Kate Oliver has been a Chartered Psychologist and Executive Coach for nearly 30 years. She runs her own consulting business, KO Consulting Ltd, and has worked with thousands of leaders, in many leading UK and global organizations, helping them develop both themselves and their teams. Kate is also a volunteer interview coach and stylist with SmartWorks, supporting unemployed women to get back into work.
Toby Oliver is a Dru Yoga, Laughter Yoga, and Traditional Yoga Meditation teacher and registered therapist. He works with groups in hospitals, hospices, charities, and corporate organizations, as well as supporting individual clients. He specializes in helping adults and young people deal better with anxiety, serious or life-limiting illnesses, and coping with grief or loss.
Below, Kate and Toby share 5 key insights from their new book, Rise and Shine: How to Transform Your Life, Morning by Morning. Listen to the audio version—read by Toby—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. The way you start your morning matters.
“The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day,” wrote Henry Ward Beecher. Research by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University found that people who started the day in a bad mood finished the day in a bad—or even worse—mood. Whereas those who started the day in a good mood often ended up even happier as the day went on. Your morning mood doesn’t just last, but often amplifies as you go through your day.
As an older sister and younger brother who grew up sharing a room with bunk beds, Kate and I discovered this early in life—the hard way! Our morning routine went something like this: I would awake early and want someone to play with. I would begin to call out, “Kate, are you awake?” No response. So, I would call repeatedly “Kate, Kate, Kate, are you awake?” I would do it with increasing volume and ferocity, punctuating my question with well-aimed kicks to the mattress above until finally, Kate would grumpily shout back, “No, shut up! I’m sleeping.” This start to our morning set us up perfectly for a day full of squabbling, arguing, and fighting.
Even when we later got separate bedrooms, we’d continue our pattern of arguing and fighting, from the minute we awoke until the last thing at night, much to our parents’ despair. It took several years before we stopped irritating each other, and even longer before we both truly discovered how changing your morning can transform your life.
2. Do you “rise and shine,” or do you “rise and whine?”
Whether or not you realize it, you already have a morning routine. It’s all those things you do every morning without fail, like groaning at your alarm, checking your phone, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, catching up on the news, or scanning social media. Your morning routine starts the moment you wake up, with your first thought of the day. Your routine will include many familiar things you got into the habit of doing years ago, perhaps in childhood, and you may never have stopped to question these habits as you’ve grown up and your life has changed.
Some of them may be helpful, some of them perhaps less so, and some are simply time-traps. It’s amazing how often we get in our own way without even realizing it. Getting caught in patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing that have become invisible to us, even as they trip us up. Pause for a moment and reflect on how you started your morning today. If you like, close your eyes to focus better or jot down on paper some notes about what you remember. Pay attention to what you did, what you were thinking, and how you were feeling. Do the same for yesterday morning, and the day before that.
“Your morning routine starts the moment you wake up, with your first thought of the day.”
What patterns or habits do you notice? How conscious were you of these at the time? Were they helpful? How well did they set you up for the day ahead? Chances are, many of the things you do each morning are so automatic that you barely notice they’re happening, let alone think about doing them. They have become your morning habits and together, they make up your “accidental” morning routine.
Is this routine working for you? Or might it be holding you back or getting in your way without you realizing it? Could it be bringing you down instead of lifting you up? Is it allowing you to “rise and shine?” If not, you can choose to start your day in a different way, you can choose to make a change.
3. You can find your S.H.I.N.E.
The dawning of a new day brings with it new possibilities and a shift in gear from rest to action. This is your opportunity to seize the day, start as you mean to go on, and make time for yourself. Ensure that you can feel and be at your best for the day ahead and all it brings. Consciously creating your morning can shape your entire day, and you can do it by simply doing a few small things differently when you first awake.
The S.H.I.N.E. method is our approach to building a positive morning routine that will boost your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It will set you up for a happy, healthy, and successful day. S.H.I.N.E. stands for Silence, Happiness, Intention, Nourishment, and Exercise, and we want you to rise and S.H.I.N.E. There are some key foundations that, when consciously put in place at the start of each day, enable people to feel good and be at their best.
Silence: Once we get into our day, there are many people and things clamoring for our attention and this can feel pretty overwhelming at times. Bringing moments of stillness, peace, and reflection into your morning helps center and calm you for the day ahead, whatever it may bring.
Happiness: Our morning mood sets the tone for the day so if you begin the day feeling positive and uplifted, you can move into the day with a smile on your face and cope resiliently with any challenges you may face.
Intention: When we don’t know what we want to achieve from the day, it’s easy to get distracted, lose focus and end up feeling demoralized. This is why it is important that you get clear on your intentions, so you can create your day rather than letting it create you.
Nourishment: We are living systems and we need energy to thrive so what you choose to feed both your body and mind when you wake up has a huge impact on the rest of your day. A healthy and nourishing physical and mental morning “diet” will reinvigorate you for the day ahead.
Exercise: Our lives are increasingly sedentary, and we need to get moving to wake ourselves up and create vitality for the day ahead. This gives you the flexibility and strength you need to get through your day with ease.
4. Start small and swap out.
If you want your life to change, you either have to start doing things differently or start doing different things. If you want your days to change, you need to get your mornings off to a new and positive start. Begin by creating a little bit of time in your morning, just for you. Some people call this “me” time, others refer to it as “self-care” time, or you might want to think of it as making an appointment with yourself. See this as charging your batteries, in order to light the day ahead. It’s important. You might be thinking that you’re already busy and your mornings are full, with no time left to spare. However, it’s so much easier than you think, and the results are well worth it.
“Start by setting your alarm five to ten minutes earlier and see the difference it makes to have those precious extra minutes for yourself at the start of your day.”
All you need to get started is to find a few uninterrupted minutes in your morning and decide what is realistic and helpful for you. It might simply be a case of making different choices about how you use your time upon waking. For example, shifting time for browsing on your phone, worrying or watching TV to do something else, or setting your alarm a little bit earlier. You could try cutting back on TV, Netflix, or late-night phone surfing the evening before to allow you to get to sleep a bit sooner, making it easier to wake up a little earlier than usual. Start by setting your alarm five to ten minutes earlier and see the difference it makes to have those precious extra minutes for yourself at the start of your day.
You also need a distraction-free space for yourself. Put your phone on do not disturb, ideally before you start looking at emails, messages, and updates, and shut off all sources of digital distraction. Reduce competition for your attention in your environment and try to find a space where you can focus, just for these few minutes. This could be in your bedroom, somewhere else in your home, or, depending on the weather, even outside. With those few extra minutes, practice how to S.H.I.N.E.
5. Practice makes… improvement!
At first, your new morning routine will take a conscious effort and probably won’t feel totally natural. This is part of the normal process of change, choosing to move outside your comfort zone; it’s not about doing it perfectly, it’s about doing it differently. The key is in the repetition; doing something every day matters much more than doing something sometimes. This is why they’re called “practices” not “perfects”—you have to practice them regularly, and practice makes, no not perfect, practice makes improvement.
The great thing about each of these practices is that, unlike caffeine, alcohol, or junk food, the more you do them, the greater the effects, and the better you feel. So, stick with it and experience the power of the changes you are making. Allow yourself the opportunity to grow brighter and more radiant every day.
To listen to the audio version read by co-author Toby Oliver, download the Next Big Idea App today:
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