One way to transform your life is to invest time and thought into the creation and implementation of a healthy morning routine. When life is spinning out of control, focusing on immediate self-care practices can be very comforting to the troubled soul.
A healthy morning routine is the gateway to a healthy life – body, mind, and spirit. It is truly incredible how grounding and healing it can be to know that every day will start the same, and every morning is within your control.
Does a morning ritual have to be complicated, intense, or time consuming? No. Exactly the opposite, actually. Your morning routine can be simple, unique to your needs, private, and immediately actionable.
5 Steps to a Healthy Morning Routine
Here are some great firestarter thoughts that will lead you to your personal best healthy morning routine:
1. How much time do I really have every morning?
The answer to this question will be different for everyone. Parents may look at this question and think it is a joke, because the answer is “zero minutes and zero seconds.” And that is completely understandable.
Teenagers may look at this and think the only time they have is during the morning bus ride or shared carpool ride to school, and that is actually a great time for a morning routine. People with jobs that start at six o’clock in the morning may say that mornings are “impossible.” Fine. Work with what you have.
If you are a parent, maybe you can find ten minutes for yourself once the kids get out the door to school. If not, you could make use of your ten-minute shower for some intentional thought, affirmations, or a guided five-minute meditation while you get dressed.
If you are an exhausted teenager who hates mornings, maybe you can make the most of that twenty-minute ride to school every day with a cultivated playlist of uplifting music that you actually like to listen to, combined with some color therapy (aka adult coloring).
If you are rushed to get out the door to work in the morning, maybe you can make the most of your time waiting for your first cup of drive-thru coffee on the way to the office with a five-minute guided meditation (eyes open but focusing on the breath, of course), or releasing your personal to-do list and some gratitude into a voice memo on your phone.
The point is, you don’t need to completely transform your morning or your life in order to cultivate an extremely effective morning routine. You just need to find where the opportunities are in the routine you already practice every day.
No one is asking you to magically become an “early riser” or hire a nanny so you can write in your journal without distraction for five minutes. Those are unrealistic expectations. Step one is getting real about the time you have, and objectively looking at how that time is being used.
2. What do I need from my morning ritual?
What are you seeking from this new practice you are incorporating into your daily life? How do you want to feel? What kinds of changes are you hoping for, after committing to your new morning plan for a month? Do you want to feel more focused, more hopeful, or more present in your body? The answers to these questions will help you to choose which self-care practices to incorporate into your unique ritual.
For example, if you want to feel more focused, maybe your morning self-care routine involves some journaling about your tangible goals. Maybe you can sit down at home or at your desk, and for five minutes write down your overall goal for the day and three actions you can take towards that goal. Make a plan to accomplish those tasks, see to it that you accomplish them, and then reward yourself for a job well done.
If you want your morning routine to make you feel more hopeful, perhaps a new healthy morning habit for you is a gratitude practice like affirmations or a gratitude list. This can take form in a variety of ways.
You can hang a small white board on a wall (or the refrigerator) in your home, and every morning write a one-sentence affirmation and three things you are grateful for. There is so much power in writing things down and putting that writing in a place where your eyes will see those words often.
Imagine what could happen if every day you saw the following words five times a day: Today I will choose Faith. I am grateful for warm cups of coffee, the clean air I breathe, and a body that can move. Life-changing! And all it takes is a whiteboard, some markers, and five minutes. You can do that, starting now!
If you are hoping to feel more present in your body, maybe your new healthy habit is some intentional breathing. This can be done on the train, bus, or waiting for your morning coffee to brew.
Sit or stand, relax your shoulders, and take three deep breaths from your lower abdomen — in through your nose, out through your mouth. Inhale for three counts, hold for three counts, exhale for four counts. Rinse and repeat three times — there you go! Morning ritual accomplished in less than 5 minutes.
It could also be as simple as waking up three minutes early to spend intentional time with your partner — awake — before the kids come in to start the day for you. Self-care and healthy habits are as easy as you allow them to be. It doesn’t take a ninety-minute yoga class or a five-page journaling exercise to change your life for the better. It just takes intention.
3. Awaken your senses
When it comes to creating a routine that will make you feel a certain way, think about how you can inspire your senses, too. Adding a French vanilla or lavender candle to your space and lighting it when you wake up can be the start of your morning ritual.
Buying an inexpensive but extremely soft area rug for your feet to feel first thing in the morning can be your first step towards self-care every morning. Even giving your scalp a salon-style scalp massage in the shower for a whole ninety seconds every time you shampoo and condition can be your self-care practice.
You may also want to explore the incredible benefits of essential oil therapy. Using a diffuser in your home can improve air quality, remove toxins from your home environment, and help you to manage your stress. If that is not within your means, you can easily incorporate essential oils into your life with the use of travel-size DIY rollers. All it takes is one inhale of grapefruit and lemon to increase your body’s ability to lean into joy.
If all of that seems like too much for you, maybe you can awaken your senses with a lavender Epsom salt bath once a month before bed. Put the kids to sleep, get all your household tasks done, check in with your partner, and then give yourself the gift of your own time to recharge and honor yourself. The benefits of an Epsom salt bath are infinite, thanks to the healthy dose of magnesium it gives to your body.
You don’t have to sit there for an hour with a book and candles. You can just take ten minutes to enjoy the warmth, weightlessness, and scent of the water. One bath a month before bed can be a transformative healthy habit if you just can’t find the time in your mornings for new self-care practices.
A stretch a day keeps the pain away. While this can seem like the hardest practice to incorporate for those of you with busy lifestyles, read this to the end before you decide it’s not possible for you. As the holiday season approaches with its stress, grief triggers, family gatherings (that may or may not be positive experiences), and cold weather, your body can really start to breakdown as a result of the pressure.
You can’t hide from your body when it comes to stress management. Your body will tell you when it is feeling neglected, overworked, exhausted, and burned out. Your body will use muscle pain, back aches, unexpected fatigue, and a head cold that will knock you down to get the message across.
All it wants is to be seen and acknowledged as the amazing vessel that it is. And all it takes to acknowledge your body are some simple early morning stretches that you can do before you even get out of bed. Follow the three R’S: Reach, Rotate, Release. Try this simple stretch series tomorrow morning as your self-care morning ritual.
MORNING RITUAL STRETCH:
- Sit cross-legged in your bed and take a deep breath. In through your nose, out through your mouth.
- Raise your right arm up to the ceiling, with your bicep next to your ear. Reach up to the ceiling, trying to create space on the right side of the body from your right hip to your right fingertips. Inhale deeply.
- As you exhale, allow your right arm to lean towards the left wall, while your whole upper body rotates to the left, creating a big C-curve on the right side of the body, and compression on the left side of the body.
- As you inhale, come back to center, release the right arm down by your side, and exhale while noticing how long the right side of your body feels.
- Repeat with the left arm, reaching over to the right wall. Finish with one more deep inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth.
That is all it takes! You do not need to find space to roll out a yoga mat and do an intense Vinyasa Yoga Flow upon waking. You do not need to buy expensive equipment to make your body feel like it is seen and valued.
All you need is your own body, your own breath, and three minutes of your own time. Incorporating an early morning stretch into your life is a truly life changing self-care practice. You will walk differently, breathe differently, and feel more present in your body throughout the day.
5. Keep it simple
This is the name of the game when it comes to developing a morning routine that will become a lifelong habit, as opposed to a two-week practice that fizzles out over time. Release the need to do it “right” or “the best.” Focus instead on simplifying and committing.
While we would all love to makeover the guest bedroom or the basement into a personal self-care oasis complete with a yoga mat, props, surround sound speakers, an accent wall, blankets, a bench of candles and frames with inspirational quotes, and a new expensive journal and coloring markers… we all know that is actually not going to happen. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Pick one or two things to add to your morning. Start with a ritual that is three to five minutes long. Commit to that daily practice for at least twenty-one days (the magic number for a lifelong habit to really sink in), but take it one day at a time. Let your life transform five minutes at a time, one day at a time.
There you have it. Five ways to jump-start a healthy morning routine as part of your self-care practice. The hope is that these new practices become a new habit, and that the new habit becomes a lifelong morning ritual.
Commit to your self-care so that you are better able to cope with the world and the personal challenges you face every day. All it takes is a commitment to make a plan, and to set a start date. You can change your life, starting tomorrow.
“Morning Reading”, Courtesy of Awar Kurdish, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Morning Light”, Courtesy of Casey Horner, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “First Jesus Then Coffee”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stretching”, Courtesy of Wesley Tingey, Unsplash.com, CC0 License