Have you ever woken up late, rolled out of bed with your heart pounding, and started rushing around trying to get everything you need ready to start your day? Yeah, me too. Not an awesome way to begin a new day of life, (especially in the midst of a global pandemic).
When I get up late and frantically try to cram in all the things I like to do at the beginning of the day (put the coffee on, make a nice breakfast, practice yoga or run, and sort out the day’s to do list) before sitting down at the computer and getting my daughter up and moving, I begin the day feeling frazzled, drained and fuzzy headed. Not a great start.
What I want to feel at the beginning of the day is calm, gently energized and clear minded. Because every day is a new day, right? Each and every morning offers up a new opportunity to make the choices that invite me to feel how I want to feel. You have the same opportunity, even now, even when the world seems unmoored. So how can we ensure our success in starting the day feeling how we want to feel?
- Go to bed early. Sometimes it is that simple. Power down the iPad, turn off the phone or at least turn off the notifications, and don’t even think about watching the evening news. Avoid screens two hours before you try to fall asleep– studies have shown that the “blue light” in most screens hinders the production of melatonin, which is essential for a good night’s sleep. Establish a bedtime, and hold yourself to it. Tell your household what you are doing. (Hey, maybe they’ll follow your example – one can hope, anyway.) Give yourself the gift of sleep, and you’ll be glad for it in the morning.
- Identify what is most important to do at the start of the day, and ensure you have enough time to do it. I like to have enough time to cook breakfast, enjoy it with coffee, and practice yoga or run outside for at least 30 minutes. But sometimes I just don’t have time for the whole routine due to the schedule of the day, and I have to choose. And I’ve found that, for me, choosing that outside run, along with a nice cup of coffee makes the most difference in helping me to feel how I want to feel. I can do without a fancy breakfast more successfully that I can do without my morning outside movement time. I cannot do without the coffee, and that’s fine.
- Get things ready the night before. Make having a nice breakfast easy by putting some steel cut oats in the slow cooker before you go to bed. Get the coffee maker ready to go so all you have to do is turn it on. Set our your favorite mug and a beautiful bowl. Lay out your yoga pants so you don’t have to fumble around in the dark to find them. I put my running shoes next to the door, along with some socks. If you can make it easier – then make it easier! It’s not cheating if you plan ahead.
- Keep a gratitude journal. (Really, this again? Isn’t this out of style yet? Nope, still works.) Get a little notebook, and write down three things for which you are thankful every evening. Doesn’t matter what, or how small. Just three things. Just before you go to bed. I’ve found that going to sleep with my mind focused on the good things results in better sleep. I wake up more ready to look for the good in the next day. Give it a shot. After a while you might even start looking forward to waking up in the morning.
- Avoid screen time first thing in the morning, too. Just like you are going to avoid screens right before bed, avoid them first thing in the morning. Start your day by being fully present, not looking at the news, not planning the day, not checking your email or social media updates. Look out the window, notice the light taking hold of the new day, and breathe deeply, if even only for five minutes. Then you can check your email. (But seriously, don’t look at the news unless you absolutely have to.) And be sure to root yourself fully in the physical reality that is right in front of you first.
- Focus on what you can control and be nice to yourself. Some days I just don’t get up when I want to, no matter what I’ve done to set myself up for success. Sometimes it’s due to my own laziness or factors outside of my control. (Sick family member? Late night listening session with a friend? Getting absorbed in a great book? Watching Netflix with no restraint? Things happen.) Instead of lamenting the next morning as a total loss, I try to take a deep breath, maybe step outside for 30 seconds, and move into the next choice I need to make, grounded in self compassion. There’s no such thing as a perfect morning, but there IS actively choosing how to respond to what has already happened.
In summary, to make your mornings better, actively choose how your day’s story starts when you can. Put your energy into what you can control. Try to let go what you can’t. Go to bed at a reasonable time, one that allows you to get up when you want to. Do what helps you feel how you want to feel at the beginning of the day, with a little gratitude and self-kindness thrown in for good measure.
And don’t bookend your day with screens. Easy, right?
(Gets easier with practice. And you get a new chance to try again every day. It’s like a ready – made model for success! The universe is tricky like that sometimes.)
What makes your mornings better?
Visit Twelve Tiny Things for more ideas on small ways to add more intention to your days. (Stay tuned for website updates — coming in July!)