Years ago, I wrote a blog titled “3 Tips To Make The Most of Your Morning Routine” which focused on simple ways to create healthy habits upon waking. These tips include things like hydration, moving your body, and writing out what you’re grateful for on a consistent basis. These are all still stellar tips, but I’ve had a number of requests to talk in more detail about what my favorite morning rituals for peace and productivity look like, and why.
By “ritual”, I mean a practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.
This kind of positive, slow, morning ritual will look a little bit different for everyone, and if you integrate even a shred more of mindfulness into your day I’ll consider it a win.
There’s no set of morning behaviors I’ve enjoyed my entire life, and I find that over time and changes in the season my body and mind crave various things.
I listen to that, and you should too.
One of the morning rituals I used to adore the most was running first thing after waking. I would strap up Clarence and myself with reflective gear and headlamps at 0400 before going to a 12+ hour shift most days, rain or shine. Over time, not only did my body and desires change, but I began to analyze the “why” behind my daily activities (from TV watching to relationships to my career and sense of obligation to run) and determine if I was doing it for myself or others. It turns out, I didn’t actually enjoy the act of running that much, I just enjoyed being the girl who woke up at a ridiculous hour and ran before a hard day at work. It was pride, ego, and disconnection with my self and deepest desires. If I’m being brutally honest, it was also the baseline desire to remain in as small a body as possible.
I’m not a runner at heart, and when I do run it’s because I’m in a genuine mood for it and crave it.
This is just an example (if you’re an avid runner, get it girl) of ways that I’ve created mornings that set me up to show up in the best possible way feeling peaceful and productive.
It’s not the most encouraging thing to hear if you have a crazy schedule and often don’t get enough sleep, but regardless of the number of hours you sleep, you can directly impact your quality of sleep through activities in the hours leading up to sleep.
Even if you aren’t always capable of ditching your phone and computer three hours before sleep time, there are tools (like blue blocking glasses) that we can use to avoid the harmful effects of blue light.
Next tip: don’t drink coffee/caffeine right before bed. Quality of sleep has been a struggle for me lately, due to some intense nocturnal bruxism that I’m still working through. So far I know that my biggest triggers are excessive caffeine, unreleased muscle tension, and stress (duh).
That’s a topic for another time.
Another ritual that starts the night before is decreasing the cognitive load that you’ll feel upon waking. This means getting simple stuff over with before going to sleep, like laying out your clothes for the following day, setting out what you need for morning beverages, and cleaning any clutter that you would otherwise have to deal with upon waking. That way you can focus on the good stuff and feel less rushed. This is a common habit to develop when we’re kids, but as we age we feel like for some reason it’s less important and that we’re fine without it.
Hint: we’re not always fine and we probably need more help than we used to. If you want even more info about building that nighttime routine, check out this blog.
Now, let’s talk about the actual morning.
I know what some of you could be thinking “Okay, Mom. First, you tell me to lay out my clothes the night before, now you’re telling me to make the bed. “.
Hear me out.
Making the bed first thing is a simple habit that gives an immediate feeling of accomplishment. The real reason I love it? Even if my day is a total sh*itshow, at the end of the day I still have a little sense of success.
Ideally, this chunk of time is at least an hour.
Does this mean that I’m meditating for an hour or drinking tea and writing that whole time? Not really. It means that I’m taking the time to enter my day in a more resilient way, which directly impacts how well I’ll be able to show up for loved ones, coworkers, clients, and anyone else I may come in contact with.
As I mentioned recently in a blog called “Mindful Social Media Consumption: The Lifestyle Change You Didn’t Know You Needed”, the effects of immediately diving into the world of social media, email, text messages, television (I always forget to mention this one since I don’t own a TV) and more can trigger depression, anxiety, comparison, and feelings of inadequacy.
If you’re not into the morning with a side of self-doubt, ditch that phone.
This one is really simple, but hydrating first thing and cultivating joy with something simple are where it’s at. The beverage rotates between coffee, matcha, and earl grey for me. If you’re interested in checking out matcha but not sure where to start, I also have an old blog for that.
If you’ve never found success in meditation, just know that:
A. it’s okay
B. you don’t have to be an expert to keep trying.
I highly recommend finding a guided meditation to experience in person on occasion so you can have a grasp of what it is/should feel like to meditate. Try out different spots and see where and who makes you feel the most welcomed and safe.
If you’d like guided meditations and movement virtually, YouTube is a great resource for that. My own YouTube channel has this Gentle Morning Yoga which includes breath-work, self massage, and journaling in just over 30 minutes. A few of my other favorite teachers in that space are Breathe & Flow, Cole Chance Yoga, and Arianna Elizabeth.
When it comes to breathing exercises, I tend to keep things pretty simple most mornings.
Even just sitting still for 5 minutes and paying attention to deeper breathing can be really powerful. Most mornings I flow from breathing into a more active practice of yoga and mobility, followed by journaling. If you haven’t taken time recently to set intentions and evaluate what your deepest desires are on a large scale, I highly recommend doing that when it feels right.
I grew up a librarian’s daughter (he’s seriously the coolest and won an award for his book club), so as you can imagine reading for fun was expected and normal in my everyday life.
As I aged and became more career and success driven, I forgot the simple and amazing joy of reading….for fun. Not textbooks, not self-help books about how to be more productive and abundant, not cookbooks.
Novels. Books that make you think and feel a little or a lot different than when you picked them up.
Now, I aim to read for at least 20-30 minutes per day.
Also a shameless plug for the book club that my Dad and I run together: The Reading Wells. If you’re looking for good fiction suggestions and/or want to discuss what you read – we’d love to have you.
Nothing says hectic day quite as much as having a million things to do, and no clear plan of when or how they’re getting tackled.
I prefer to make separate lists for what is most essential to accomplish within the day, one for business, one for personal, and one for academic work if I’m in a semester. Write down 2-3 things that would make you feel absolutely amazing to accomplish, and forget about the rest until those are tackled.
Paper planners and physical lists are near and dear to my heart, which is why my favorite planner is something I use daily. It has spots for not only prioritization, but water intake, meal planning, and scheduling.
If there’s one thing I learned from seriously hectic 2019 travels and adventures, it’s the importance of creating daily rituals within our lives to cultivate time for stillness.
Are there any morning rituals that you feel are essential or set your soul on fire?
Tell me about your go-to morning rituals for peace and productivity below.