If there is anything more beautiful than a sunrise on Lake Michigan I don’t know what it could be. But let’s be honest, there is something kind of magical in all sunrises. What I love most about the sunrise is the dependability and routine. The sun always rises in the East and sets on the West, and no matter how long the night may seem the sun will always rise. There is a certain rhythm to that routine that is comforting.
Routines are one of the tools in our mental toolbox we can use to take care of ourselves. Routines in selfcare should be given the same level of importance as rituals. They are an island of calm in the stormy sea of everyday life. Their familiarity and dependability are comforting. One of the best things we can do to refresh our mental health on a daily basis is to develop a morning and an evening ritual.
Morning routines set the tone and pace of our day. I used to sleep as late as possible. I hit the snooze button a dozen times. When I finally got out of bed I raced around my bedroom in a frenzy getting dressed and ready for work before rushing out the door. Days blended together. I was always tired. I read an article describing the morning routines of successful people on the internet. The article described the a.m. habits of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Oprah to name a few. The article then went on to list the things you should do every morning to be successful. I’ve noticed a lot of these articles lately. Each one proclaiming that to be successful you need to wake up no later than 5 am, and your morning routine should include a full workout amongst a long to-do list. Well, let me start by quoting author J.K. Rowling’s response to these articles – “Piss off.”
First, let me clarify one very important thing. What you do in the morning upon first waking up sets the tone and rhythm for the rest of your day. If you run around in a frenzied hurry like I did then the rest of your day is an overwhelming, cluttered mess. Trust me on that one. But, if you start your day intentionally, with a ritual, then it sets a tone of calmness for the rest of your day. Now, I’m not promising that establishing a morning ritual will make you as wealthy as Oprah or as powerful as Obama, or as innovative as Jobs. But, I can promise that you will notice an improvement in your mood, mental clarity, and your energy level. So what does a good morning ritual look like? Well, that’s difficult to say. Google morning ritual and you will get a long list of articles describing the perfect a.m. routine. These articles list as many as ten steps. I think morning rituals are a very personal experience. One person’s zen is another person’s hell. Some people set their alarm so it wakes them up to the sound of very loud heavy metal music. Other’s prefer country music. And some, like myself, prefer no music at all. The key to a successful morning routine is do a certain set of tasks in the same order every morning. These tasks should be chosen with intention. What tone do you want to set? Do you want high energy fast paced? Then one of your to dos might be a high energy workout. I find suggested routines that have ten action items to be too overwhelming, so I’ve paired my morning ritual to a top five.
My Morning Top 5
- Feed and snuggle my fur babies. My cats and my dog are so cuddly and snuggly in the morning! It lasts until they’re satisfied that I’m fully awake and then they demand to be fed. So, I take full advantage of this time and soak up all the snuggles.
- Hydrate. I keep a bottle of water on my nightstand. After I feed all the fur kids I crawl back in my warm bed and drink that bottle of water. I’ve found that water makes me as alert as caffeine but without the jitters.
- Meditation, Bible study, and reflection. I use a guided meditation from one of the apps on my phone. I like breathing exercises in the morning. I also use a 10 minute reflection on gratitude. I take time to read a daily devotion and a Bible study passage and really reflect on what the passages mean to me. I finish up with prayer.
- Stretch. I’ve never been a flexible person but I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that my muscles are really tightening up. I spend about 15 minutes stretching out.
5. Last but not least, I plan my day. I use a Panda brand planner. I would have to write a whole other blog post to tell you how wonderful this planner is. Briefly, this planner provides space for me to journal what I am grateful for, set my focus for the day, plan my schedule, and prioritize my tasks.
This year I’ve been thinking about how to make my morning ritual a bit more productive. So, I’ve set a new intention to try and accomplish my top 3 priorities before I leave the house every day. For example, one of my top three tasks for today is to clean and tidy my kitchen. Usually, this would be a task I would tackle after getting home from work, but I’m going to try and get it done before I walk out the door. My hope is that it will lighten my stress to know there isn’t a sink full of dirty dishes waiting for me when I get home.
What does your morning routine look like? If you don’t have one I strongly suggest you start to develop one. Even if you don’t work outside your home a morning ritual is a valuable tool for your mental health. It helps establish the start of a new day, and it sets the tone for a calm, focused day that you move through intentionally.