Living With Intention / The 6-Week Cleanse

The Simple Morning Habit That Allows Me To Have An Easier Rest Of My Day

By Monday, February 08, 2021

I’m sure there are a number of aspects in our lives we all hope to change in 2021. Many are out of our control, but in looking back on 2020, I realized I had allowed my phone, news, and other media consumption to control me, instead. As someone who works in the financial services industry, and used to work primarily in the emerging markets space, I was required to read the news every day, as part of my job. My first task of the day would be to report any economic or political news for the countries I was responsible for covering on my team. I’d wake up at 6 am, scroll through domestic news on my phone, reading no less than two different newsletters I had subscribed to, and then get started with my workday by 6:30, by reading international news. Needless to say, it set me up for a day in which I felt anxious, worried, and depressed by the state of the world. 

To compound upon this unhealthy work routine, I found myself doom-scrolling at all hours of the night and early morning. Before, I rarely had trouble sleeping or staying asleep, but over the past year, I’ve found myself waking up intermittently and checking my phone, anxiously falling back asleep only for the cycle to repeat itself. As such, given that my phone and excessive news consumption has been one of the leading sources of distress for me in 2020, I’m hoping to set better boundaries around this in 2021. 

With that said, I took it upon myself to do a 30-Day “No-Phone For The First Hour Of The Day” challenge.For me, who specifically wakes up at 6 am, this included challenging myself to stay away from my phone until 7 am or later. 

While 7 am is undoubtedly still early for many, as a morning person who used to wake up at 4:15 in the morning (pre-pandemic), I’ve found that this is sufficiently “late” enough for me. This challenge also required me to stay away from my phone, even if I wake up in the middle night. For others, this challenge may re-invent itself as staying away from your phone till 9 or 10 am, say, but given that I typically wake up around 6 am, I wanted to give myself at least an hour of screen-free time in the morning to wash my face, workout, shower, or just eat breakfast in silence, instead of while listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video. 

Much of my challenge prep involved simply unsubscribing from the news outlets I typically consumed media through, mainly newsletters and podcasts. However,  also bought myself an old-fashioned alarm clock and kept my phone on the opposite corner of my bedroom. My room has a number of outlets so it was easy to charge my phone overnight while also ensuring I couldn’t accidentally scroll through it at night if I happened to wake up. Now, I simply turn around and fall back asleep instead of spending more time online. 

Also, a physical alarm clock has helped immensely. It allows me to wake up and begin my day without screens. Even if I need to get on YouTube for a quick workout, I usually cue it on my laptop the night before, so I’m not tempted to check my email. Since I have an iPhone, but my laptop is Windows, I have the added benefit of not having to see any messages, either. Often, an anxious message from a friend or family member can mean that my day starts out with an adrenaline rush I don’t anticipate. Now, I wait till 7 am or later before setting aside just fifteen minutes to respond to messages and usually wait to check my email, even my personal one, until the workday begins. 

I’ve also cut down immensely on my news consumption. If I feel like reading the news I’ll set aside fifteen minutes to look up articles, but with my new job, I’ve luckily been busy enough to get through the workday without a moment to read up on depressing world events. After my workday is over, I’m typically scrambling to get dinner together, get a quick walk in before it gets too dark, or schedule catchups with friends and family. While it’s always good to be informed, everything is best in moderation. I reserve the weekends or long walks as my time to listen to news podcasts and have begun to look for more light-hearted ways to stay informed versus doom-and-gloom headlines or commentators. Although much of this doesn’t affect me on a day-to-day basis, I have felt as if the underlying tone sets me up for troubled sleep or random days where I struggle to make sense of our world. 

In the grand scheme of things, having an hour to myself before I look at my phone in the morning shouldn’t be as life-changing as it has been. But, given that I’ve combined this with reduced news consumption, overall, I’ve seen the positive effects in my sleep, my mood, and my mindset when I start the day. This challenge may not help everyone, but I encourage you to think deeply about the small changes you can make that would genuinely improve your lifestyle on a day-to-day basis. And be honest about why you may not be sleeping as well, or why you may be in a bad mood. Outside forces affect and shape us more than we’d like to acknowledge, but hopefully in 2021 we can exert more control than they do. 

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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