Ah yes, the morning routine. You likely already have your morning activities down to a science, waking up at a specific time, preparing yourself for the day ahead, helping your children get ready for school, and maybe even assisting other members of your family to address their needs before you head out the door and become part of the world. But have you ever stopped to consider whether or not the things you do in the morning are serving you? If your answer is a vocal “No,” then it might be time for a reevaluation and realignment in how you spend your morning so the things you do become less of a “routine” or a list of mundane chores that you must follow in order to get your day off to a bright start, and more like a “ritual” wherein you can celebrate the beginning of the new day, and step into the promise of each new start with intention and purpose.
ROUTINE VERSUS RITUAL
Research has shown that our brains thrive when we have a schedule or a set list of tasks that we need to accomplish, but how we go about checking off the boxes on our morning to-do list is open to our own interpretation.
A morning routine is an established list of activities that we follow in order to create a desired outcome – wake up on time so no one in our household will be late, make breakfast so we will be well nourished, the list goes on. When we establish a routine, we can complete its steps in a state of personal autopilot before too long, since we’re moving through the same motions without getting any real value out of them.
A ritual, however, is a much more intentional practice focused on our own mental health needs. When we begin our days with a morning ritual, we hold ourselves accountable to focusing on each task at hand, and in that presence, we become more productive because we are appreciating the effects of our efforts. A morning ritual also gives us control; rather than reacting to the needs of others around us, we are able to understand the bigger picture of our presence and our power, providing us with a sense of authority over the things we do.
When we regularly commit to the practice of ritual over routine, we can begin to shift our mindset to one of sustained positivity, as we begin our days with joy and cultivate a sense of peace within us that we can carry with us throughout our tasks.
THE MEANINGFUL MORNING RITUAL
About now, you’re thinking, “This is all fine and good, but how the heck do I even go about starting a morning ritual?” I hear you, and I’ve got you!
Of course, everyone’s morning ritual looks a little bit different, and takes up various amounts of time for each person because of other responsibilities, so for that reason, I offer to you my top morning rituals – take and use the practice(s) that resonate with you, and leave the rest:
Ritual #1: Practice self-care
We all know the activities that fill us with light and contentment, but we often don’t take the time to practice them as we should. Begin your day by paying attention to your needs and responding in the best way you know how to take care of yourself. For some of us, this practice of self-care might include spending time meditating. For others, it might be reading the next chapter of the new bestseller that we can’t put down. For still others, self-care might mean adding some essential oils to our morning shower.
Think about what self-care looks like in your life, and commit to helping yourself begin your day with a smile.
Ritual #2: Practice gratitude
So often, our tendency is to focus on the things we lack, the things we desire to pursue, and the things that we know we need to work hard to obtain. Somewhere in our racing minds, we forget to say “thank you” for the people and things that we already have in our lives. Practicing gratitude each morning allows us to appreciate the blessings that surround us and move into our time of activity with a full heart.
I am a sucker for a gratitude journal; if you have never tried this practice, I highly recommend it! There are so many dedicated gratitude journals that exist on the market that it is easy to find one at your local retailer. Or, if you’re more technologically inclined, there are (free!) apps that exist that you can download onto your phone, giving you a virtual space to create a daily list of thanks.
Ritual #3: Set intentions
When we focus on making sure that the needs of our heart, mind, and soul are met, we align ourselves to a mindset of presence and success. Of course, we need to be willing to work hard every day to chase our dreams, but before we set off, we need to take time to set our intentions for the day and reflect how we want to feel.
Begin your practice by looking in the mirror and affirming what you want to gain from each day. Some examples might include, “Today, I will speak up and advocate for my needs,” or “I am going to nail my interview today!” – the affirmations you choose are completely up to you; just make sure that you create your intention with loving kindness, and you will find yourself fostering an internal desire to exceed your potential.
Ritual #4: Prioritize
When we begin our days with a refined sensitivity to our needs, we are better able to clearly see which things around us require our attention and effort and which exist solely to turn our focus away from what truly matters. Practicing prioritization at the start of our days allows us to choose wisely what tasks we should pursue.
To accomplish this goal, write out all of the tasks that you need to accomplish during the day. Then, rank them by order of priority, and create an action plan for tackling your responsibilities. Try to approach your most daunting tasks first, so that once you overcome the largest obstacles in your day, you can enjoy the peace that smaller, more enjoyable tasks will bring. If you find that your list is cluttered with superfluous tasks that hold no meaning – scratch them off and forget about them!
Ritual #5: Visualize
When we consider what we hope to accomplish on any given day, and picture ourselves achieving our goals, we are more likely to succeed. Visualizing ourselves reaching favorable outcomes leads to increased confidence.
Start your day off by thinking about what you want to gain, complete, or begin, close your eyes, and see yourself being successful in all of your tasks. If you can clearly see yourself achieving what you will set out to do, you know that you already possess the confidence needed to get there – so all that is left is to live out your visualization! Of course, there will be bumps along the way, but returning to visualization when you’re feeling like you lack confidence will help to give you the boost you need.
Ritual #6: Choose your soundtrack wisely
Music has a significant impact on our neural activity and encourages an internal sense of mood and response to external stimuli. When we listen to fast-paced music, our bodies respond with increased heart rate and endurance. Conversely, when we listen to slower, more soothing music, we encourage our bodies to slowly transition from restful sleep to alertness.
Create a playlist (or playlists) that you can listen to in the morning that will support how you want to feel throughout your various tasks.
Ritual #7: Get moving
I know the thought of going to the gym early in the morning is completely off-putting to many. But! Not to worry – there are lots of ways to encourage exercise and movement in the morning that don’t require a trip to the gym.
Start your day with a walk or run outside when the sun is first rising and the world around you is quiet. Or, if you prefer activities that can help jump start your day without having to leave your home, you could try a practice like yoga or dance to increase your blood flow.
Ritual #8: Get excited about something
When we have something to look forward to (an activity, a meeting with a friend, a family outing, etc.) we increase our happiness about the event because we find ourselves stimulated with excitement as we anticipate what is to come, and then we get to actually experience the activity and embrace its joy.
Find one activity each day that you can look forward to – even if that one thing is something small like relaxing with a cup of herbal tea after returning home from a day at work. This practice will increase your happiness and ensure that there is always something that will make you happy on your calendar.
Ritual #9: Stay positive
No matter how many rituals we practice each morning, there will undoubtedly be events in our day that will catch us off guard. Maybe we weren’t fully prepared to respond to that sarcastic comment from a coworker, or perhaps we weren’t ready to meet with the school principal about a behavior infraction while wearing a smoothie down the front of our blouse because of an unfortunate incident in the car on the way over. But the key to facing all of our obstacles with a smile and a sunny disposition is to remain positive.
Acknowledge each morning that this day will not be perfect, and in some ways, it make go in a completely different direction than what you would have expected (or what you visualized). Despite it all, finding the good in everyone you meet and every situation you encounter will allow you to flourish each day.
Rise and thrive! The world is waiting for your energy (just as soon as you take care of yourself)