Mornings can feel more like war zones than invitations into a great day.
I walk 200 yards from the front door to my car every morning at 6:20 AM. The air is crisp, nobody else is outside, and the mountain range beyond my neighborhood is painted lavender and cloaked in a bit of fog. There isn’t a raucous chorus of birds yet but a few eager, early risers have begun their songs. The first ray of sunrise is filtered through the modest trees in front of me. I stand in the center of my apartment complex parking lot holding my coffee and purse, taking it all in.
Some days, these 20 seconds are the best part of my day: still, full of beauty and hope, quiet, and present…Most days the 45 minutes before that serene scene outside my door I am throwing clothes on the ground as I get dressed, packing snacks into Tupperware to eat for breakfast at my desk, cursing myself for not refilling the water in the Keurig, and trying to prevent my cat from rubbing his fur on my black pants.
If you’re anything like me you have read dozens of articles on the subject: 15 tips to a Better Morning, Executive Habits to Start Your Day, How Exercise Can Change your Morning Routine, etc. I’ve printed out a (albeit, wildly unrealistic) schedule to follow in the hours before work and felt guilty at my flimsy, sleepy attempts to accomplish the marathon of tasks. So how do we conquer the wild beast known as the weekday morning? I’ve had some luck in the recent months and weeks and am finding that I love my slow, purposeful mornings more and more.
It’s simpler than we think.
We can get in our heads that it is our job to conquer the world before 7am: Run 5 miles, make a gourmet breakfast, French press our coffee, read 2 chapters in a new book, meditate, do 3 sun salutations, answer only important emails, feel un-pressed to check Instagram, dress like a page out of Vogue, get out the door in perfect time for work with freshly manicured nails.
It’s great for the ladies who can make that work, but that is so not my life.
I have to be at work at 6:30 in the morning (granted I only battle a 10 minute commute) and I know I am not going to save the world before I get out the door. What I can do is start my morning off peacefully, set myself up for the day I want to have, and enjoy the quiet moments before my time is anybody else’s.
Here are 5 tips to kickstart your day:
1. Priorities Priorities Priorities:
The tips and tricks you learned from an article written by the CEO of Google may not reflect your needs if you are a stay-at-home mom of three who runs a photography company out of your back bedroom. So the first step in creating your perfect morning ritual is asking yourself what it is you truly need from the start of your day. How do you want to feel when you leave for work or when the kids wake up? For me, I want to feel present, connected, creative, and clear sighted.
2. Action Plan:
Now it’s time to turn those feels into tangible steps. The ancient saying “know thyself” is key here: when you start making action steps BE REALISTIC. Know what you are actually capable of accomplishing, what time you are actually willing to wake up, and don’t feel guilty about ANY of it, your morning is for you. Here is what works for me:
- Present: Nothing gets me quite as grounded and in the moment as yoga, so I turn on a 20-30 minute Youtube yoga class as soon as I wake up. This habit was hard to get the hang of at first with stiff, sleepy muscles but the routines are simple enough to keep me coming back. They leave me feeling energized, aware, and calm. Plus, I can do them in my living room in my pajamas, so that’s a win.
- Connected: I find that I am rather useless during the day if I haven’t had some quiet time. So I spend 15-30 minutes of my morning reading my devotional, meditating, and praying. For you, this might look like taking a few moments to practice breathing exercises, write in a gratitude journal, or meditate.
- Creative: I work a 9-5 and pursue my personal projects after office hours. This means, before I enter the world of being a technical writer I need a little time to play creatively. More often than not this coincides with my quiet time, so I’ll shake up my devotionals by doing a collage, writing poetry, journaling, or sketching for a few minutes. If I’m not feeling the muse one morning, I will pick up a novel, book of poetry, or open a blog and give myself a few minutes to be inspired by someone else’s creative juices.
- Clear sighted: I do a lot better in my day when I have vision for the hours ahead. So I think through my day, about what I might accomplish on my lunch break, and what my plans for the evening are. If I don’t, I end up sitting on my couch at 8pm half asleep with popcorn for dinner and the 4th episode of The Office playing on Netflix.
3. It all starts the night before:
A good morning really starts the night before, so choose the proper bedtime for your new wakeup call and also mentally commit to the new morning ritual. I usually lie down and grab the notepad by my bed, I write down everything I’m going to do the next day from morning to night. I get as detailed as the outfit I’ll wear and what I’ll make for breakfast. It seems silly but it enables me to not have to waste time on those little decisions when I’m rushed and foggy the next day.
4. One small step at a time:
Building new habits is never easy so conquer one new activity at a time. Instead of adding a run, practicing French, and meditation to your morning on the same day, choose one new habit to work on first. Decide that you are going to run 3 miles at 5am everyday and let that become a staple. It takes between 21 to 66 days to build a new habit, so track how many days you stay consistent. Your goal will become routine in no time and you’ll be ready to add your next activity.
5. Treat. Yo. Self.
The point of creating a morning ritual is to honor the awesome woman you are and set yourself up for an amazing day, every day. If you let guilt and hustle rule this morning makeover, you’re going to be even grumpier than you were when you began. Incorporate things you enjoy, have fun, and sing in the mirror while you curl your hair. Your mornings are your time, use them to love yourself better and add a little fun and sweetness to your day.
Let yourself be okay with the fact that there will be mornings you sleep passed your alarm, where you spend 45 minutes making French toast because you crave it, or don’t quite make it out the door on time. You are human, and that’s okay! The goal is to be more intentional about loving your mornings, not to beat yourself up when they aren’t perfect. So here’s to building grace-filled, peaceful, lovely mornings that will set us up for day-domination.
Photos by Karen Marie Hernandez