The Power of a Morning Ritual

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As the days get shorter and the nights get colder it can be a real challenge to get ourselves out of bed in the morning. Our beds are so cozy — especially on grey winter days! It’s much easier to roll over, take your phone off the charger and start scrolling through social media and email, all the while telling yourself that you’re only gonna take a quick look - like, just to feel caught up or only until you feel “more awake.” But then 5 minutes becomes 30 minutes or more and before you know it you’ve fallen into a hole of looking at someone else’s vacation pics, admiring your best friend’s sister’s baby or puppy, checking to see what the weather is like in NYC, vaguely planning a menu for a dinner party you haven’t even scheduled and comparing your mom life/work life/fitness life to pretty much everyone else’s (which, PS, - feels like sh*t). Add that to the stress of checking the latest news headlines, realizing that you have scores of unanswered emails plus mentally reviewing the day’s commitments and suddenly your morning vibe gets fully zapped. You feel rushed and out of alignment that is not at all how you want to start your day.

So with that in mind, I invite you to exchange that “where did my morning go?” feeling to a feeling of “I did something good for myself” by incorporating a morning ritual into your life. Yes, your morning cup of coffee or tea can count as a ritual - but only if you intentionally pause and actually appreciate it instead of gulping it down while you watch youtube videos of  last weekend’s SNL cold open or whatever your fancy may be. I’m not telling you to stop watching your stuff - only saying that taking a minute or five and focusing on what you want to feel, think and do before diving into the morning can instead set the tone for your whole day.

When you have a strong morning game you feel more centered, motivated and ready to face whatever the day might bring. 

Rituals are an important part of life because they keep us connected to something grounding and familiar in the midst of constant change. The difference between a habit and a ritual is that a habit is an action you do almost by rote. You don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. By comparison, a ritual is something that encourages you to think. It requires your full presence and attention. Think of a morning ritual as a special and even sacred time to help empower you to go through your day feeling grounded with intention and clarity. By starting the day with focusing on what's important to you, you are actively creating forward motion towards the life you want to be living.

My current morning ritual starts with going into the kitchen and quietly drinking a big glass of water, sometimes with some fresh lemon juice. Next I make my matcha and head into my office where  (*woo woo alert) I’ve set up a little altar full of things that are meaningful to me in various ways. I light a candle and some Palo Santo wood and sit quietly for about 5 -10 minutes, just following my breath and clearing space in my head. Then I say a little prayer and either set an intention for the day or pull a card for some inspiration. Right now I’m really digging this little deck called Seeds of Intention as well as this deck from my friend Jen Trulson. Then I get into my favorite chair and journal about that intention or prompt while I sip my matcha. I leave the card out where I can be reminded of the intention throughout the day and it helps ground me and gets me out of my head and back into the present moment.

I’m also in the midst of a 30-day yoga challenge and part of that is getting myself to a 6:15 AM class 3 -5 days a week, so on those days the journaling happens when I get home. It has not been easy getting up at 5:30 AM but I can’t even express how amazing I feel after class is finished. My head is clear, I am fully in my body and I feel calm and focused. It’s been so profound that I’m considering continuing that ritual after the challenge is over. 

When designing your morning ritual you can be you can be as creative as you like. Start with a basic idea and add whatever you want to make it feel enjoyable and meaningful enough that you keep doing it. I recommend starting small so that it it’s easier to keep showing up. For me it's critical to wake up early. This means going to bed on the early side so that I can hopefully get enough sleep. When I wake up before the rest of my family I get the quiet alone time that I need and have less distraction.

Start by asking yourself what you actually want, think about what motivates you  - and then check out these ideas to get you started.

Gratitude. This is a great way to start the day on a positive note. You can start a gratitude journal and simply list 3-5 things that you are grateful for - either from the previous day or the day ahead. It’s like saying thank you to the Universe and saying “more of this please!” Really hold those things in your mind before you let them go or put them on paper. This way you’ll be strengthening those neural pathways to more frequently look for the positives in your life.

Journal.  Some ideas for journaling include morning pages, intention cards, oracle cards, tarot cards or other journaling prompts, asking what words of wisdom your 20 year old self and/or your 70 year self may have for you, asking yourself how you want to feel and what it would take to help you to feel that way or what would it take to make the day great. The possibilities here are endless.

Meditate. I’ve talked about this in previous blog posts like this one and this one, but my meditation practices have changed and morphed over the years. I’d be lying if I said that I have  had an easy time with meditation but I will say that when I am doing it it is tremendously helpful. There are so many great apps to help with this! I like Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm and Simply Being to name a few. You can also check out Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenges. They are free to start with and there is a new every couple of months. 

Move. Walk, run, stretch, practice yoga- it’s player’s choice here. Being mindful, present and intentional is the name of the game so while things like Body Pump, Barre3, Zumba and even Soul Cycle are absolutely awesome and highly encouraged, I would argue that those are more in the excellent habit category rather than part of a morning ritual. I would encourage you to find a way to attach a morning ritual to these habits to make the ritual easier to accomplish.

Other stuff: Read something inspiring, pray, make your bed, open the shades and let the light in, pause for some intentional deep breathing, sip some warm water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (here’s why), get out into nature, try grounding, etc..

It can take time to get into a groove with your morning ritual so be patient with yourself and stay open to switching things up when necessary. Morning rituals are not set in stone. Check your mindset so that you are in “want to” mode vs “have to” mode. 

Bottom line: every morning we have a choice to consciously  promote clarity, connection and well-being vs. slipping into unconscious patterns and feeling like we’re not active participants in creating the lives we want. While hitting the snooze on our alarms or lying in bed scrolling through Instagram feels good in the moment, creating a morning ritual that can help you feel good in  your body, mind and spirit will ultimately make you feel a whole lot better and help you carpe that diem.