Set the tone for your day by developing a morning routine that engages your imagination.
For many of us the morning goes something like this: We hit snooze several times, reach for our phones to scroll social media and then begrudgingly stumble out of bed. We turn on the shower, with our eyes still closed. We grab breakfast on the way out the door.
Or we leap out of bed, with just enough time to brush our teeth, and start prepping bottles and breakfast and bag lunches. We rush from one task to the next and rush back (because we might’ve forgotten what we started).
The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. And such mornings don't exactly inspire us. Many of us feel drained before we leave the house and lock the door. But, whatever your situation—demanding job, big family, busy schedule—you can create a morning routine that uplifts and energizes you and even engages your imagination. Below are some tips to try.
Make time and space for art. Go to bed an hour before you normally do, so you can wake up earlier when the house is still and quiet, said Amy Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC, an artist, art therapist and mentor. In the evening, prep your coffee and set out a blank journal with one to three colors of paint, she said.
When you get up, start painting an entire page in the journal. Don’t worry about how it looks, Maricle said. Instead focus “on the feeling of pushing the paint around the page.” After you’re done, let it dry as you’re getting ready. Before leaving the house, grab your journal along with some gel or paint pens. “When you have a few minutes in your day, instead of looking at your phone, doodle wavy lines, circles, or draw what you see in front of you on your painted background.”
Use habit-stacking. Create “an intentional routine by listing activities that nourish your body, mind, heart and soul,” said Courtney Carver, author of the blog Be More with Less, and the book Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More. Then use “habit stacking to practice them for a few minutes each morning.” She stressed the importance of picking activities that genuinely excite and inspire you—not activities you think you should be doing.
Start with two activities, and practice each activity for only five minutes. After a week, add a third activity and also spend five minutes on it. Then add a minute to each activity each week, until you’re engaging in each activity for ten minutes. “You'll end up with a thirty-minute morning routine filled with your favorite activities.” For instance, this might include: reading, writing, practicing yoga; or journaling, meditating and writing thank-you notes, Carver said.
Find small ways to invite calm. Instead of watching the news first thing in the morning, writer and speaker Amanda Viviers fills her home with music. “I like to be connected to the world, but music brings my family to a much more settled place than the TV.” She doesn’t check social media either. Instead, she waits until after lunch (an idea she picked up in the new book The Power of When).
She also makes breakfast and lays out her family’s clothes, her clothes, purse and keys the night before. Recently, she’s switched from having coffee to brewing tea. For her the smell, taste and warmth are especially inspiring. “I’ve been learning to sip my tea as an exercise in mindfulness. Every tea reminds me to breathe.”
What small shifts can you make in your routine that help your mornings run smoother and feel calmer?
Practice a gazing meditation. Maricle suggested setting a timer for five or ten minutes. Focus your attention on any natural object, such as a stone, seashell or leaf, and notice as much as you can. Think of yourself as a scientist studying the most minuscule details. This is “an easy and enjoyable mindfulness practice that can help set the tone for tuning into experiences through the senses throughout the day,” she said.
The morning can easily feel rushed and ruled by everything but our wants and wishes. Which is why it’s vital to be intentional and deliberate. Which starts by asking ourselves such questions as: What do I want my morning to look like? How do I want to feel? What’s a small step I can take to make that come true?