10 Powerful Practices to Create a Life-Enhancing Morning Routine
Chances are your day unfolds into one stressful experience after the next, finishing up with you crashing onto the couch when you arrive home and releasing a deep sigh of relief - almost like you haven’t breathed all day.
A morning routine won’t guarantee you the perfect day as we cannot control how other people or our environments will impact what happens. However, what we can be intentional about is the foundation we create within ourselves that supports us to navigate life – including through the unexpected challenges – with more ease and greater ability to bounce back and stay aligned to our priorities and intentions.
A morning routine is an act of emotional, physical and spiritual care. Integrating a morning routine isn’t just some wellness fad to tick off the list or post about on social media. A routine also doesn’t have to be grand, elaborate or a regimented, non-negotiable process. Simply put, a morning routine is enacting the belief that your needs and experience matters. It’s the pause before the action; the quiet before the potential storm; and the filling up of your cup before you give to others.
When you find the right routine for you and your lifestyle, you’ll reap the benefits on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. It’s a holistic approach to well-being. If you are new to the practice, start small. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and turn it into another ‘should’ or achievement bar to beat yourself with.
Remember: a morning routine is about being and embodying, not about doing and achieving.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR A GREAT NIGHT’S SLEEP
CONNECT WITH YOURSELF
WAKE UP GENTLY
Having an alarm clock that sounds like your house is on fire isn’t exactly the most caring way to wake your mind and body up. Pick a sound or song that makes your heart sing and guides you gently into consciousness. If you’re in the market for a new alarm clock, the Withings Aura Sleep System is an amazing option. It integrates smooth sounds and sleep tracking, which helps you to fall asleep and wake up in the most calm and optimal way.
Your morning starts the moment you open your eyes, so I encourage you to be deeply intentional in the first 30 minutes of your day. This is the time you are most connected to your subconscious, which is a special and sacred experience. What were your dreams about? What feelings are present? You can even have a bedside journal to note these morning experiences to look back at as you progress.
Reaching for your phone the moment you open your eyes prematurely pulls your body from its resting state straight into a rational, process-driven experience. Support the natural awakening of your body and consciousness by keeping the phone off until it’s 100% necessary. Leave it in the hallway on flight-mode before you sleep and utilise the landline / home phone for any ‘in case of an emergency’ situation.
An impactful morning routine actually starts the night before. Sleep is the best medicine in the world, and a lack of it won’t support you to wake up mindfully and well-rested. Do what you can to wind down in the evening. Switch off from work, let go of stress, and create a peaceful space of rest before you hit the pillow.
DELAY THE CAFFEINE HIT
While coffee isn’t the worst choice to include within your morning, it’s advisable not to make it the first thing that you drink. Set the intention to wake your body up by rehydrating with simple, plain water instead. Opt for lots of water, or try my personal favourite: a cup of hot water, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and sprinkle of cardamom. Enjoy this while quietly contemplating your day, and save the coffee for after you’ve eaten a nourishing breakfast or for an afternoon pick-me-up later.
How you approach meditation is unique to you and your lifestyle. You may love just laying down, closing your eyes and focusing on deep breathing. Or lighting a candle and sitting in stillness, calmly observing the flame. If you’re an experienced meditator or a passionate self-starter, sitting 20-30 minutes in silence while clearing your thoughts and bringing consciousness to your body is an incredible way to start the day. If you’re looking for guided meditations or you’re a beginner, Headspace or Calm are apps that streamline meditations for you and make great starting points for your meditation routine.
Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to uncover and appreciate everyday moments of joy. Another wonderful side effect is that the more we recognise what we’re grateful for, the more good things we attract. For your morning routine, put your hand on your heart and say out loud three things that you’re grateful for. Avoid broad, generic concepts, and get specific. For example: “I am grateful for the sunshine that comes through the window and touches my face… for the lovely message my dear friend texted me yesterday… for the delicious soup I had last night.” A great video to watch for inspiration is the TED Talk by Louie Schwartzberg called “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.”
Affirmations are statements we say to ourselves to help us nurture a state of mind that supports our goals and intentions. Think about what you deeply desire and wish for. Then create a positive statement in the present tense. For example: “I easily make healthy choices… With ease and grace, I go about my day… I trust that I can deal with challenges and adapt along the way.” If saying it loud creates an emotional response, you’ve picked well. If not, go a little deeper. The phrasing is important because you want to evoke feelings from your affirmations. Be mindful about what you’re telling yourself. Work with your affirmations for 90 days, and challenge yourself to believe them as you say them.
Intentions are small actions or targets that move you closer to your goals or desired state of being. Consider what you are currently working towards, and, each morning, pick 1-2 tasks that will get you closer to completion. Schedule a meeting with your boss. Make space for your passion project. Have that tough conversation with your partner. When setting intentions, know what you want (your desired outcome) and how you want to get there (the quality of your experience). If you are focused on what matters to you, chances are higher that you will stay on track and not easily fall for distractions. Once you have put actions towards your priorities, you will feel more satisfied with yourself when the evening comes.
EXERCISE AND DANCE
Buy yourself a special notebook just for your morning routine. Write about what you did the day before, what you plan to do in the day or any thoughts you’d like to unload. A life-changing practice is Morning Pages, a concept created by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. Her approach (and book) is designed to unblock creativity. Morning Pages is the practice of writing three full pages of thoughts without stopping, filtering or judging; you simply let your thoughts flow and release yourself from a clogged mind. It’s extremely therapeutic and clears your mind before you start your day. You’ll be surprised by what comes up!
Making time in the morning for exercise is a fantastic way to get your mind and body set up for the day. If this isn’t an option for you, dance it out instead! Movement in any form has so many mental and physical benefits. Pop on some upbeat music and shake your hips as you prepare your breakfast or get ready. Some of my personal favourites are Lose Yourself to Dance by Daft Punk and Adventure of A Lifetime by Coldplay. Even a few minutes of dancing like no one’s watching will boost your mood and energy for the day.
I hope these simple but truly life-enhancing ideas for your morning routine have inspired you to give them a go, or create your own.
With any new morning routine, I encourage you to start small, be flexible and most importantly, give it a chance.
While you’ll start to reap the benefits almost instantly, creating a sustainable practice that really works long-term, can take up to 90 days of consistently showing up for it.