Designing a Healthy Morning Ritual, One Step at a Time

photo of coffee beans

Most people who find out that I get up around 6 am every day think I’m crazy. While I’ve always been a morning person, I read a lot about how a healthy morning ritual would set me up to have a great day, experimented with different things over time, and experienced the benefits firsthand. My goal here is to help you create your own healthy morning ritual–one that fits into the context of your life.

Step 1: Look at What You Do Today

You already have some kind of morning ritual. The trick is to look what you currently do, and consider how well or poorly it serves you. For example, say that when your alarm clock buzzes, you jump up, stumble into the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee. But maybe you realize the buzzing alarm startles you, and you typically feel angry about having to get up. Maybe you notice that your energy is consistently low. Maybe you’d rather not be so reliant on coffee to help you open your eyes. Or maybe you savor that cup of coffee because it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and out.

Take note of what you love and what you might want to change.

Step 2a: Pick One Thing to Stop Doing

Select one thing from your current morning routine that you know deep down isn’t good for you, and set an intention to let it go. Now, no one likes giving something up, including me. It’s difficult because it’s change–and we’re such creatures of habit. Sometimes you might even need to give up something you really love, in favor of something you’ve prioritized higher.

Once I got into a rhythm of doing more self-nurturing morning activities, for example, I noticed that I went to work feeling grounded and positive, and I had a good day. But if I went dancing the night before (I used to be an avid West Coast Swing dancer), I wouldn’t get to bed until midnight or so. Each night there was a dance, I faced a difficult choice. A few times I tried doing both, burning the candle at both ends because I was so loathe to sacrifice dancing.

Ultimately I realized how powerful my morning ritual was, and let most of the dancing go.

Step 2b: Pick A Better Thing to Start Doing

When you give something up, it’s easier if you simultaneously put something more beneficial in its place. If you stop drinking coffee, for example, but love the ritual of sipping something hot, try a coffee substitute like Ayurvedic Roast, Dandy Blend, or hot water with lemon. If you stay open to new things you may find you actually like something that’s better for you. And when that happens, you won’t feel like you’ve sacrificed anything!

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what to start doing to improve your overall health and wellness. After all, there are so many options, and so many things we all think we should be doing. If that’s the case carve out 15 minutes of quiet time, and brainstorm all the things you might try, considering these categories:

  • Physical–e.g. get a boost by taking the dog for a 10 minute walk instead of making, drinking, and cleaning up after that coffee.
  • Mental–e.g. read 10 pages of that book you never get to, instead of surfing the web and playing around on Facebook.
  • Emotional–e.g. journal 5 things you’re grateful for, instead of dreading your busy day and complaining about it to your significant other.
  • Spiritual–e.g. meditate for 10 minutes using an app like Simply Being, instead of zoning out on more news coverage about the Super Bowl or the elections.

Now trust yourself, and pick one thing from your list that you feel you would truly benefit from and would enjoy trying. 

Tip: None of these things need to take a long time. In fact, it’s best if you simply re-allocate the time you previously spent on your less-than-healthy activity. That way, you won’t have to get up any earlier to fit it in.

Step 3: Keep Giving it a Go, with Self-Compassion

Giving up caffeine was also something I chose to stop doing. Even though I only had a cup or two per day, I knew it didn’t compliment my naturally high-strung personality during the day, nor help me sleep well at night. But freeing myself of caffeine didn’t happen instantly–it took about five real tries over a couple of years! Habits form for a reason, and they’re not easy to break. Regardless of whether we label them as “good” or “bad”, each of our habits comfort us in some way. So be compassionate with yourself as you try out ways to comfort yourself that are less familiar.

Whenever you feel you’ve “failed”, acknowledge that you’re trying, that it’s hard, and start over again. And, consider Step 4.

Step 4: Evaluate and Adjust as Necessary

Even if you give it a real go, not everything you try to incorporate into a healthier morning ritual will stick. And that’s OK! You’ll know when something is right because you’ll wake up wanting to do it, and feel weird when you don’t. Stay flexible, and be willing to adjust your routine over and over, eliminating what’s not suiting you (which might include some things you think are healthy or that you should be doing). Over time, you will replace each piece that wasn’t working for you with a healthier thing that does, and have a complete morning ritual that sets you up to take on the world!

You might create a set of things you can choose from, depending on how you feel when you wake up, what you expect your day to be like, and so on. Like me, you might find there are things you want to add that you can’t fit in, and you’ll be willing to get up a few minutes earlier to incorporate them. Alternatively, you might get bored someday, or what worked for you for awhile might stop. No worries! Continue to experiment and revise your morning ritual over time.

Remember that designing a healthy morning ritual is a process, not a destination.

Are you ready to get serious about sleep?


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