The Best Way to Start Your Day: Intentional Morning Routines
Morning Routines has been a great factor in making me feel happier. I have a set morning that I try to follow everyday, even on weekends. Sometimes I don't do the full routine, I am only human after all. With practice and better results, I'm sure it will be easier for me to continue with my routine, or a variant of it.
This article is broken down into two different sections: Principles & Techniques. If you are more interested in the specifics, scroll down to the Techniques part. If you want to dig deeper into the why and principles, please read the whole thing from beginning to end. There are some good nuggets of information to chew on.
Before we get started on the morning routine, I want to quickly talk about how I think about the first hour of my day. This is very important because it will determine how fast you start seeing effective change. I like to think of it as just "how I do things", versus a "run down the checklist" kind of routine. By thinking like this, it doesn't feel like a chore or something that I have to do.
To me, a checklist seems choppy and robotic. Whereas, the former is smooth, like water. Each action flows into a seamless mesh of positive energy. They all complement each other and I've intentionally designed it so it makes sense for my personal style. Ultimately, I do these things because it makes me think clearly and positively, as well as primes my mind and body for the day. These actions taken daily, should be second nature of who you are, or want to become.
The Why is Important
I'm a huge fan of knowing why you want to do something. Why do I start my day off like this?
I want to be happy and have these positive thoughts influence my every decision.
I want to have the right frame of mind to solve problems throughout the day.
I want these habits to make my life easier so I can focus on more important things in life.
Everyone's why is different. Figure out your why, then look for ways to achieve your why.
Focus on Principles, not Techniques
There are many ways to skin a cat, as the saying goes. Based on what you want, you choose what specific action will get you those results. You may find that yoga isn't for you, but stretching can be. Maybe push-ups aren't a viable option for you, try jumping jacks. Get the blood pumping a little. There are so many ways to do that.
It's important when researching morning routines, look for the principle behind what someone else says about their habits.
Consistency is King
Successful results will not be seen unless you are consistent. The key is to give this morning routine some time. Being consistent and giving it time will dramatically increase your chances of achieving that perfect morning, every morning.
Not only does it set the condition for the rest of the day, but it allows you to take control over how you feel and what you think. A solid morning ritual can give you the focus you need to absolutely crush your day.
Step By Step
The secret of being successful is to start in small increments. Set the bar low so you can feel those small victories, versus setting the bar too high. You make faster progress when you feel more successful. So start out with only one or two small changes; something that only carves out a few extra minutes in the morning. An added benefit is when you start the bar so low, for instance, you want to stretch for 2 minutes. By the time you commit to stretching, you may not want to stop at 2 but rather 5 minutes. The low bar is almost a "foot in the door" technique to help you get started.
A great technique is to change something that you already do, such as air squats while brushing your teeth. Trying to reinvent yourself all at once can lead to failure. Baby steps my friend. ;)
It's important to note that you should experiment with different methods and figure out what makes you feel the most vibrant. Once you figure out your optimal routine, then stick with until It becomes second nature.
This results in an awareness of where you are currently, and takes you on a path of who you are becoming. It gives you understanding that you can produce more by doing less.
Preparation May Be Needed
Most of us succumb to laziness. In order for you to be successful, you may need to help yourself. Filling a glass or water bottle the night before, laying out a yoga mat right by your bed; these preparations can almost force you to be more consistent with your newly formed habits.
Give Yourself Slack
When you start something new, you are challenging yourself. Sometimes you will wake up late, missing your routine. It's not the end of the world. You can do part of it if you can, or complete it later on in the day. You could even skip it for a day. Just remember that every day is a new day. You are allowed to fail every once in a while, but choose not to quit.
Get Great Sleep
The foundation of a great morning is the quality of the sleep you have during the night. If you don't get enough or quality sleep, then it is more difficult to have a morning you're looking forward to. If you are having trouble with getting great sleep, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson is a great book on how to achieve that, highly recommend it.
Wake up peacefully
- Instead of abrupt alarms that almost startle me when waking, I have chosen a way to gradually and peacefully wake up. When I am at home, not traveling, I use an alarm clock that mimics the rising of the sun, along with some soothing sounds to wake you up.
- I also use an application on my computer when I am away from home called Citrus Alarm Clock. You pick a time and sound setting, choose a music file and it wakes you up at that time. I use a soothing classical music song that gradually fades from 0 volume to higher over the course of 10 minutes. This allows my body to wake up gently.
Both of these options reduce the stress of waking up abruptly and start the very first waking moment with ease.
First 3-5 Minutes - Gratitude
As you wake up peacefully, lay in bed and take a few moments to be thankful and grateful of all the good things in your life. I tend to be grateful for my family, close friends, things that I have accomplished, as well as things that I am grateful for in the future.
This little habit helps you become more at peace with yourself and you can really notice how good of a life you have.
Out Of Bed - Hydrate
The first thing I do when my feet hit the floor, I reach for some water to hydrate my body. We all know how important water is to our mind and body. Drinking half a liter of quality water gives your body an internal bath. It helps with flushing toxins, delivering micro-nutrients to your body and brain, among many others. Using room temperature water seems to work well with the body.
To help increase its effectiveness, you can add fresh squeezed lemon in your glass, as well as cucumber. Many health benefits for adding both to your water. Here is a great resource for understanding what water is and what you want to avoid when it comes to water, very important information.
Yoga - 10 Minutes
Yoga benefits are abundant. Too many to name here. However, the key to starting yoga is to first know a few yoga techniques. The "Sun Salutation Sequence" is a great place to start for beginners. Here is a great video to getting started. You can also check out a yoga class in your local area. Often times you can go to a class for free if it's your first time. It is simple, and with time you can add more moves. I started out with 10 minutes because it is very manageable right now. I am already looking to increase my time to 15-20 minutes. I really focus on my breathing during my yoga routine.
To keep me focused on my breathing and nothing else, I listen to an audio called an "Isochronic Tone." I currently use an app (Apple, Android) on my phone called "Brainwaves" by The Unexplainable Store. These tones get your brain into specified states, you can read more about it here. These tones are soothing and help your unconscious brain with various things. I make sure my phone is on silent to avoid any distractions during my yoga. The cool thing is this particular audio I listen to, is exactly 10 minutes long. So I don't have to worry about setting a harsh timer or looking at the clock.
Once I finish my yoga routine, I do a series of quick push-ups, usually around 40. The key here is for it not to be a workout. The intent is to just get a little blood flowing in my body. I always feel a little refreshed afterwards. The principle here is to move your body a little and get the blood flowing.
While I'm taking a shower, this is where I am thinking about the one or two things that I can do that day to make it a great day. I visualize what the end-state is for the day. The most important part, is to also visualize the action that needs to be taken in order for it to happen.
During my shower, I am also experimenting with a breathing exercise. It is an exercise recommended by Tony Robbins. It is a technique that primes your body with energy for the rest of the day. It is fairly simple. You inhale 4 sharp breaths and then quickly exhale 4 sharp breaths. You continue this process for several minutes. For me, it helps bring rich oxygen to my brain and body and makes me feel vigorous.
Variation While Being Consistent
After you've experimented with a few routines, you may become bored with your morning. For some people, this can be advantageous. It is a morning that you don't have to think about and it is filled with positive intentions that last throughout the entire day. However, some people may want to have a little variety. I would suggest to incrementally change your routine like you started. Instead of drinking lemon water, drink some tea instead. Instead of doing push-ups, do some jumping jacks or air squats.
If you want variety, change only one or two things at a time. This helps give you change, while remaining consistent.
- Using affirmations right when you wake up can help get you in the right mind set.
- Reading 10 pages of a book during your morning routine. This can be of a subject that you are curious about or maybe a hobby you are trying to master at.
- Journaling or Free-writing for 5 minutes during your routine. This can empty out your brain and put to paper your loose ideas and can even stimulate creative works or ideas for getting you to the next level.
- Walking or Jogging in the morning. Or even a full exercise routine to start your day can get the blood flowing.
- Sit in silence for a few minutes. This can help clear your mind of any clutter or even help you focus on what you need to do that day. It can even inspire you to give you the idea to take your game to the next level.
- Drink a cup of coffee or tea. For some people, having their morning coffee or tea really helps them get their day started.
- Communicate with your significant other. If you have a spouse, the morning can be a perfect time to talk about things that you want to talk about. Versus the happenings of the day or whatever is on the news that everyone is talking about. Or better yet, have your spouse join you in some of your morning routine. Or maybe have both of your morning routines compliment each others. You may have completely different things part of your routine but at a certain point, you sit down for your morning tea and chat about life, your future, plans for the next vacation, etc.
- Meditate on a specific problem you are working on. Think deeply about a solution to a problem you are trying to solve. After the meditation session, completely forget about it and let your subconscious brain take over and figure it out for you.
- Drink a morning smoothie. Get all those raw veggies and a few fruits into your system to ensure you are getting the right nutrients in your body.
- Ask yourself on simple question: What good will I do today?
How you spend the first hour of your day sets up how productive and happy you will be all day. Many successful people have a morning routine that helps them achieve what they want in life.
Research, plan and experiment with all kinds of habits you can do to make your morning and day the best you can. Focus on the principles on how you can achieve your why, not the specific techniques.
What are some great morning habits you have that could be helpful for others? Share them in the comments below!
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