Matt Haig's words "Get a routine baggy enough to live in" jumped off the page of 'The Comfort Book' and perfectly articulated what I'd been wrestling with the last few months. ...Or last few years, if I'm totally honest?!
I'd been experimenting, reworking, starting and restarting, trying to find THE ROUTINE. A needle in a haystack for me. I knew I needed one, kinda wanted to find one, but also didn't really want to commit to one. It was a lot of begrudging effort for a couple of reasons.
One: I naturally fight anything too rigid. I need room to move, pivot, change things up, and draw curved quirky lines sometimes. And two: Let's be real. No two weeks are every exactly the same. Trying to stick with an ironclad routine is futile.
But in all the wisdom I'd read about personal growth and living well, there was a common thread that stood out: the right morning routine can set you up for a joyful, feel-good, productive day.
So I decided if I could find a routine that allowed for flexibility AND helped shift the stress that was hanging over each new day, I was game.
Mornings were feeling more and more stressful.
Like many people, I built a pretty solid habit of scrolling through social media, flipping through emails, and worrying about who needed what from me and when. All before ever getting out of bed. I felt anxious, hit snooze repeatedly, and generally dreaded getting up. This stressful pattern was hard to shake off.
Changes were needed. But what and how, exactly?...
I started by getting curious about other peoples’ days and patterns. What did they look like? How did they structure things? And why? Over time, I read articles and books; listened to thought-leaders and entrepreneurs; joined workshops; looked into other cultures' practices and ways of being; and picked up ideas and insights along the way. My next step was trying some things out, exploring what starting the day "right” might mean for me, and why.
Numerous people and philosophies of life point towards the importance of mornings and starting the day in intentional ways. A few common threads appeared:
A key theme was the value of looking inward at our own self and journey (rather than looking outward, which is what most of us do) first thing in the morning. By actively focusing on listening, grounding, and connecting to our own body and mind, we build resilience and peace. And from that place of peace, we are better able to connect with others and give of ourselves in whatever ways our responsibilities require.
Another common thread was the importance of routine and consistency. We often hear about kids needing consistency in order to thrive, but adults are really the same. Healthy routines act as anchors, add structure and comfort to our days, and reduce stress by giving us a 'map' to start the day with ease. It's the cumulative effect of these positive daily habits that's most impactful.
Create RitualThe final theme was elevating routines to rituals. This simply means designating your inward-focused routines and practices as sacred space just for you. Not in a religious sense, but in a celebratory sense. Honoring and acknowledging your whole being and taking the time to care for yourself accordingly. Examples might include beginning a ritual/rituals with the lighting of a candle, playing beautiful music, sitting in your favorite spot with your favorite view, or simply stating your intention out loud.
Characteristics of a 'ritual' in this context: symbolic, meaningful, celebratory, connected to internal value and motivation, repeated, and requiring presence and deep appreciation from those who practice them.
While these ideas seem straightforward and simple enough, it can be challenging to shift the habits and mindsets that undermine them. We often unconsciously train ourselves (or perhaps more accurately, our culture trains us) to focus most of our energy on the external world. Even first thing in the morning. Whether that’s our many roles and responsibilities of serving-giving-doing, absorbing what the latest algorithms put in front of us, or how we want to look and appear to others. This external focus drains and disconnects us from ourselves and reinforces anxiety and unease (dis-ease) in the process.
Thankfully, there are many tools and practices that can help us redirect our energy inward to restore and connect.
My New and Improved Morning Rituals
The practices below are the ones I found to be most beneficial and are now part of a morning window of time that's dedicated just for me. A key element: no screens or devices allowed.
These are the first things I do after waking up, typically between 6am and 8am each day. Rather than having a set order, I start with whatever practice feels best. If I'm in my head with busy thoughts, I'll start with yoga to move focus back to breathing and my body. If emotions are bubbling up, I'll start with morning pages to work them out through writing. And whichever practices I get through on any given day, I count as a win.
There are definite boundaries and intention around this time, but I'm not rigid about an exact order of things or doing every single one, every single day. What's most important for me is to show up with intention and consistency.
Also important to note: these are not unique to me by any means; variations of these are practiced and used by many around the globe. And there's much depth and background to each one, if you're curious to learn more. This is just a brief glimpse of how I've incorporated them into my own sacred space.
I grab my favorite notebook and pen, then sit down to free-write. There’s no organization, paragraphs, rules, or even much punctuation. Only a goal of letting words and feelings flow and getting everything out onto paper. It’s a great way to process and vent. No editing, no filters, and never for anyone else's eyes.
I usually start from my house and wander through favorite neighborhoods or local parks, taking slightly different routes each time. Without music or podcasts - just the sights and sounds around me and my own thoughts. As my feet find a rhythm, my inner voice gets clearer and I often end up with useful insights and clarity.
Hydrating the body is important for multiple interconnected processes, including immunity, digestion, brain function, nutrient delivery, joint movement, breathing... even mood and sleep. My favorites in the morning are warm bone broth with collagen powder, hot herbal tea, or water with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
I set a timer for five minutes, sit comfortably in a chair with a straight spine, close my eyes, and silently repeat the mantra 'So Hum' (Sanskrit for 'I Am' or 'I Am That') in rhythm with my breath. 'So' on a slow, deep inhale into the belly and 'Hum' on a longer, slow exhale that pushes all the air out and contracts the stomach muscles. The goal is to slow down the rhythm of the breath and to keep bringing focus back to the breath and the mantra as the mind wanders. Even at just five minutes, this practice is so calming and therapeutic.
It could seem selfish, frivolous or even slightly pretentious to create sacred morning rituals that celebrate your own self. But after experiencing the shift in energy they bring, I (and many others) would argue it's actually not selfish at all. Instead, it's critical.
What Resonates with You?
Connecting with your own inner wisdom and knowing - through whatever practices and rituals work for you - is a profound act of self love. And that self love is fundamental to peace, ease and happiness. You deserve nothing less.
Do you have your own morning rituals? How do you honor and celebrate you?!
If your mornings start with stress, what's one small practice you could build that would make a positive impact? Is there an existing habit that perpetuates disconnection that could be shifted or removed?
I love and appreciate hearing from you! Send me a reply and let me know about your own self-discoveries and rituals!