My 30 Minute Morning Routine to Actually Wake Up

by Kirsten Trammell

If I’m a mess in the morning, I feel like I spend the rest of the day trying to play catch up.  


Do you feel this way too?


Lately, I have really begun to realize how my habits determine where my time goes and whether I achieve the goals and dreams I set out for. One of the most valuable, and surprisingly easiest, habits to impact my day has been what I do when I wake up first thing in the morning.


As someone who used to shock herself awake with a screeching series of alarms placed sporadically around the apartment, I totally understand the #morningstruggles. On some days, I even managed to turn all the alarms off in the dark and crawled back into bed, only to wake again in a complete state of panic. It wasn’t sexy, and it wasn’t productive.


I knew something needed to change. So I got really intentional and began experimenting with new options. I took cold showers, I woke up at different times, I tried different foods and drinks. The first hour of the day became a laboratory experiment until finally, a routine felt right for me. Here it is:


1. Set alarms for both sound and light (5 minutes)

Believe it or not, my morning routine actually begins at night. Before climbing into bed, I set alarms for both light and sound to smoothly wake me up. The days of jolting beeps in the dark have been put to rest. 


I recently invested in the most amazing lights (Philips Hue) that can be controlled by alarms and even have a “wake up” mode that slowly raises the light intensity over time. It feels like waking up with the rising sun in a natural way. Combining these lights with calm music as an alarm (Loung Soft House on Spotify is a great go-to playlist) is a game-changer.


One song into the morning and I am ready to easily climb out of bed. A little bit of prep the night before goes a long way in starting the day off right.


2. Make my bed (5 minutes)

As a little girl, my allowance was based on what chores I completed. Every day I would jump out of bed, make it, and then go put an “x” on the laminate chore board next to “make the bed” for the day. I had just made $0.10. This habit has never left me, and I now make my bed as though it is a reflex without even thinking.


There is something satisfying about making the bed right away, it feels like an immediate accomplishment has been made. If nothing else goes right during the day (very unlikely) I already know I have accomplished something. And yes, this includes the decorative pillows and throw blanket that my boyfriend constantly questions the value of.


This habit is followed by a quick trip to the bathroom (lady business) and a brush of the teeth. I also love to wash my face with an exfoliating wash. Word on the street is, during the night, there is an increase of blood flow to your face, collagen is rebuilt, and dead skin cells shed. And then there’s the matter of your pillowcase- not exactly the cleanest. A solid morning cleanse is the best opportunity to remove that buildup, especially when washed with an exfoliant. The little scrub helps bring more glow to my face. Throw in a fresh citrus scent to the scrub and all the senses are coming to life! 


3. Morning pages journaling (10 minutes)

In order to wake my brain up, I journal for ten to fifteen minutes. While this might sound like work, it really isn’t. Trust me, my handwriting looks like a second-graders. My journaling practice follows the Artist's Way morning pages ideology, to write a stream of conscious uninterrupted. What this looks like is, writing exactly what you feel, think, and experience in the present moment.  


Many mornings, this starts out as writing, “I am so tired, my head hurts, my neck is sore...” yet, before I know it, my hand is moving freely, working through thoughts and ideas that have been a deep-seeded struggle. There is something freeing in the mind to write when you are not fully holding yourself back. 


I do this in place of meditating as I found that meditation would make me more sleepy, not less. Journaling wakes my mind up and gets my creative juices really flowing. I stand up from my comfy writing pillow excited to start creating. 


4. Light movement (5 minutes)

As an athlete, I have so much energy during the day and love to connect to my body right away. A fun tip for anyone looking to manage their weight: an early morning working on an empty stomach also helps boost energy levels by priming the body for an all-day fat burn. Not to mention, working out increases blood flow to the brain and reduces levels of the body’s natural stress hormones. 


This could be anything from a full-blown gym workout, to a surf or yoga session. On mornings when I am crunched for time I absolutely love to pop on a 5-minute dance video. Youtube is filled with tutorials on shuffle dance, hip hop, latin...you name the dance style, they have a video for it. When you are focused deeply on learning a dance move or footstep it takes all of your focus and attention on every move your body makes. Getting out of your head and into your body right away in the day has helped me be more cognizant of pains or soreness as well as, step into strong posture.


Pairing this dance tutorial with a song I love really gets my heart, body, and soul moving. Within 30 minutes of waking up, I am already smiling ear to ear or laughing at my fumbling feet while TLC Scrubs blares in the background. Are you awake yet? I am!  


5. Coffee time! (5 minutes)

Before hopping into the shower, it’s time to brew up my favorite coffee. There is something so warm, invigorating, and joyful about smelling the coffee brew while I get ready to dive into writing work. A friend of mine recently gave me a new coffee that, no joke, I am already obsessed with, RYZE coffee infused with mushrooms. I brew this divine yumminess with one tablespoon of butter or MCT oil and 1 scoop of collagen powder for the ultimate keto brew. It fills me up and doesn’t give that raw coffee tummy that most coffees create.


I take a little bit of a different approach here and brew my coffee during the first hour of waking, but don’t typically drink it until 9:30 am. The reason being, your body reaches a natural peak of cortisol (the hormone associated with stress and energy) between 8-9 am. When this natural energy high begins to decline, taking in caffeine really gives you the boost you crave. 


The combination of these five hacks has helped me really wake up and move from being that pig in a blanket into an energizer bunny zooming through the day. Take the time to view your morning as an experiment until you really lock in your perfect morning routine. 


You can always start by trying this one out, I would love to hear how it goes!


About the author

Kirsten Trammell is a storyteller, freelance writer, and host of the podcast Who Wears Your Pants?, sharing stories so that people find freedom and joy in their life.