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How to Create Your Perfect Low-Dopamine Morning Routine

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You’re lying in bed, the sun is starting to peek through your blackout curtains, and you’re debating whether to hit snooze for the fifth time. The urge to grab your phone and dive into TikTok is strong, but resist! There’s a better way to start your day that doesn’t involve doom-scrolling and feeling like a zombie by 10 AM. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s not cute. Let me introduce you to the magic of a low-dopamine morning routine for ADHD, the secret to making mornings suck less.

If you’re anything like me, mornings used to be a frantic scramble to get my life together. Finding a routine that doesn’t make me want to crawl back into bed is like finding a unicorn. I want to add that you don’t have to have ADHD to see the benefits of having a Low-Dopamine Morning Routine.

So, let’s chat about how you can create a chill, low-stimulating morning routine that actually makes you feel a little more human.

Low-Dopamine Morning Routine for ADHD with morning sunlight streaming through the window.
Embrace the natural light as part of your low-dopamine morning routine for a calm start.

Understanding the Science

Jumping into high-dopamine activities first thing in the morning can overload your brain and set you up for a crash later. Our brains are super absorbent in the early morning, like little dopamine sponges. If you soak up too much too soon, you’re left wrung out and frazzled. Instead, easing into your day with low-stimulation activities helps keep your dopamine levels steady, making you less of a stress ball and more of a productivity queen. A slower start can lead to a more productive day and better overall mental health.

Why a Low-Dopamine Morning Routine for ADHD?

For those of us with ADHD, a low-stimulation morning routine is a lifesaver. Our brains often have lower dopamine levels, making it tough to stay focused and motivated. Starting the day calmly can prevent those dopamine roller coasters that turn us into hot messes by noon. It’s like giving your ADHD brain a cozy blanket instead of a slap in the face. An effective ADHD morning routine is crucial for setting a positive tone for the rest of your day.

  1. Enhanced Focus and Attention: A calm start helps you stay on track. According to Livestrong, a slow morning routine helps you feel grounded and maintain focus throughout the day. Consistent morning routines improve working memory and create a greater focus on tasks.
  2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Mindfulness practices lower those pesky cortisol levels. Research from the University of California highlights that engaging in morning mindfulness practices can reduce cortisol levels by up to 27%. This reduction in the stress hormone can lead to better mental clarity and overall well-being.
  3. Improved Mood and Motivation: Physical activity and a balanced breakfast boost dopamine. Regular morning exercise is linked to better mood and cognitive function, enhancing overall productivity. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain cells, improving mental health and executive functions.
  4. Better Executive Function: A structured routine supports planning and decision-making. Exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, improving executive functions like decision-making and planning. This is especially beneficial for ADHD children and adults alike.

By 2:00 pm, I can totally tell whether I started my day with a doom-scroll or some intentional self-care. The difference is night and day. It’s worth the effort to set yourself up for success, even if it means saying goodbye to those extra 15 minutes of TikTok.

If you’re interested in boosting your dopamine levels throughout the day, check out my other article on how to get more dopamine naturally.

Low-Dopamine Morning Routine for ADHD with a journal for setting intentions and reducing stress.
Journaling is a key element of a low-dopamine morning routine for ADHD, helping to set intentions and reduce stress.

To get a handle on what’s stressing you out in the morning, try this: grab a journal and jot down everything you do from the moment you wake up. Pay attention to what feels rushed or chaotic. Here are a couple of journal prompts to help you pinpoint the stressors:

  1. What activities in my morning routine make me feel anxious or overwhelmed?
  2. When do I feel the most rushed or out of control in the morning?
  3. What changes can I make to create a calmer start to my day?

Reflecting on these questions can give you some insight into where the stress is coming from. Once you identify the stressors, you can start making small changes to ease them.

Screen Time Overload

Grabbing your phone as soon as you wake up is a recipe for disaster. It overstimulates your brain and sets you up for a stressful day. Plus, the blue light messes with your sleep cycle. Let’s be real, starting the day with a doom scroll is like pouring anxiety directly into your brain.

Rushed Mornings

No plan? No problem… except it’s usually a big problem. Waking up late and winging it leads to rushed, chaotic mornings. You end up stumbling around, trying to find your keys with a half-eaten piece of toast in your hand. Not exactly the “I have my life together” vibe we’re going for.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Crap sleep equals crap mornings. If you’re going to bed late and scrolling through social media until the early hours, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Brain fog, irritability, and zero motivation? Check, check, and check. Who’s conquering the world on four hours of sleep? Not me.

It took a lot of trial and error to figure out what adds stress vs. what helps me stay relaxed. So many things can throw off me off, so I prep the night before. Making decisions in advance, tackling brainless tasks, and doing a quick 15-minute house reset can make mornings infinitely smoother. Waking up to clutter from last night’s movie marathon? Major buzzkill. I also found that reducing the screen time at night and doing more red light helped my circadian rhythm. 

Low-Dopamine Morning Routine for ADHD with Hatch alarm clock lighting up the room.
Start your low-dopamine morning routine for ADHD with a gentle wake-up call from a Hatch alarm clock.

Wake Up Naturally

Ditch the jarring alarms. Use a light-based alarm clock that wakes you gently. The gradual light mimics a natural sunrise, helping you wake up less cranky. My Hatch alarm clock is a lifesaver. It’s like a little sunrise right in my bedroom, providing the natural light my body needs to start the day right.

Drink Water & Prioritize Protein

Start your day with a glass of water and a pinch of Celtic salt to rehydrate. Follow it up with a high-protein breakfast like eggs or Greek yogurt. This sets a solid foundation for your energy levels. Coffee on an empty stomach? Rookie mistake. Protein-rich foods help maintain steady blood sugar levels, giving you sustained energy for the rest of your day.

Physical Activity

Get your body moving with gentle exercises like yoga or a morning walk. Physical activity boosts dopamine and wakes you up better than any double shot of espresso. Plus, it feels good to get your blood pumping first thing. Exercise also improves sleep quality, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready for a productive day.

Mindful Practices

Incorporate simple meditation or deep breathing exercises to set your intentions for the day. If journaling isn’t your thing in the morning, try listening to a guided meditation on apps like Open or Superhuman. Weekday mornings aren’t always prime journaling time for me, so I tune into an activation from Superhuman or hypnosis from Grace Space Hypnosis to set my intentions and mindset. It’s way better than writing “Dear Diary, today I felt meh.” These practices help lower cortisol levels and improve mental clarity, making you less distracted throughout the day.

Creative Outlets

Stimulate your brain gently with low-dopamine activities like drawing or writing. These activities boost mental health and set a positive tone for your day. Sometimes, I just doodle nonsense while sipping a cup of coffee—it’s oddly therapeutic and way better than jumping straight into emails.

Planning and Organization

Spend a few minutes planning your day. Use tools like Notion for project and task management. Before diving into work, I organize my top three priorities for the day, only planning for low-stress tasks in the morning; after 10:00, everything else is fair game. Anything else that I achieve beyond that is a bonus. (I prioritize my daily tasks based on project importance and schedule them by time and energy required. See how I organize my tasks here.)

 Low-Dopamine Morning Routine for ADHD starting with a serene sunrise to enhance mental clarity and focus.
Begin your low-dopamine morning routine with the peaceful sight of a sunrise to boost mental clarity and focus.

Start Small

Gradually integrate changes into your routine. Start with one or two habits and build from there. Consistency is key. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a perfect morning routine.

Consistency is Key

Stick with your new habits, even if they feel challenging at first. Over time, these practices will become second nature.


Adjust the routine to fit your lifestyle and preferences. What works for one person may not work for another, so find what feels right for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all here—it’s all about what makes you feel your best.

Avoid Perfectionism

Remember that not every day will go as planned. Be kind to yourself and understand that progress is more important than perfection. It’s a journey, not a race. And if all else fails, there’s always tomorrow. Perfection is overrated, anyway.

Reflecting on my journey to finding the right low-dopamine morning routine, I realized that so much of it actually starts the night before. I pack my daughter’s bag and set up everything for the morning in advance. This makes it much easier to slip into the day without the stress of deciding what needs to be done first thing. Another game-changer for me was doing a quick 15-minute tidy-up before bed. Waking up to a clean house instead of blankets strewn everywhere from last night’s movie night made a huge difference. I used to hate feeling like my mornings were just a rushed to-do list, making it impossible to relax and do my mindfulness routines when I knew there were chores waiting for me.

One of the biggest changes was ditching the jarring iPhone alarm. It was a nightmare, literally starting my day with a jolt of stress. Switching to a Hatch alarm clock transformed my mornings. Now, I wake up to a gentle light and soothing sounds, which means I no longer start my day feeling irritable. For years, I thought I was just not a morning person, but it turns out it was just my alarm!

Now, I can smoothly transition into taking care of everyone in the house while still prioritizing my own mental health and morning routine. Working from home, it’s so tempting to rush right into work, knowing it’s all waiting for me. But I’ve found that sticking to a routine, as if I were going into an office and still having set work hours,  helps me resist the urge to jump right in. It gives me that necessary time to just be, grounding myself before the day begins. When I switched to this new morning routine, I felt that the rest of the day felt so much easier and more productive. 

Looking to infuse more joy, creativity, and balance into your daily life? Subscribe to my “Out of Office” newsletter! Every week, you’ll get a curated blend of tips, stories, and insights designed to help you embrace an “out of office” mindset, even in the busiest seasons.

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About lakin

After navigating through a life filled with vibrant choices, challenging norms, and embracing the beauty of doing things differently, I found my passion for sharing those experiences with digital and IRL audiences. 

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I want you to feel inspired to live a life that's worth watching. And if not, it’s time ditch the predictable script society has cast for you and rewrite your plot.

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It’s an unspoken epidemic that women feel like they’re existing rather than living, settling with a “successful” life based on society’s standards, and missing out on their true calling. 
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