How to Create a Depression-Friendly Morning Routine and Start Your Day with Purpose

When you think of a “successful” morning routine, what comes to mind? You might think of the “millionaire morning routine” or the “5 AM club” in which well-known millionaires swear by a set of activities to help them stay on track. It might be helpful to try these popular morning routines. But in reality, everyone’s mental, physical, and social needs are different from others. Especially when dealing with an exhausting mental health condition like depression, it’s important to personalize a depression-friendly morning routine to your specific needs.

When dealing with depression, your morning habits can look different from the habits of someone dealing with anxiety or ADHD. What’s more, your needs and symptoms can vary by the type of depression you have. The key is to create a morning routine that helps you start your day feeling more fulfilled and empowered – on your own terms. Rather than aiming for a “successful” morning routine, aim for a more mindful and healthy morning routine. We have four steps to help you start a depression-friendly morning routine that works for you.

What is considered a "good" morning routine?

Before we dive into the four steps, let’s take a moment to assess the end goal. Instead of measuring the success of your morning routine by the number of tasks you can complete, think about what a “good” morning routine means to you. What morning habits do you need to change in order to feel more empowered and live more purposefully?

Before you answer that question, it’s important to understand your personal mental health needs. The structure of your morning routine depends on several factors, including the type of depression you are facing, your living situation, your nutrition, and more. For example, if you experience symptoms of major depression only during a specific season (seasonal affective disorder), you might find ways to restructure your surroundings with light therapy products. If you’re a parent dealing with perinatal depression, you might seek professional help to learn cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to practice in the morning. Whatever the circumstance, understanding the nuances of your depression can help you create a meaningful morning routine.

Focus on building a morning routine that addresses not only your mental health needs, but also your physical, social, and future needs. Once you identify the main factors to your depression, it can be easier to find specific solutions. Treat this step as if you’re taking a personal inventory of your morning habits and ask yourself, “What am I lacking in my life that I can add and incorporate into my morning routine?” This can serve as a great starting point.

Incorporating healthier habits into your morning routine will not solve all your mental health symptoms, but it’s a great way to start on the clearer path to a calmer mind. There isn’t a single, clear-cut plan to achieve inner happiness – it’s a lifelong journey that takes time, effort, and consistency. Now, let’s explore four steps to creating a depression-friendly morning routine.

Step 1: Assess your state of depression and current morning habits

As mentioned before, depression comes in many forms, like persistent depressive disorder or seasonal affective disorder. It’s important to understand the type of depression you are dealing with so you can start implementing the proper strategies to address it. If you feel like you’ve been experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s time to get properly evaluated for your mental health.

Traditional doctor visits may be complex and difficult to navigate for mental health treatment, but fortunately, telehealth makes the process much more effortless. At Ahead, we provide telehealth visits with board-certified providers from the comfort of your home. It can be difficult to find the motivation or energy to leave the house when experiencing depression. That’s why we want to help you check in while you’re checked out on the couch. We’re here to listen. Our providers work with you to create a positive experience and help you on your journey.

Even if you’ve already received a proper diagnosis for your depression, it can be helpful to consult a provider who can help you build a plan including depression management strategies. Understanding the nuances of your current state of depression is key to knowing what to do next.

As you learn more about your symptoms of depression, take a moment to also reflect on your current morning habits. Ask yourself these questions to help you get started:

  • How do my current morning habits affect my depression? Are they exacerbating or helping my depression, and why?
  • Do my current morning habits reflect the life I want to live?
  • What parts of my routine am I realistically able to change?

The last question might be a reality check for you. It’s important to know how much you are able to change and control within the reasonable limits of your depression, lifestyle, and physical needs. Once you are able to answer these questions, you can start feeling more prepared for the new changes to your morning habits.

Step 2: Come up with 1-3 actionable goals

Now that you have a better understanding of your current mental health condition and what your current routine is lacking, you’re ready to work on solutions. Begin with one to three things – it’s best to start out small. Drastic change won’t happen overnight and it isn’t fair to expect yourself to adapt to big changes in a short amount of time.

Think of mindful, deliberate, and purposeful changes you can make to your routine. Creating a new routine is all about thoughtful planning and strategic implementation. If needed, try to restructure your environment in a way that will help you complete your new morning habits.

Don’t know where to start? Here is a list of some actionable tips and goals you can use as your own:

  • Use a sunrise alarm clock. The simulation of sunrise and natural light can help you wake up naturally and gradually, helping you start the day in a better mood.
  • Find your sense of self and be present in each moment. Try and find your mind when you wake up so you can feel present in each action, rather than functioning half-awake, half-asleep.
  • Make your bed. You can use this as a cue to trigger the rest of your routine.
  • Start journaling. Writing down your thoughts, things you’re grateful for, your daily goals, and affirmations can help you find your sense of self, even when you’re feeling groggy.
  • Start a skincare routine. Self-care isn’t just about sticking a mask on your face, but rather sticking to a routine that helps you feel grounded.
  • Practice breathing or stretching exercises. Warming up your body can help you get your mind right.
  • Drink soothing tea. This can help you relax and detoxify your body.
  • Take vitamins. Research has shown that nutritional deficiencies may be linked to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Spend time with your pet or loved one. A 75-year study led by Harvard Medical School found that your happiness, quality of life, and success depends more on warm relationships more than anything else.
  • Do a light exercise in the morning. According to Harvard, regular aerobic exercise has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression.

Step 3: Find supportive communities

As Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” Dealing with depression might be one of the most difficult things to do alone. Fortunately, there are others who can help. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 19.4 million adults in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode. There are millions of other adults out there who also struggle with depression.

Seeking help from others who have experienced depression can help. Talking about depression helps reduce the stigma by sparking productive and more positive conversations. It can also empower you with support and a sense of community – two things that are key to feeling grounded.

It’s important for us as human beings to nurture our sense of community and close relationships. This can mean opening up about our mental health and sharing our stories of depression and other mental health challenges. You don’t need to sign up for ten different depression support programs or communities. You can do something as small as joining an online community on Reddit, Facebook, or other social media platforms to join the conversation about dealing with depression.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some support groups to help you get started. It can be helpful to post anonymously and read the stories or tips and tricks from others dealing with the same issues.

If you’d rather seek help more discreetly, find a mental health provider you can confide in. Here at Ahead, our providers are ready to help. We work with you to implement depression management strategies and help you navigate the complexities of mental healthcare. Our goal is to help you make strides in your mental health with healthier and easier processes.

Whether you seek help from a community or a mental health provider, it’s important to have someone who can understand and listen to you. Get the support you need and prioritize these relationships to start seeing real changes to your mental health.

Step 4: Fine-tune your depression-friendly morning routine as you go

Whether you’re starting from scratch and building a whole new routine or simply adding small changes to your morning routine, it’s important to keep track of your progress. You can find joy and a sense of accomplishment when you look back and see how far you’ve come in your journey.

Fine-tuning your morning routine takes time. Remember that your routine should change and grow with you as you change. That said, don’t feel the need to constantly change up your routine with every little change in your life. Instead, give yourself some time and flexibility to adjust to the new changes, however big or small. Assess how the new habits are affecting your symptoms of depression and the extent of how much they are impacting your lifestyle. Are they helping you achieve your goals, and to what extent?

Starting a morning routine when you have depression can be tough, but it is possible. With strategic planning, a clear understanding of your depression and goals, and guidance from a provider or a supportive community, you can loosen the hold that depression has on your life.

Wake up feeling more fulfilled

Having a good depression-friendly morning routine is not about being able to pat yourself on the back for following a routine like a “real adult.” The raw reality of being an adult is that we’re all navigating our mental health and needs in diverse ways. We are all in different seasons of our life, and that’s okay.

Were there any tips or tricks that stood out to you? Following cliche tips such as “drink more water” or “be healthier” might not seem groundbreaking, but it’s important to remember to keep the basics in check. Be mindful of how each change can impact the symptoms of depression and start using these steps to build a more intentional morning routine.