I used to be one of those people who would milk every single minute of sleep that I could. I’d set the alarm clock and tell myself I’d get up on time so that I wouldn’t have to rush around in the morning, but then when 7am rolled up the snooze button was my best friend. I’d then inevitably have just enough time to launch myself out of bed, have a quick shower, put some make-up on and rush out the house. No time for breakfast, no time for meditation, no time to breathe. There was a lot of time for swearing at how late I was running, though.
People, it seems, can and do change.
Over the last few years I’ve slowly but surely started to turn into a morning person. Begrudgingly, at first, I’d try to wake up a little earlier. I soon began to realise that there is something special about the early morning air – the way it’s so fresh, so still and so untouched by life. When I was in Ho Chi Minh City for a few months early in 2015, I started my first morning ritual – waking up at 6:30am in order to be at the nearby Starbucks by 7am so that I could sit and write my memoir. I soon discovered that the morning energy was amazing for my creativity and without fail I woke up at 6:30am for six days of the week and wrote around 1000 words each day. I was also in a relationship at the time and came to enjoy those rare moments of solitude during which I was doing something for me and me alone. After that, I’d come back to the flat I was staying in, have breakfast and enjoy the rest of the day.
I started to realise that there is something special about the early morning air – the way it’s so fresh, so still and so untouched by life.
Sure enough, I completed the first draft of the memoir within months.
Later that year, I underwent a lot of changes. As part of the self-work that I was doing, I decided to put together a morning ritual. I had read that they are good for us and how most successful people have one. So I wanted one of my own. I wanted to get myself into a routine and set my day off right, and I believed this was the best way to do both.
I can confirm that it really works.
With a bit of trial and error, I’ve now settled on a routine that suits me the best. My routine has evolved a lot since those humble beginnings and I find that the benefits of waking up early and doing my rituals are:
- I have a clear intention of what I want to achieve on any given day
- Meditation helps me clear my mind and feel more relaxed
- Writing 1000 words towards my book makes me feel an immense sense of achievement before the day has even started properly
- The silence of the morning is beautiful and makes me feel at peace. I’ll never get bored of feeling like I’m the only person who’s awake (and that’s certainly the case in my apartment).
- That time is for me and me alone – no interruptions, no messages, no social media. Just me, myself and I.
My morning ritual
Here is roughly how my mornings now run:
Wake up at 6am
I wake up stupidly early. Then again, The Rock famously wakes up at 4am every single day, so that puts my 6am to shame. I resist the urge to slam the snooze button and launch my butt straight out of bed and go to the toilet. It’s the only way I can ensure I don’t fall asleep again.
Drink a glass of water
This is a habit I’ve started recently. I like to make sure that the first thing I drink is water.
I roll out the yoga mat, light a candle and some incense, and meditate for at least ten minutes (preferably 20). I then thank God, Buddha, Allah, the angels, my ancestors and all the rest for another day on the planet.
Make my coffee and serve my breakfast
I would love to say that I start my day with a smoothie or warm water with lemon, but sod that. I’m only human and this human wants coffee when she first wakes up. So I brew a good pot of java and serve up my breakfast, which I usually prepare the night before. I’m currently on a bircher muesli trip – overnight oats are a God send!
Write my novel
I head back to my room, put some nice music on (I’m currently in love with the soundtrack to Amélie) make myself comfortable, turn off my WiFi and get to work on the novel I’m currently writing. I complete 1000 words every day, which usually takes me just under an hour.
Read my affirmations
Once I’m done with the writing, I read out my affirmations. I find affirmations are a great way of reminding myself every single day of the things that are important to me. For example, some of them relate to my work. Others relate to my relationships with others, while some are purely for personal development. I have about 14 of them and I change them once a month to reflect whatever I need to draw attention to at the time. Here’s a good post on how to set your own affirmations.
Write in my gratitude journal
This is one of the most important things that I do; if I don’t have time to do everything for whatever reason I always try to at least write in my journal. I first list out a number of things that I’m grateful for from the previous day – this can be anything from a delicious meal that I had, to a friend taking the time to chat with me about something. I find it’s incredible how much of a difference it makes when you focus on the positives; since I’ve started doing this I’m overall a lot more positive during the day. We really have so much to be thankful for.
I also write about how I’m feeling, what I want to achieve that day and what I want to achieve in general. It’s a great way of centering myself, reminding myself of the bigger picture, and setting the tone for the day.
Read inspirational articles or ones that help with self-development
I love reading stories of likeminded individuals who have achieved something great, or various articles on an aspect of self-development or psychology. Some of the sites I visit regularly include Tiny Buddha, Psychology Today, Digg (the Long Reads section), and New York Times’ Well section.
Look on my Pinterest feed
I’m a sucker for a good motivational quotation that’s been slapped on a pretty picture. Yes, I’m that person.
Shower and hit the road
Then it’s time to have a shower and get on with my day!
How to put together your own
There’s no right or wrong way to have a morning ritual. It’s all about taking the time out to honour yourself, set some intentions for the day, remind yourself of your goals and your bigger picture, and start off on a good note. Perhaps hitting the gym first thing is part of your ritual (I’ve tried the whole exercising at dawn thing – NOT for me). Maybe it’s painting. Maybe it’s doing a headstand. Maybe you only have ten minutes to spare or maybe you have two hours. A morning ritual is all about carving out the time to do things that will set your day off right. Here are some tips:
- What makes you happiest? Do you have a creative endeavour that you don’t usually have the time to work on during the day? Maybe you want to work on a photography project, maybe you want to make jewellery, maybe you want to write poetry. Whatever it is, why not wake up an hour earlier every day in order to work on it? I love this podcast from Liz Gilbert (of Eat, Pray Love fame) where she talks to Brandon Stanton (the guy behind Humans of New York) on how to make time for your creative projects.
- How much time do you realistically have? Take a look at your current wake up time and consider getting up 30 minutes earlier. If I can do it, so can you!
- Check out this post from Wanderlust on various morning rituals that can bring you joy and aim to add a few to your schedule. Self-care is of critical importance to a morning ritual, in my opinion.
- Make it easier to get into a routine by doing any prep work that’s necessary the evening before. For example, make breakfast – I swear by overnight oats, like this example. If you’re going to write in a journal, have it handy. If you’re aiming to workout make sure your gym clothes are ready.
- Tailor your morning routine to your goals. Maybe you want to feel motivated to have your best day at work. Or maybe you want to feel peaceful. Or maybe you want to achieve some goals that relate to fitness or creative projects. Take a look at your individual needs and tailor the rituals to what you’re aiming for. For me, it’s important to feel focused and peaceful, so I do a combination of intention setting (with my journalling) and self-care that makes me feel centered (meditation). The novel writing helps me achieve one of my main goals every single day before 7am.
- Keep checking in to see what works and what doesn’t work. What flows well during one month may not the next.
- List out all the rituals you really want to do and an estimate of how long each will take. Then figure out how early you need to get up in order to get everything done.
- Have fun with it! Morning rituals are meant to make you feel good, so if they don’t, you need new ones.
- Do You Have A Morning Ritual from LifeHack Gives you tips on how to put together your own routine.
5 Morning Rituals to Keep You Productive All Day Long from Entrepreneur.com This is a good post for those of you who are hoping to put together morning rituals that will make you productive during your working day.
5 Morning Rituals To Start Your Day With Magic from Mind, Body, Green Alternatively, this post focuses more on starting your morning with mindfulness.
5 Morning Rituals to Help You Discover Your Purpose from Forever Conscious This is a really good read for those who are confused about their life path and which direction to take things in. Morning routines can help with that, too!
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