Morning Routine: Why It’s Good For Depression and How to Start One

If you’re living with depression, starting your day can prove to be a daunting task. If you find yourself in the circle of having difficult mornings, you’re not alone. Having a morning routine is the key to overcoming this and starting a night before is a great idea, here is how to start a morning routine and make your mornings even more enjoyable.


People might experience depression at any time of day, but mornings can be particularly challenging. 


Many people find it difficult to wake up inspired and ready to go, but the symptoms of depression can make it even harder. According to Rebecca Brendel, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the 2022–2023 president of the American Psychiatric Association, people living with depression frequently feel that they are starting the day with no gas in their tanks.


According to Dr. Brendel, depression is frequently accompanied by low morning energy, which can make it challenging to complete important chores.



However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), establishing a morning routine of reliable habits can be of great help.


Why Having Depression Makes Mornings Difficult

Although having low energy or lacking motivation in the mornings can be a problem for anybody, Brendel notes that because these issues are common symptoms of depression, they can make the situation even more difficult to get over. Brendel notes that these symptoms can be even more challenging in the more because of factors like:


Poor Sleep According to Brendel, “sleeping problems might be a symptom of depression,” According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, over 75% of individuals with depression struggle with insomnia, or trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.



Undertreatment If your depression isn’t effectively treated, Brendel predicts that depressive symptoms like fatigue or unpleasant thoughts won’t go away. Mornings can be more difficult if there is no treatment or adequate treatment.  


Darker Mornings During Winter Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) plagues certain persons living with depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is when depression has a seasonal pattern, usually getting worse in the winter when there are less daylight hours. According to the Mayo Clinic, the reduced sunlight during the winter months may throw off a person with SAD’s internal schedule and make depression symptoms like low energy even worse.


Decision Fatigue According to the American Medical Association, this is a term used to describe feelings of tiredness and overload brought on by the constant need to make decisions. According to Christina Lee, MD, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Baltimore, mornings are frequently filled with decisions you need to make, such as whether to exercise and shower or just snooze your alarm. According to Brendel, those with depression, who frequently have low energy levels, may find this to be particularly daunting.


Why Developing a Morning Routine Can Aid in Depression Management 

According to Dr. Lee, those who suffer from depression can benefit greatly from a morning routine. The first benefit of having a morning routine is that it eliminates the need to decide how to start your day.


According to Lee, if you don’t plan ahead, everything you have to decide when you wake up is urgent, which might increase stress and depressive symptoms.


According to the Anxiety and Depression Centre, a mental health facility in Newport Beach, California, decision-making is frequently a substantial cause of stress for those with depression and related disorders. This is so because, according to study, depression might make it more difficult for people to make the best decisions.


Being in charge of your mornings might make you feel more productive and inspired to face the rest of the day with agility. “If you’re able to get yourself on a good start to the morning, that can have a really big impact on feeling like you can accomplish everything you need to throughout the day,” claims Brendel.


In general, how you feel in the morning can have a big impact on how you feel for the rest of the day and how productive you’ll be. Prior research reveals that a good morning mood generally leads to a good day and improved work performance throughout the day, whereas a bad morning mood can not only continue the entire day but frequently gets worse as the day goes on and can significantly affect your performance.


8 Tips for Establishing a Morning Routine that is Depression-Friendly

1. Start Small

Make your bed and do some mild stretches as your first two or three commitments. According to Brendel, doing this can make you feel better prepared for the day and organized without being overwhelmed.


2. Fix Yourself a Morning Beverage

According to Lee, “for many people, a morning beverage has as much to do with ritual as the beverage itself and signals to their brains the beginning of the day.” Many people enjoy coffee because of its energising properties. But Lee advises that you can try the following drinks if caffeine makes you uneasy or anxious:


  • Decaf or low-caf tea (like herbal varieties)
  • Hot cocoa
  • Warm nonfat milk
  • Green smoothie with avocado, kiwi, or other healthy green produce


3. Get Your Body Moving

Exercise can improve your mood, and doing it first thing in the morning can be beneficial to your health. According to the American Psychological Association, one explanation is that making exercise a priority might increase your likelihood of sticking to other good routines that can eventually ease depression, such as eating a balanced diet, staying in touch with friends, and getting enough sleep every night.


Go for it, advises Lee, if a bootcamp-style workout with lots of intensity and enthusiasm inspires you. Lower-intensity movement can also be beneficial if you’re looking for something that’s a bit easy on the body or you can wake up a little more slowly, according to Lee. Stretching alone can help your body wake up and release endorphins, which are hormones that reduce stress and improve mood, she continues.


4. Practice Deep Breathing

According to Lee, many people use breath work—breathing exercises that include paying attention to the breath—to calm down and centre themselves in the morning. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it just takes a few minutes, and the procedures are really simple to learn.


According to Cleveland Clinic, “box breathing” is a straightforward technique you can try. Box breathing consists of the following four steps and is appropriately named because a box has four sides.


  1. Breathing in to the count of four
  2. Holding your breath to the count of four
  3. Breathing out to the count of four
  4. Repeating this process as many times as you’d like


5. Try Journaling

For those who prefer to express their ideas in writing and have time to do so in the morning, Lee thinks journaling can be a useful morning ritual. According to Mental Health America, this practice can help you in managing pressures and challenging emotions as well as tracking achievements and difficulties associated with new routines or goals (such as adhering to a morning routine).


According to Lee, you can use a notebook, a thankfulness journal, or even the notes app on your phone to jot down your thoughts on the day ahead. According to Mental Health America, try to write down anything that comes to mind for you for 20 minutes every morning (or as often as you are able to).


6. Pick activities that will ease up the rest of your day

According to Brendel, for some people, not having a list of tasks to complete at the end of the day is a major morning incentive. She adds that if you make it a habit of washing your breakfast dishes right away, you won’t have to deal with them later in the day. This is especially beneficial if you frequently feel exhausted after work or school.


7. Pay Attention to Little Wins

Congratulate yourself for sticking to your morning plans if you were able to get up, drink some coffee, take a shower, or do anything else you had planned, advises Brendel. Over time, modest successes add up.


8. Call or Text a Friend

According to Lee, it may be helpful to have a “buddy” to hold you accountable if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning. This “buddy” could be a friend or family member.


You may, for instance, ask your friend to check in with you every morning to make sure you’ve gotten up and started your day (by text, phone call, or in person if you live with this person). You might also suggest carpooling with a coworker who lives nearby. According to Lee, doing so increases your chances of leaving the house on time while also making the trip more enjoyable.

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