When I awake in the morning, my mind gradually gathers, and I begin to move as the early morning light is just starting to seep through the windows. My family is still sleeping. It’s a peaceful beginning.
I stretch, have a glass of water, start the tea kettle, and practice a gratitude meditation for ten minutes. Then I enjoy a cup of tea as I read one chapter of a good book. And finally, I write for an hour before the busyness of the day begins.
Once my family awakes, I pause to join them for a short time and we follow some simple morning rituals together too.
This is just a rough sketch of my mornings, and they make me happy.
It wasn’t always this way though. I used to awake in a hurry, rushing and cranky before stumbling into work and errands and meetings. It was awful, but it was my life. I didn’t know any better, so I didn’t think I could change things. Thankfully, I was wrong.
I’ve changed my mornings, so they work for me and not against me, with just a few simple rituals. And I’ve shared these morning rituals with thousands of coaching clients/students over the years, and many of them come back to me a month or two later and say, “Thank you!” Perhaps they will help you as well.
1. Get an early start
If your mornings are chaotic, the simple solution is to get up a little earlier than the chaos. This, of course, starts the night before by going to bed a bit earlier too.
Adjust gradually, wake up just 10 minutes earlier each week for the next 6-9 weeks, and you’ll barely notice the change from day to day. This extra time will help you avoid stress, speeding tickets, tardiness and other unnecessary headaches.
2. Meditate on the goodness
Begin each day with love, grace and gratitude. When you arise in the morning think of what an incredible privilege it is to be alive – to be, to see, to hear, to think, to love, to have something to look forward to. Happiness is a big part of these little parts of your life; joy is simply the feeling of appreciating it all.
Realize that it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. Make a habit of noticing the goodness that’s already yours first thing in the morning, and you will see more goodness everywhere you look throughout the day.
3. Stretch it out
Simple, but so often forgotten… stretching your body in the morning has these key benefits:
Creates an increased range of movement in the body’s joints
Enhanced muscular flexibility and coordination
Increased circulation of the blood to various vital organs
Increased mental and physical energy levels (resulting from increased movement and circulation)
If you’re uncertain about how to stretch properly, you can find hundreds of great tutorials on YouTube. Choose one that you think will suit you best and practice it for a minute or two every morning. You will sense a change yourself, guaranteed.
4. Drink a tall glass of water before consuming anything else
Another obvious practice that goes by the wayside…
Your body is more than 60% water, and when you’ve been sleeping all night without drinking any water, it gets dehydrated and desperate for hydration. So quench your thirst with exactly what your body needs. Avoid drinking coffee, tea or other beverages before you have at least one tall glass of water. By doing so your body will start to wake up and you’ll naturally feel more energized and alive.
5. Keep things simple
One of my personal mistakes several years ago was trying to fit too much into my mornings. When I first started waking up early I wanted to workout, meditate, handle household chores, read, write, cook breakfast, reply to work emails, run errands, etc., and it turns out I couldn’t do all those things. I was waking up early and stressing myself out. I made my early mornings just as packed as the rest of the day.
What has helped me is having a few key things I do early, but not being over-committed to lots of goals and agendas. I’d rather have space and flexibility, which makes the time much more peaceful and useful. So the glass of water, stretching, gratitude meditation, tea, reading and writing are the only agendas I have on most mornings, but I’m flexible with those also.
6. Do a few things that move you
Again, DO NOT fill your mornings with things you have to do… but, DO have a few things you can’t wait to get out of bed and get started on. For me, that goes back to my short list, which includes reading and writing – two of my greatest passions. For you, perhaps a long meditative walk, yoga, prayer, painting, or simply reading the morning paper.
In other words, don’t just have a long list of things you think you should do but don’t really want to do. Give your early mornings to yourself as a gift.
7. Read, review or listen to something that nurtures your mind
Some of the happiest and most successful people I know read a bit of scripture each morning, some read inspiring books, articles or quotes, while others listen to radio, podcasts or audio programs that move them to get their day started. The key is having a ritual focused on absorbing small doses of self-improvement content to stretch and nurture your perspective and knowledge base. It starts the day off on a positive note with positive, productive ideas to guide your day’s journey. And that’s crucial, because your thoughts guide your reality.
So indulge in something positive every morning when you awake, and let it inspire you to do something positive before you go back to sleep at night. That’s how memorable, manageable days are made.
8. Be present, breathe, and appreciate the space between activities too
Your early morning moments aren’t just about the things you do; they’re also about the open space between the things. That means the space itself is something to be appreciated as well.
So if you meditate and read, the morning isn’t just valuable because of the meditation and reading… the space around those two activities is also incredible. The time spent walking over to your meditation mat, or finding your book, or turning the pages, or pouring a cup of tea, or sitting and watching the sunrise… these little open spaces are just as important as anything else.
Pace yourself so you’re not hurrying from one thing to the next, but instead noticing and appreciating the spaces in between, too.
9. Move on gracefully to what’s most important
As human beings we are goal oriented. We like making progress. When we accomplish one of our goals, we smile about it. That’s why the happiest people I know are also some of the most successful people I know.
As your early morning winds down, the key is to funnel your attention directly into the right things, not the urgent things. Because at some point we all wonder, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” And the answer is stunningly simple: We’re doing too many of the wrong things.
Several research studies have shown that people never get more done by blindly working more hours on everything that comes up. Instead, they get more done when they follow careful plans that measure and track key priorities and milestones. So if you want to be more successful, less stressed, and a lot happier at the end of each day, don’t ask how to make something more efficient until you’ve first asked, “Do I need to do this at all?”
Simply being able to do something well does not make it the right thing to do. I think this is one of the most common problems with a lot of time-management advice; too often productivity gurus focus on how to do things quickly, but the vast majority of things people do quickly should not be done at all.
A great morning isn’t something that magically happens – it’s created consciously.
You don’t have to implement all these ideas, but I challenge you to try one or two and see how your mornings improve.
I bet you’ll begin to enjoy them as much as I do.