The first thing you do when you wake up will set the tone for your entire day. If you want to move through your day with ease, energy, awareness and confidence, start your day with activities that encourage those states of mind. If you want to move through your day feeling anxious and irritated, there are things you can do to incite those feelings, too. The problem is, you might be doing some of those things without realizing it.
Do you wake up in a rush … to get dressed, chow down breakfast, and fight traffic? As a response, you could be feeling rushed throughout the day. Do you hit the snooze button several times before setting your feet to the floor? Does this make you excited for the day ahead? Probably not.
I recently listened to a podcast where Hal Elrod, author of “The Miracle Morning” and inspiring speaker and coach, was interviewed by Patt Flynn about the power of morning rituals. In the podcast he said, “Starting the day is life’s first opportunity. To start the day with procrastination, which is what hitting the snooze button is, is to start with the day with resistance, we’re literally telling the universe ‘I know I say I want to create an extraordinary life and become the best version of myself, but not as bad as I want to lay here unconscious for 10 more minutes.'”
Instead of resisting the day before it’s even begun, plan a sequence of events that makes you feel good. And then wake up and do it. Every morning.
Use those 10 minutes from the snooze button—or the first 20, 30, or 60 minutes of your day—to nourish your body, mind and soul. In order to ensure you trade the snooze button for enjoyable and nourishing activities, you must create a ritual. And be rigid until it becomes second nature.
Benefits of a Morning Routine
Creating a set routine means you don’t have to think about or decide what you’re going to do as soon as you wake up. There are no decisions to be made or pros and cons to look at—you first figure out what puts you on a positive pace in the mornings. Then—every morning after that—you just follow these steps:
Step 1: Get up
Step 2: Do your morning routine
There’s nothing else to remember or consider. Still not convinced morning will work for you? Let’s build the case further; here are some additional reasons why mornings provide the best window for personal time:
- First thing in the morning is often when our motivation is at its highest. Take advantage of that motivation and make it a priority to start your day on the right foot.
- You have the best chance of following through with your routine if it’s before other activities begin.
- Every single morning represents a new beginning. We all experience this opportunity each morning to have a beautiful, successful day and start anew, no matter what may have happened the day before. A morning routine can help you slide into that mindset and dive into the day with a fresh eye.
- Mornings are generally quiet compared to any other time of the day. It’s the time before meetings, classes, responsibilities, and emails. It’s easier to stick to routines when nothing falls in your way.
- Mornings come before any other part of the day. I know this isn’t breaking news, but if you start your day with a practice that brings a sense of peace, you’ll have a better chance of remaining in that mindset for the rest of your day, too.
These benefits all assume, of course, that you’ve chosen a morning routine that you enjoy. If you create one that you dread, none of this works. You should be excited to wake up for your morning routine, and it should leave you feeling balanced, productive and ready to take on the day.
Tim Ferriss—lifestyle designer and a master at interviewing highly successful people—asks almost everyone he interviews, “What’s your morning routine?”
He noted recently, that a common thread in the successful people he’s interviewed is that they meditate or have some sort of mindfulness practice in the mornings. That doesn’t have to be seated meditation, it can be any form of mindfulness: going for a walk outdoors, breathing, practicing gratitude. If the vast majority of the highly successful people he’s interviewed begin their days with some form of mindfulness, does this sound like a coincidence? I think not.
Now are you convinced to try a morning routine? Good, let’s look at a few examples…
3 Approaches to the Morning Routine
There are a million different ways you can design an effective morning routine. Here are a few approaches to learn from.
Tony Robbins: Priming
In a recent podcast interview, Tim Ferriss asked Tony Robbins to spec out the first hour of his day. He walked Tim—and us listeners—through his cryotherapy sessions, his fish and salad daily breakfasts, his breathing routine, and his priming ritual—which is a 10- to 30-minute morning practice that puts him in a prime state for the day. Tony doesn’t claim to be a meditator, but his “priming” routine is very reminiscent of meditation: where he focuses on experiencing gratitude, the inner presence of god or a higher power, and “three to thrive,” which are three things he wants to make happen in his life. What a powerful way to start the day. Who wouldn’t be jazzed after that?
In the same interview, he told Tim that this routine has been the best routine to put him in his power for the day ahead. “If you want to have a prime life, you have to be in a prime state.”
Hal Elrod: Miracle Mornings
Hal created Miracle Mornings, which he says is “guaranteed to change your entire life before 8:00 A.M.” Hal follows the acronym Life S.A.V.E.R.S. when he wakes up, which stands for:
- S = Silence
- A = Affirmations
- V = Visualization
- E = Exercise
- R = Reading
- S = Scribing
Hal used his positivity and his “Life S.A.V.E.R.S.” to recover from a fatal car accident (literally, he died for six minutes and was brought back to life) and to bring himself out of depression.
He noted that you don’t have to do the Life S.A.V.E.R.S. in order, or even spend more than a minute on each one. They are completely customizable, so try his version or create your own routine incorporating his ideas.
My Routine: Mindful Mornings
I made my morning ritual official about three years ago. It was around the time I started diving deeper into meditation practice, yoga, and learning about Ayurveda—so my morning routine is inspired by Ayurvedic health and wellness practices.
Before I get out of bed, I call to mind three things I’m grateful for. Then, I get up, scrape my tongue, and brush my teeth. Tongue scraping is an Ayurvedic practice that removes any toxic build-up on the tongue. There are many health benefits of tongue scraping you can read about here. I then wash my face with really hot water for a full minute.
I head into my living room for some gentle movement, breathing, and meditation. My living room has seven windows, so it’s usually dark when I start and light when I’m finished. This part totals about 40 minutes, and includes:
- Physical Movement: Lately I’ve been using MELT Method since I’m working through an injury. Sometimes I’ll do a few sun salutations or yoga poses to get my body open and moving instead of, or in addition to “melting.” This is usually 5-10 minutes. It’s not my workout; it’s just a way to get moving first thing in the morning. I work out or do a longer yoga practice at lunchtime or after work.
- A Breathwork Sequence: I move through a sequence that includes breathing patterns for energizing, digestion, immune system, and calming the mind. This takes about 10 minutes. When I started adding breathwork right before my meditations, I found it to be a very powerful and effective way to anchor my mind before sitting still.
- Seated Meditation: Right now, I’m working with a mantra in my morning meditations, but I’ve explored many types of meditation in the past. If you’re new, I recommend starting with a simple mindfulness meditation practice—using the breath as the anchor for the mind. You can follow the step-by-step instructions I outline at the end of this post, this post, this post, or this post. Or you can listen to a guided meditation to get you started. Try one of these. When my meditation is over, (my timer goes off,) I take a few deep breaths in stillness before I get up.
After that, I make hot water and add the juice from half of a lemon and sliced fresh ginger. If I’m headed into the office, I take my lemon water with me on my commute, otherwise, I just drink it at my desk and begin working on my priorities.
The whole routine takes about an hour.
Design Your Own Morning Routine
Now it’s your turn. You can take inspiration, structure and ideas from the examples above, adjust in any way, and design a ritual that works for you. Remember, your morning routine should be nourishing for your body, mind and soul, so you have to choose things you that make you feel good.
Here are some activities you can consider including in your version of an a.m. routine:
- Exercise / walk
- Spend time in nature
- Prepare / eat healthy food
- Make tea
- Practice gratitude
- Play or listen to music
Advice to Combat Roadblocks (for Non-Morning People)
If you’re not a morning person and want to transform into a creature of the a.m., consider this advice:
- Keep your blinds open to let the light in at sunrise. It’s harder to get up when it’s dark. This obviously doesn’t work if your goal is to get up before sunrise, in which case you can turn your light on as soon as your alarm sounds.
- Splash cold water on your face as soon as you wake if you find that refreshing and energizing.
- Splash hot water on your face when you wake if that feels good
- Take a deep inhalation with peppermint oil under your nose to energize your senses
- Hop in the shower first thing
- Exercise before you do anything. Getting endorphins pumping is an effective way to charge your mind and body.
- Don’t make giant changes overnight. It won’t work if you are someone that hates waking up before 10 a.m. and is used to going to bed after 2 a.m. and you try to shift your schedule forward four hours overnight. Move your wake-up time slowly and implement morning rituals incrementally.
Good luck, morning people! May you all create and maintain a mindful morning routine that will inspire, motivate, and help you to take your life to the next level.