You wake up to the smell of fresh gluten-free biscuits baking in the oven downstairs and the soft rustle of your daughter reading in her room next door. You take a moment to listen to for the little sigh from the baby in her crib across the room. Ahh…. There it is. She’s sleeping deeply. With a big stretch and a moment of gratitude for the delicious comfort of your bed, you pull on some workout clothes and brush your teeth.
You give your eldest daughter a good morning kiss and ruffle her hair as you head out for a run. It’s a quick and easy 3-miler through a nearby park, and you wave good morning to the other joggers and dog walkers as you pass. You breathe in the musky aroma of wet trees and warm earth, smiling at the beauty of it all.
When you get home, you enjoy the steaming biscuits your hubby just pulled out of the oven with a nice big pad of raw butter and homemade marionberry jam you made earlier in the season and a couple of eggs from your local farmer cooked sunny side up with nice runny yolks.
After breakfast, you sip a hot mug of tea while doing your morning pages, sitting on the porch as the rest of the neighborhood wakes up.
You set your intention for the day, take a couple of deep belly breaths to anchor it, and with that, you step into your day. Refreshed. Inspired. With a nourished body, an engaged mind, and a loved-up soul.
And there you have it, my friends. My morning fantasy.
What? You actually thought that is my every day? I don’t know that this has ever happened in such a perfect format, but it’s something I dream about and strive for.
I’ve always been fascinated to the point of obsessed with morning routines, all the more so since having children and thus much less control over what these mornings entail. I’m an avid fan of Tim Ferriss’ podcast, and he always asks his guests about the first 60-90 minutes of their day. What validation that I’m not the only one who sees the defining power of this time!
How you start your day can truly make or break the rest of it.
These first precious hours reflect your life priorities and set the tone for everything that follows. This tone can be one that you set with great awareness and care, or it can happen mindlessly by default. The degree of its influence is the same, the results vastly different.
Since I have been studying morning routines and fine tuning my own for many years now, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. Here are my top seven best and worst ways to start the day.
Very important note: I do not profess to do all of these things every day. There are many days when I don’t do any of them! That’s why I know so well that they work. When I do things on my “best of” list and avoid those on my “worst of” list, I am happier, my day is more creative, fun and productive, and I am a better human being overall.
The seven BEST ways to start the day:
1. Get outside. Yes, even if it’s shitty weather. This is one of the most important things you can do for your sleep and circadian rhythm. You can go for a run, take the dog for a walk, sit on the porch sipping a hot beverage… What you do outside is far less important than simply being out there.
2. Move your body. An ideal time of day to exercise is in the morning. This supports your body’s circadian rhythm, and more importantly, can be a beautiful head-clearing way to step into your day refreshed. Your body will also make better use of the food you eat for breakfast if you’ve had a lil’ workout beforehand.
3. Meditate. I’ve written about the life-changing impact meditation has had on me, and the morning is a wonderful time to do it. Starting the day from that calm, grounded space can only be a good thing.
Bonus points for meditating and then exercising immediately afterwards! New research shows that doing the two sequentially enhances the impact of the meditation session and significantly reduces depression.
4. Journal. I used to be a big believer in journaling at night, and I still do, but writing first thing in the morning is a game-changer. It clears the cobwebs, shuts down an overactive monkey mind, and often turns into a full-on problem solving session. The style of journaling I use is called “Morning Pages”: three hand-written pages of whatever comes out of me. I take no credit for this strategy. I learned it from Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way when I first read it in 2009, and have been doing it ever since. Now, you don’t have to do Morning Pages per se, but if you haven’t tried journaling in the morning, give it a try and see what happens.
5. Connect with those you love. If you live with a spouse, partner, children, parents, or close friend, why not take a few minutes to connect with them before rushing into the busy-ness of your day? If we are up early enough, I like to spend some time playing with, reading to or cuddling my daughters first thing in the morning. It fills them up, it fills me up, and we all step into our day reminded that we are loved.
6. Have sex. I separated this out from connection time because it’s worth its own bullet point. Let’s be real: morning sex is great sex and why not start the day off with a bang!? (so sorry… I just couldn’t resist!) I guarantee you’ll smile more the rest of the day.
7. Eat a nourishing meal, sitting down, with your loved ones. It is sad to me how sitting down to eat this all-important meal has become such a rarity, let alone sharing this time with others. We try to sit together for all our meals, even breakfast. Even a few minutes of overlap before we all go different directions for the day makes a big difference. This doubles as connection time, so you get a twofer here.
The seven WORST ways to start the day:
1. Checking your phone for email, texts, social media, news, etc, etc, etc. Obsessive phone checking is epidemic. Trust me I know of what I speak. It takes a tremendous amount of self-control NOT to reach for the phone first thing to mindlessly scroll through various feeds and see what happened while I slept. The likelihood of coming across something that lifts you up rather than brings you down is so slim, it’s not worth the risk.
Here’s the thing: the morning is one of our most important creative windows. Subconsciously the brain did all sorts of housekeeping and problem solving while we slept. We can continue that momentum in all the ways I’ve mentioned above, or we can give that creative space away to whatever happens to be in our facebook feed or inbox. Which do you choose?
2. Mindless internet surfing on any device. Okay so you’ve put your phone away. Awesome! Now don’t undo that good work and pop open your laptop instead. Keep your mornings technology free and see what happens.
3. Responding to work emails. I know that in some roles, you are truly required to be in a reactive mode from the moment you wake. This point is for the rest of us. Before hopping on your laptop to read your work email, ask yourself this: what would the downside really be if you didn’t check email first thing? Do you think in a true crisis your colleagues won’t have any other way to get in touch? If you’re someone who starts the day with work and more work, it’s time to get honest with yourself: what are you saying NO to by constantly saying YES to your work?
4. Watching TV. Having the TV going in the background can seem harmless enough, but it’s one more way you give away your creative space to something (probably meaningless) outside yourself. Save the TV for decompression time at the end of the day.
5. Reading/watching the news. I know for some people not knowing what is going on in the world is sacrilegious. I’m not saying never watch the news, I’m saying don’t do it first thing in the morning. I think we can all agree that the news is rarely uplifting. Do you really want the tone of your day set by alarming, stressful, and often depressing information that you usually can’t do a darned thing about?
6. Doing household chores. Dishes, laundry, sweeping… Sure it’s not alarming or stressful like the news, but do you want to give your most creative part of the day to the most menial work? You can do that anytime. Note: I do not include making your bed as part of this. I’m a firm believer that leaving the bedroom beautiful sets the tone for the other most important part of the day: your bedtime.
7. Stuffing food mindlessly into your mouth as your run out the door. Now we might not all have the time to have a leisurely breakfast, chit-chatting with the family about the day ahead. But even if you’ve only got 10 minutes (and we all have 10 minutes – if you don’t, get up 10 minutes earlier), it can be a spacious 10 minutes or a harried 10 minutes. Waiting at the dentist’s office for your appointment I bet that 10 minutes feels like an eternity. So: even if you have only 10 minutes, take those precious moments to sit, take a few big belly breaths, and actually taste and chew your breakfast. Why is this so important? I wrote about that here.
Now I want to hear from you!
What are your most powerful and effective morning rituals? What works best for you? Please share in the comments below.
Like what you're reading? Don't miss out . . .
Enter your info to be the first to know when we publish new insights, articles and recipes.
Plus, we'll send you our exclusive Kitchen Essentials List as a welcome gift (because a well-stocked kitchen is the most reliable short-cut to healthy, delicious eating).