You may not know this about me, but my morning routine is a big deal to me. In my experience, how I start the morning is usually how I live the day, so it’s especially important to be mindful during those early hours.
Of note: routine is key. I’m a devout creature of habit; the older I get, the more I appreciate the sense of freedom that comes from doing more or less the same things in pretty much the same order every day.
On the surface, this may sound boring. But life comes at us so quickly and is so damn demanding all day every day. There are so many decisions to handle and changes to negotiate anyway. SO MANY. So the things that I can keep routine, I do. Routine anchors me. It keeps things stable so that I can at least attempt to handle the rest of the chaos.
What follows are the things that work *for me*. This is not a perfect system, but there is some logic that supports what I have felt to be true in my own body, mind, and soul. Here we go…
1. Wake Up Easy
Now, I admit, this doesn’t always happen, but it’s always the goal. And part of waking up easy is getting to bed 8-ish hours before waking up. I get in bed shortly after I tuck my boys in and I (try to) put my phone aside and read. It’s the one uninterrupted hour of reading that I’m guaranteed every day.
Quality rest is easier when you don’t go straight from screen to sleep. I use my books as a buffer between the hours I spend on my laptop and phone each day for work and sleep. Plus, I love to read.
Getting up after a good night’s sleep is much better than struggling to pull yourself from the sheets due to a short night or fitful sleep. It sets a solid tone for the day and grounds me from the first moment of consciousness. Again, I (try to) avoid my phone so that I am not slamming myself into the world of news, social media, and emails. It’s all there waiting for me whenever I’m ready. No point in rushing it.
2. Make Your Bed
Since I was a child, I have made my bed first thing every morning. When I was a kid it was because there was a system to how my stuffed animals needed to be arranged and having a clean slate (aka, a perfectly made bed) just made it easier. But I had unwittingly stumbled upon something that Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before) cites as a simple act in creating happiness. What she says feels right to me: “For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.” The Dude expresses a similar sentiment in The Big Lebowski when he says, “That rug really tied the room together.” Ha. Some things just make the whole room feel orderly, complete, whole. And a neatly made bed is one of those things for me.
3. Take a Probiotic
I haven’t taken Prozac or Lorazepam for a decade (personal decision, no judgment, those things were necessary and absolutely welcome at times in my life!) but I *do* swear by probiotics. I’m no scientist or doctor, but I have many, many post-doc hours in mesearch (get it? research about ME?) and I know what works for my body.
There’s a lot of research coming out from the real scientists and doctors showing a strong correlation exists between our guts and our brains. Which is begging questions about mental health and gut health…are they related?
Do your own mesearch. See what works for you, probiotics or otherwise.
4. Move Your Body
Within 10 minutes of getting out of (and making) my bed, I’m on my yoga mat. Yoga is one of the most perfect forms of movement: it lengthens and strengthens your body, while building stamina and concentration, with a focus on balancing and aligning both sides of your body from the spine out. The fact that each posture is carefully sequenced in harmony with your breath is so perfect, I can't even. <~~ Which is to say, I truly believe yoga is for everybody and every body. Even though I do understand that yoga isn't everyone’s jam…I don’t like it, but I do understand it. :)
But the point of this is movement. Yoga, walking, biking, running, swimming, group exercise classes…whatever you want, just find something that you like. Because if you like it, and even better, if you can find a few people to come along with you, then you’re more likely to do it. And moving your body is something that is completely non-negotiable.
According to ancient yogic philosophy, the entire point of moving your body through all of the crazy postures in a yoga sequence is to expend your natural energy so that you can sit still in meditation.
I’ve heard a lot of meditation teachers suggest to their students that they should meditate upon waking. And I’m sure that works for some. As someone with an anxious bent, there is about zero chance that I could meditate prior to my morning yoga practice and be effective. The order of this is essential to my wellbeing: first I funnel my energy towards into something healthy (for me, yoga) and only then do I sit in stillness for a 20-minute meditation.
There are a lot of excuses around meditation. I’ve used plenty of them. I don’t have time. It’s boring. I’m no good at it. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have time! Oh, and it’s boring. I know, I get it. Every meditator gets it. Feeling like those excuses are legit is what makes them so convincing. Know the excuses are coming and meditate anyway. Some say that when you pray you ask for help, and when you meditate you listen to what the cosmos and your benevolent angels and God and the Universe have for you. Meditate and listen in.
6. Drink Hot Lemon Water
You're literally getting a play-by-play here: I go from my bed to my yoga mat to my meditation cushion (or chair or floor) to the kitchen for hot lemon water. I use the juice of a full lemon (start with half a lemon if this is new to you!), a chunk of fresh ginger, and sometimes a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for heat in ~8 oz of water. Getting enough water into your body every day is important for everything from brain function to immune support to great skin.
Hot lemon water is alkalizing, hydrating, and delicious. Just Google “hot lemon water” and you’ll find loads of benefits to starting your day with this in-hand. If you’re used to coffee right out of the gate, hot lemon water will be far easier on your body. If you’re used to something sugary first thing, hot lemon water is a *great* substitute.
7. Nutritious Breakfast
We have to talk about food before any morning routine is complete. I have a few morning go-to’s to make breakfast quick and easy. One is smoothies (like my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie) that I prepare in batches and throw in the freezer so that I’m only 3 minutes from breakfast in the morning. This is especially handy during the week when I’m getting the boys out the door to school and have to get started with my work as soon as the house is empty.
Another great breakfast hack that I love during the cold winter months, is taking last night’s leftovers and throwing an egg on it - boom, breakfast! This works well with yesterday’s stir fry, grilled fish and veggies, or even thick soups and stews. Fried eggs are quick and putting that on top of anything savory makes it feel like breakfast.
I share this with you not because I think this is the only way to start your day, but because these steps work for me and they’re easily adaptable into your own healthy habits. Creating space and time for these things to happen before the day gets started is so important for my overall health and to support my mood throughout the day. I know I’m happier and healthier for it.