I’ve never been one for morning rituals. But evidently they’re an essential part of being an adult human on this planet. Says every self-help expert — like ever.
According to Laura Vanderkam, time expert and author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, morning routines are pretty important:
“Before the rest of the world is eating breakfast, the most successful people have already scored daily victories that are advancing them toward the lives they want.”
So lately I’ve been adding stacking a few positive habits to my daily morning routine (waking up, running to the bathroom and running back to bed to scroll through Instagram). Basically, I’ve been going through a complete overhaul of my morning in an effort to get out of my own way.
After a few months of trial-and-error, I discovered it’s not what you do in the morning — it’s why you do it — that matters.
Creating your own routine is super important as there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. It’s more of a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ situation.
Morning rituals can help you:
- Take control of your schedule and your morning
- Set the tone for the rest of the day
- Prioritize tasks (especially important ones that could end up on the backburner otherwise)
- Understand the importance of willpower
- Set your intention for the day
How to Create Your Own Morning Ritual
I spent a stupid amount of time simply trying to copy the morning routines of people who were much more successful than me. What a waste. There really is no cookie-cutter morning routine that you can copy.
My morning routine didn’t stick until I made it personal, immediate and important.
When you know why you’re going through the motions of a morning routine — and more specifically, how those motions relate to the rest of your day — you’re more likely to create a ritual that’s easy to execute and effective.
Determine your needs. What do you want to focus on right now? Productivity? Health? Self-care? Choose activities that align with your goals and values.
Prioritize your goals. Don’t try to create a morning ritual with 10 new activities. Start from the bottom up. Make a list of possible activities for your morning routine and prioritize the ones that are most important.
Set yourself up for happiness. A lot could be accomplished in this world if we were all a little happier. Set yourself up for success by creating an inviting and happy environment in which to perform your ritual.
Get stuff ‘out of the way. Got stuff you don’t love doing? You and everybody else. Check a few small daily tasks off your to-do list by doing them first thing in the morning.
Celebrate small wins. Is adding a 10-minute workout to your day every morning a win? Totally! Bonus points if you feel your endorphins flowing and your workout makes you feel happier and more productive.
My Morning Ritual
This is my morning ritual that I (try to) complete every day. Again, this is just an example to show why I do what I do — not a one-and-done fix for everyone.
1. Lay in Bed
One of my favorite things in this world is laying in bed after I wake up in the morning. I love waking up, opening a window and jumping back into bed. I love the feel of the sheets on my feet as I stretch my arms and legs out.
I read (I can’t remember where, for the life of me) that stretching your arms and legs out like a starfish can actually make you feel happier.
In his book, Tiny Habits, B.J. Fogg suggests planting your feet firmly on the floor and stating, “Today is going to be a great day,” each morning after you wake up.
Instead of planting my feet on the floor when I first get up (because I’m usually focused on running to the bathroom), I just stretch from my bed and make the statement, “Today could hold some of my favorite moments ever.” Exchanging ‘is going to’ with ‘could’ dissolves any anxiety I might feel over putting too much pressure on making this day great.
We as humans often remember events in our lives more positively looking back on them than we do as they’re happening. So many of my ‘favorite’ moments in my past weren’t so great when they were happening. But when I look back at them, they stand out — usually because of their simplicity and not despite of it.
So every morning I state that today could be a day that holds some of those moments I cherish when I look back and reminisce. It also is a reminder to stay on the lookout for those possible moments.
The first thing I do when I get out of bed is run to the bathroom. Sometimes this happens after I lie in bed for 30 minutes. Sometimes it happens first thing when I wake up. Either way, the bathroom is my inevitable first stop when I get out of bed in the morning. I don’t need to plan for it or add it to my morning ritual. It just happens.
If I don’t get my full 30 minutes of stretching in bed time before I go to the bathroom, I return to bed and finish afterward.
Why It Works
There are some things in life that our bodies trigger us to do: eat, drink and run to the bathroom first thing in the a.m. are the big three.
Why It Works
Habit stacking is a proven method of creating small changes in our lives. When we piggyback new habits on old, existing habits, we create a ‘routine’ that becomes second nature.
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear suggests making your newly desired habits easy, attractive and accessible. Since my glass of water and toothbrush are right next to my sink, I would have to actively not want to brush my teeth and drink water every morning to avoid them.
3. Brush Teeth
I like brushing my teeth first thing in the morning because then I don’t have to remember to do it later. Also, I’m right by my toothbrush after I go to the bathroom. It’s two minutes. It’s easy to remember, and I get it done. Plus, my mouth feels less blech.
4. Drink 12 Ounces of Water
I keep a 12-ounce cup of water next to the sink and I chug half of it before I brush my teeth and then half after. I always forget to drink enough water throughout the day, so at least this way I have the first 12 ounces down.
I’ll be honest, the only reason I meditate or practice emotional freedom tapping (EFT) in the morning is because of how much I love getting back into bed after I first get up.
Right now, I don’t have a meditation corner or chair, so I usually just meditate right in my cozy bed. But when I do make an effort to create a meditation area, it’s usually pretty cozy and includes at least a chair or cushion and a blanket.
The bottom line is that I get 10-to-20 extra minutes of cozy time — while I’m clearing my mind for the day.
I talk a lot about EFT in other articles, so if you’re not familiar with it, you can read about it here.
Why It Works
Practicing a habit that I’m not 100% jazzed about every day in an environment that I love (my bed) makes me 99% more likely to actually practice that habit.
You can use this trick for habits you practice later in the day, too. Sometimes I complete the most heinous tasks on my to-do list curled up on my favorite chair.
Why It Works
I’ll be honest: sometimes my 10-minute workout gets bumped to later in the day. If the weather is gross and I know I won’t get outside for my quick walks, sometimes I’ll just do the dang workout during a mid-morning break.
But if I want to make working out a priority, I just need to get it done.
In the great words of Mark Twain:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
5. 10-Minute Workout
One of my goals for this year was to make exercise more of a priority in my life. I hate doing a full workout first thing in the morning (I do my best creative work first thing, so I don’t want to use up a full hour working out when I should be using that energy for creative endeavors).
That’s why I started doing a 10-minute workout each morning. It kind of sets the tone for the day: I will not lay around all day, I will keep my energy up today. Also, it gives me a mood boost and a great kick of energy first thing. I feel great that I’ve completed one small task.
Right now, I’m doing a 10-minute Bollywood dance video workout that I really love. Total honesty: the first time I did it, I felt really silly. But by the end, I realized I had so much fun that I barely noticed the countdown clock the entire time. It was also a pretty good cardio workout.
It really warms me up, and my abs even feel a little sore later in the day.
6. Eat Breakfast/Inspiration
After my workout, I generally eat breakfast while doing something inspiring. Sometimes I check out recipes on Instagram, and sometimes I do a little internal happiness work. Right now, I’m listening to the audiobook Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff. It puts me in a good mood and sets a great intention for the rest of the day.
For breakfast, I’ve been eating at least one protein with some fat and veggies. Did you know that eating just two more servings a day can increase your happiness score by .24? That’s the same level of happiness that most people get from landing a new job!
That’s why I’m trying to sneak in some veggies both at breakfast and lunch. Am I happier for it? Who knows! But science says it, so it must be true! Plus, I’ve never heard anything bad happening to someone for eating too much asparagus.
What does your morning ritual look like? What do you do to set the tone for the rest of your day? What are your current goals? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey, hey! Just a few things before you leave… this post contains affiliate links, so if you buy something after clicking on a one, I might (fingers crossed!) just get a little commission. Good news: I only recommend products that I love! Which means you can feel good about all of my recs.
Also, you should know that I’m not a doctor. More importantly, I’ve never played one on TV. Always consult your doctor before taking any advice from me (or anyone else on the internets for that matter).