There’s a lot of talk about morning routines these day. And with good reason.
I developed my own “morning routine” instinctively long before I ever heard the term. I like order and structure (my own), and a morning routine sets a tranquil tone for the day. My routine has evolved over the years, and it varies a bit, depending on the day or time of year, but there are several elements that are always there.
In case you are not familiar with the idea, a morning routine is a set of habits that we perform in the morning before moving into the responsibilities—work, school, family, etc.—of the day. Some authors and influencers recommend getting up extra early and/or at the same time every day in order to ensure that your morning routine happens. Ultimately, we all have to find our own best way to reap the benefits of a morning routine.
So, what are those benefits?
- A morning routine is grounding. Engaging in positive, familiar practices helps orient us to the new day. It imposes the order of knowing what to expect and controlling our first actions over the chaos of indecision and lack of direction. Once our morning routine is established, we don’t have to make choices or decide if we are going to take certain actions or not. It is our routine, so we do it, saving precious mental energy. The peaceful feeling that brings centers us and allows us to take on the day from a more powerful internal position.
- A morning routine contributes to the cultivation of an internal locus of control. Our locus of control is a continuum from external to internal. One end of the spectrum is not necessarily better than the other, but an internal locus of control may mean that we are more likely to take constructive action in our lives, simply because we believe that it will matter. The farther we toward the external end of the locus-of-control continuum, the less we believe that our actions influence outcomes in life. Instead, we assign control and, sometimes, blame to outside forces, whether that is God, government, the system or fate. Clearly, reality falls somewhere between the two extremes. We can’t control everything, but we can control some things. Acknowledging that positions us to help ourselves more effectively in life. By taking deliberate, meaningful actions every morning, we reinforce that what we choose to do makes a difference in the results we achieve, making it more likely that we will eat nourishing food, move our bodies and act in ways that improve our chances for health, happiness and success.
- A morning routine allows us to begin with intention. One of the most potent techniques we can use in our lives is the pause. Pausing before we act—whether on the day or in the moment—can help us live in better alignment with our values and our highest aspirations. A morning routine is a form of pause, allowing us to start the day with, as Stephen Covey would say, “with the end in mind.”
- A morning routine creates opportunities for success from the very start. Although life makes no guarantees, we are more likely to accomplish the things we want to accomplish in a given day if we start it on the right foot. We can set a pattern for success by starting the day with habits and actions that align with our values and goals. That feels good! Our early success helps fuel our sense of self-efficacy so we can build on that success throughout the day.
What counts as a morning routine? There are no “rules” about what constitutes a morning routine. It is what you need it to be to start your day in a positive way. That looks different for everyone, but a solid morning routine will generally encompass these elements:
- It creates a sense of peace. Starting the day with activities that promote inner peace increase the likelihood of living the day in equanimity—remaining calm and grounded even if the world feels frantic around us.
- It connects mind, body and spirit. Ideally, a morning routine addresses and integrates all three realms, honoring our nature as complex beings. A great example of this is physical activity that affords the opportunity to go inward. For me, this is best accomplished in a solo (or at least quiet) form of exercise, like yoga, cycling, walking or running—something with time and space to think and to listen for inspiration.
- It generates self-satisfaction. Put simply, we feel good about ourselves when we do it. It feels like success, no matter how big or how small. There is truly freedom in discipline. When we have the discipline of a morning routine, we experience the freedom of doing those things that we truly want to do—the things that are aligned with our highest selves—rather than starting the day from a place of disappointment in ourselves for failing to live up to our aspirations, instead hitting the snooze button repeatedly and finally rolling out of bed to grab a donut or other non-nourishing excuse for breakfast.
- It promotes mental and physical well-being. It may go without saying, but beneficial morning routines should include healthful behaviors, rather than activities that undermine our wellness.
How do you establish a morning routine? The best way to establish a morning routine is to think about what you want it to accomplish for yourself and to consider how much time you intend to give it. Some people have their morning routines broken down into strict segments—say, 20 minutes for each activity—or they have specific times for doing certain things. That is certainly one way to do it, but not the only way. You may just have a time to rise and an order of activities within an allotted time frame.
If your mornings are currently unstructured, I recommend starting small and building the pieces of your routine gradually, so that it is manageable and feels like a natural progression. There is nothing to be gained by taking on too much and becoming overwhelmed, so that you decide to scrap the whole idea.
Plan ahead. Think about what needs to be in place for your morning routine to be successful and take the necessary steps before you go to bed. This might include making your breakfast, so it is easy to eat nourishing foods in the morning. It could include setting out your exercise clothes, so you don’t have to spend time or energy thinking about what to wear and gathering them in the morning. It may include determining an order for your activities. The most important thing is not to leave your morning routine to chance. Elevate it to a place of honor and hold it sacred by making the preparations to ensure that it happens.
I will share the basic components of my morning routine, not as a prescription, because what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but as inspiration and example to get you thinking about what you would like to include in your own.
As I mentioned above, my morning routine has evolved and changed as I have moved in and out of various seasons of life, and I expect it to continue to do so. While some elements will likely remain constant, others may give way to something new.
For many years, I got up at 5 a.m. every single day of the week. In some ways that routine was healthier because it also meant that all my evenings (including weekends) ended earlier. Those are good sleep habits. But, the needs of my family have changed. We are going through a challenging season right now. Having a teenager in the household has introduced different stressors than we have previously experienced. It also means that our evenings look different—admittedly, not always with the evening habits I would choose if I were on my own. Kenny and I often need distraction these days. He’s a ruminator—out loud. That stresses me out. To stop his speculation and catastrophizing around Logan’s activities, watching a movie at night often works best. This means I don’t always set my alarm for 5 a.m. on weekend mornings. I may allow myself to awaken naturally. This is never late, but, if I am lucky (Insomnia is another side effect of parenting a teenager, I am finding.), it is somewhat after 5 a.m.
On weekday mornings, I still arise at 5 a.m., and my mornings follow this basic pattern:
- Turn off my alarm.
- Find a quote in the volumes of self-collected quote books that are my bedtime companions. Using my booklight, I randomly select a quote to give me something positive to contemplate right off the bat. If the first one I choose doesn’t speak to me in that particular moment, I open to a different one, until something resonates.
- Think of three things to which I am looking forward in the day. Although I am tempted on some mornings, I don’t allow myself to get away with saying, “Not much.” It may be a warm shower, my yoga practice, a bike ride, time alone or the book I am reading—sometimes seemingly mundane things—but I identify three positive things awaiting me before I get out of bed.
- Make my bed. Easy. Quick. Done. Order and structure.
- On weekday mornings when I am not riding my bike after work, I get up and change into my waiting exercise clothing.
- Choose another quote to ponder while I am exercising.
- Do a breathing exercise to put myself in the right mindset to move my body.
- Set my intention for my workout.
- Move my body with yoga, strength training, indoor cycle trainer, a walk or foundation training.
- Make Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus tea.
- Eat the breakfast I made the previous night. This is usually a smoothie filled with foods that nourish my body—some of which I include every day. (See a future post for more about that.) I generally drink/eat my smoothie, my water and my tea while I am getting Logan’s lunch (which I packed the previous night) and water bottle ready and washing and putting away dishes in the kitchen (usually left from Logan’s late-night feeding frenzies). If I am alone in the kitchen, I listen to an inspiring and/or educational podcast. This has the dual benefit of feeding my mind and spirit while I feed my body and preventing my mind from going places I don’t want it to go.
- Occasionally, I will have time to do some creative work, like writing or posting to my business Facebook page, while I am supervising Logan’s morning activities (which are far less structured and orderly than mine 😊).
- Once I get Logan off to school, I take my shower and move into the next phase of my day.
Weekends look a bit different, although every day includes some form of exercise, meditation, quotes, intention setting and a nourishing breakfast.
In the warm months of cycling season, I meditate, eat and prep to ride on weekend mornings. Then, I get out on my bike! This is the ultimate culmination of my morning routine—especially a long ride, when I can really think and open to inspiration. (Join my free course to learn more about making the mind-movement interaction work for you.)
The bottom line is this—Consider adding a morning routine to your life if you don’t have one. It is a way to make good things happen for yourself before you face whatever the day will throw at you. We can’t control how our days unfold, but when we take initiative to start the day in an intentional way, we position ourselves for success and positivity, and we are better equipped to handle disruptions and stressors with a greater level of equanimity. There are no guarantees, and I haven’t perfected it. But, I shudder to think how I would be handling my current level of parenting (and other) stress if I didn’t have a reliable, secure practice in place to reground, realign and start fresh each day.
Talking about fresh starts, if you haven’t registered for my FREE Spring into Action Move for Your Mind 30-Day Kickstart Class, be sure to save your spot. It starts this coming Saturday, March 20, in my private JustWind Coaching Community Facebook group. When you join, you will have the opportunity to gain access to the free companion workbook. Read more about the class in last week’s post.
“All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things. You have to make sure that the blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want, that you’ve thought everything through. Then you put it into bricks and mortar. Each day you go to the construction shed and pull out the blueprint to get marching orders for the day. You begin with the end in mind.”
–Stephen R. Covey