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24 Sep 2017

Toronto

By Gracie Carroll

Here’s How Busy People Can Create a Realistic Morning Routine

By Carmela Valencia

morning tea and journal

If Youtube and Instagram content are any indication, we can infer that a lot of us have been looking for a template to increase productivity all throughout the past year-and-a-half. And yes, this includes videos on morning routine. A lot of influencers, no matter their niche, post about their highly productive morning routine, too, and get a lot of views. If you look at my Youtube algorithm, half of the suggested videos on my homepage are different versions of “My Healthy Morning Routine for Productivity and Success” (the other half, of course, are videos about BTS).

We have seen a lot of articles or a whole book chapter on successful people’s morning routines. Michelle Obama starts her day with exercise; Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour starts her day at 5:45 a.m., playing tennis for one hour; Oprah Winfrey always meditates as part of her morning routine; Queen Elizabeth II drinks English breakfast tea, then catches up on some racing news before poring over government documents; even Jane Austen played the piano when she wakes up, while everybody’s sleeping, as a form of morning self-care.

And, that’s what a morning routine basically is: self-care.

Is it really important to have a morning routine?

mood tracking morning routine

Your morning routine basically sets the tone for your day. If you think you don’t have one, check your actions and activities the moment you wake up. Do you drink coffee while catching up on emails? Do you go straight to the shower, eat breakfast, then go to work? Do you stay in bed, watching Youtube or scrolling through social media until it’s time for you to tackle the day? That’s your morning routine, albeit unhealthy. How is your mood when you usually start your day this way?

I found that how I start my morning greatly affects my mood and how I go about for the rest of the day. Before practicing a mindful morning routine about two years ago, my days, along with my mood, are volatile. Without a stable perspective of how I want to go about my day or a quiet time to reflect and check up on myself, I went with the day’s flow without any sense of control or with a head full of noisy thoughts.  

More than just a hype

Having a mindful morning routine has let me feel more in control — not of my circumstance but of my time and, most importantly, my decisions. Setting aside time for focusing on yourself first thing in the morning enables you to “create a positive momentum and vision for the day,” according to brain coach Jim Kwik. 

Having a morning routine also centers you and allows you to intentionally engage with the tasks you want to accomplish rather than react to the numerous things that are happening around you. As a result, you’ll feel this sense of completion and productivity.

How to set up a realistic morning routine

morning routine tracker

As I was scrolling through Instagram during a break from work, I happened upon a post by Refinery29, listing activities from an ideal morning routine. As someone who practices a mindful morning routine, your girl can relate. When I looked at the comments section, though, I realized that what was essential for me to smoothly operate throughout the day is a luxury for some.

Among the agreeable emojis and Yeeeesss comments, I saw one saying she doesn’t have time for a morning routine as a nurse. Another said she wants to do it but would have to get up at 4 a.m. to do so — even I won’t wake up for that if the sun’s still sleeping. The thing is, amidst the “That” Girl and Hot Girl Summer trends, as well as the endless list of all the things we “should” do to start our day, we lost sight of what an effective morning routine looks like and why we do it.

Find what works for you

A morning routine isn’t about checking off activities or taking the longest time; it’s about allowing yourself to feel confident, at peace, and to dwell in positivity at the start of the day. Effectively accomplishing this is different for everyone. What might work for Anna Wintour may not work for you.

Creating your own morning routine is a process of trial and error, I found. Just recently I tried to revamp my own routine by following IG influencer and Youtuber ellenvlora’s. While I was able to incorporate a few of her activities into my own, following her routine completely is not sustainable for my lifestyle. The same way, you may get inspired to follow someone’s morning routine, but it doesn’t mean you have to follow her rituals to a T. Instead, pick out and retain the ones that give you maximum results (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally). 

Cater to your body’s four systems

Your morning routine’s effectiveness does not equal the number of activities you include in it. According to performance coach Tracy Kennedy, your morning routine should provide positive space for your body’s four systems: Mind (mental aspect), Heart (emotional aspect), Body (physical aspect), and Soul (spiritual aspect). There are a lot of habits and activities that cover multiple aspects already.

Mind

Our minds are our greatest weapon and shield. Just like how a warrior sharpens his sword before a fight, creating a positive mental space helps us take control of the day. Activities that fall under this section are anything that helps us prepare and shape the mind. This includes sharpening your memory, shaping your thoughts, beliefs, values, goals, plans, etc.

Here are some mental activities you can incorporate into your routine:

Recall and write about last night’s dream. According to Kwik, our subconscious processes solutions to our problems when we dreaming. By remembering our dreams, not only do we sharpen our memory but we also feed our creative minds.

List two things you want to accomplish personally and professionally. This helps with productivity and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Also, having a separate category for personal accomplishment can help with detaching your worth and identity from your work.

Schedule your day. This looks different for everyone (some do calendar blocking, some opt for task batching). But at its core, scheduling just gives you an overview of what to prepare for.

Brain dump or journal. Often our thoughts are a jumble in the morning. By brain dumping or journaling, you get to materialize not only your thoughts — whether they’re absurd or important — but also your emotions. This way you can take action more effectively (plus, there are fewer tendencies to forget spur-of-the-moment ideas).

Heart

It’s also important to check in with your emotions in the morning. Sometimes our emotions from our dreams bleed into reality and, when left unchecked, can affect our mood and relationships throughout the day. Other times, it can be from our emotions from the previous day.

Here are some activities, which help with your emotional well-being, you can incorporate in your routine:

Journal. There are a lot of journaling prompts that help with checking in with your emotions and getting to the root of them.

Write down at least one good thing. It doesn’t have to be something grand. Being grateful that you woke up or that the sun is shining today is enough. The key here is to start your day with a positive attitude.

Meditate. Aside from the spriritual and mental benefits of doing this activity in the morning, it also enables you to check in with your emotions and prepare you for the day.

Soul

This doesn’t have to be anything religious, but rather something spiritual. It’s more of connecting to something deeper and bigger than yourself — a higher power, if you will. It’s a practice in search for life’s purpose, which we’re all seeking answers to. Often, activities that cover spiritual aspect also cover the emotional aspect.

Here are some spiritual activities you can incorporate in your routine:

Read the bible, a devotional, or bible study. Personally, this practice inspires me for the day and reminds me of life’s purpose. Along with strengthening my spiritual resolve, this also helps with my emotional health. My personal favorites to read in the morning are the books of Psalms, Isaiah, Proverbs, and Corinthians.

Meditate. Practicing mindfulness meditation covers your spiritual, emotional, and mental systems.

Connect with nature. This could be going to the park, walking your dogs around your street, or even just going to your garden and watering your plants. It could also be as simple as looking at the sky and just taking notice of what you see, hear, and smell. By connecting with nature, you’re already feeding your soul and improving your physical aspects, too!

Body

Our physical aspect is, perhaps, the only system most of us cater to in the morning. Most of us eat breakfast or drink coffee or smoothies when we wake up, and we take a shower or do our makeup and skincare routine. In short, we innately take care of our physical well-being. But, what most of us lack here is intentionality and awareness.

Eat mindfully. We often eat breakfast with a phone or a book in one hand, not really minding what we’re eating. Allow yourself to be in the moment, and take notice of what you’re eating. By being mindful, you’ll slowly start to be more intentional with the food you’re eating.

Move your body. This could look like doing yoga, a workout, going for a walk, or simply stretching once you get out of bed. The key here is to find what works best for your time and energy.

Clean your surroundings. They say a decluttered space is a decluttered mind. Cleaning your space in the morning can set your mood throughout the day. This practice not only caters to you body system but to your emotions as well!

Start with One

You don’t have to start your morning with a six-step (or 13-step) routine, which takes almost three hours! While some people can afford this luxury, it’s not sustainable for most.

When I started practicing a mindful morning routine two years ago, I started with drinking green tea while writing down my thoughts in a journal or watching visual meditation. These activities already catered to three of my systems — heart, mind, and soul — and it only took me thirty minutes each morning! 

After I got comfortable with this practice, I started to incorporate yoga and working out (or light stretching when I’m not in the mood). I also replaced visual meditation with actual meditation. Now my morning routine takes approximately two hours and looks like this:

When time doesn’t allow for me to do all these, I only do one practice that’s essential in centering myself and preparing me for the day: drinking tea and journaling.

Remember, the purpose of a morning routine is to wholly prepare you for the day and give you more energy, not deplete it.

xo

@EDITSEVEN

(Story by Assistant Editor, Carmela Valencia)

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