, Jeremy searched far and wide. Completing a degree in Communications and Psychology, he continued with numerous training, such as a silent 10-day mediation retreat and facilitating other’s growth in The Mankind Project.
In the middle of this transformation, Jeremy was offered a gig interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. Terrified, he set out to practice by recording interviews with the general public. This turned into Jeremy Talks to Strangers, an Instagram account profiling the many strangers-turned-friends Jeremy has met. This pivotal moment, led to Jeremy realizing his mission in life: facilitating more self-love and strengthening human connection.
Jeremy’s journey includes coaching others to overcome social anxiety, being featured on ABC News, and traveling the world to offer free hugs. Transforming from social anxiety to social ninja wasn’t easy, but he wouldn’t change it for any other dojo.