When you hear the term morning routine, what do you think of?
For me, it conjures the image of a conventionally attractive woman who wakes up smiling, calmly removing her sleep mask before tapping the ‘off’ button on her actual alarm clock.
She gracefully leaves her bed and instantly remakes it, perfectly folding her white linen sheets and fluffing her pillows. She washes her face and chugs a pint of water before going to the kitchen to make a smoothie. All before 5.15am.
My morning routine is far from this TikTok-worthy dreamscape.
The alarm on my phone never fails to jar me awake at the worst point in my sleep cycle. I snooze it at least three times before finally prying my sleep-glued eyes open and instantly – and I mean instantly – open WhatsApp.
I have a very nasty habit of checking my phone first thing in the morning, or more accurately, social media.
I’ll check each of my most commonly used apps once, replying to messages on WhatsApp and Instagram, checking for any pressing emails. Then I’ll do it again and again, cyclically, until I’m finally strong enough to tell myself that there is literally nothing left to look at and I need to get out of bed.
I won’t even drink water before I’ve got up and brushed my teeth. I choose, consciously, to lie in my bed, dehydrated and groggy, tapping through the Instagram stories of people I haven’t seen since 2016.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that scrolling social media first thing in the morning is a recipe for a bad day. All it takes is one awful take, blunt message or Instagram story and you’re starting your day on the wrong foot.
Not to mention how easy it is to get sucked into a social media vortex and staying in bed for way longer than you should.
Last week I decided it was time to stop. But how do you break a habit that was so ingrained you didn’t even realise you were doing it?
How to stop getting stuck in a social media scroll hole in the morning
According to psychologist and a chartered member of the British Psychological Society Dr Sandra Wheatley, you do it incrementally, and that doesn’t mean abandoning your phone all together.
‘Still using your phone but choosing not to check social media makes a lot of sense, because you still feel like you’re continuing with the habit, but actually doing it in a more constructive, less addictive way,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
It’s a sensible place to start.
For Dr Sandra, it isn’t necessarily social media that’s addictive, rather the instant gratification that it offers.
So still using your phone to do something that is less geared towards instant gratification is a good way to ween yourself off the habit. Then, slowly, you can move towards not moving your phone at all (if that’s the goal).
Dr Sandra gave me five solid alternatives to try instead of going clicking through Instagram – and they didn’t involve leaving my phone in the other room or instantly getting out of bed and doing yoga.
Five alternatives to checking social media first thing in the morning:
- Read something on your phone
- Journal in your notes app
- Read a journal from the night before
- Read something physical
- Spend some time thinking
If these didn’t work, she advised setting a timer and allow yourself to check your apps for five to 10 minutes.
From Monday to Friday I tried each one, starting with the easiest. Here’s how it went.
I allowed myself to briefly glance at WhatsApp (no replying!) before navigating my way over to the Substack App, which is where writers self-publish newsletters.
I have a long list of newsletters to get through after weeks of swiping and scrolling, so I chose one from my saved list and spent about 10 minutes reading it, the scrolling motion quenching my need for scrolling without me seeing any potentially triggering messages or rage inducing Tweets.
While it’s not the instant dopamine hit you get from socials, it’s a great way to do something healthy without feeling like you’ve changed anything at all.
On Tuesday morning, I journaled in my notes app for more than an hour.
First, I wrote about how annoyed I was to have had another night of sub-six hours of sleep, and then I took some time to journal about a situation with a friend.
Afterwards, I did let myself open WhatsApp (to respond to said friend), but I stopped short of checking anything else and forced myself out of bed and into the living room before opening my messages.
This was very therapeutic – getting all my thoughts down before consuming anybody else’s – and I clearly needed it, but not quite as fun as reading an article.
On Wednesday morning, after another sleepless night, I read the journal entry I’d typed up in my notes the night before.
To be honest, it wasn’t long enough to quench my thirst for more scrolling, so I combined it with reading another article on my phone, too, but it still wasn’t enough.
I set a five-minute timer to check WhatsApp and Instagram before getting out of bed, but the timer didn’t go off so it was more like 15 minutes.
This was probably my least favourite alternative, especially considering it didn’t work.
Thursday was a real test – leaving my phone on the bedside table and reading something physical before checking my socials.
I had kept my book next to the bed the night before, but open waking up thought it might have been a little ambitious — not least because I’m a slow reader and I didn’t see the point in only reading a couple of pages, and I didn’t want to wind up spending 30 minutes or more reading a whole chapter.
Thankfully, I have a stack of magazines on a shelf at the end of my bed, so I picked up a back issue of the New Yorker and read the shortest article I could find.
I still wasn’t ready to get out of bed, so I read some of the recommendations, which felt pointless because it isn’t 2022 anymore and I don’t live in New York.
Still not ready. I picked up my (physical) journal and wrote down some thoughts.
It was at this point that I realised my habit of checking social media in the morning was a vehicle of procrastination. I procrastinate getting out of bed.
Thankfully, journaling isn’t as good a procrastination tool as scrolling. It’s a lot more laborious.
After a page or two, I got out of bed. It felt good to read a magazine before checking my phone.
Friday was the final boss of social media alternatives: lying still and thinking.
I didn’t pick up my phone, or a book, or my journal and I lay there for about five minutes trying to muster up something to think about.
Perhaps my reluctance to properly use my brain in the morning was the real antidote to my procrastination.
I was up and in the living room within 10 minutes of waking up. That has to be a record.
Overall the tips worked great.
I particularly enjoyed reading on my phone, which I found really scratched that itch of wanting to scroll into eternity, but I also really loved reading a real, physical magazine.
Journaling on my phone was great, too, and it prompted me to start leaving my physical journal on the bedside table, just in case I wake up with any thoughts I want to release.
I learned a lot about my social media use this week — namely that I use social media to procrastinate getting up and out of bed, and just about everything else.
I’ve noticed that my daily social media use has gone down overall too. And, wouldn’t you know, I feel much better for it!
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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.
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