According to research, some morning activities are more helpful and effective than others. These include exercising, meditating, journaling, making your bed, and not hitting the snooze button.
Knowing the research is important. But you know what’s also important (perhaps even more so)?
As author and consultant Alexandra Franzen pointed out, “We all have different preferences. A morning routine that feels inspiring to you might be different than what feels inspiring to your spouse, roommate, or best friend.”
For example, Franzen starts her mornings by drinking two glasses of water, savoring a cup of coffee, breathing deeply for 1 minute, and playing inspiring music (“I’m constantly creating playlists on Spotify—it’s my obsession,” she said). Lastly, she looks up and admires the dawn sky—an action that, she said, is critical to her mental health.
“I want to look up first thing in the morning, see the sky, connect with the natural world, and take a moment of humility and gratitude before I stare down at a computer screen to begin the day’s work. It’s a small moment that shifts my mood in a big way.”
Franzen, author of The Checklist Book, records all these steps as a checklist, which she prints out the night before, and puts on a clipboard. Her checklist includes both the things she wants to do and needs to do.
“This ‘night before’ planning is crucial for me, because it enables me to wake up feeling organized, so I can glide right into a great morning,” Franzen said.
KJ Landis, a life coach and author of Happy Healthy You, makes a giant mug of homemade chai. She reads a positive quote from this app and reflects on the words. Prior to the pandemic, she’d throw in a load of laundry and get ready to teach a Pilates class, followed by taking a hot yoga class or hiking with a friend or coaching client.
To create your own inspiring routine, Franzen suggests exploring these questions:
- “What energizes you?
- What helps you to focus?
- What helps you feel powerful, optimistic, and capable of handling whatever the day brings next?
- What’s most important to you?”
For example, you might find it energizing and inspiring to write morning pages, open up the curtains, and eat breakfast on your porch. Or you might prefer to jot down one thing you’re grateful for before getting out of bed and then paint and play with your little one. Or you might find it energizing and inspiring to light a candle, keep the curtains closed, and read a few pages from the Torah.
You might not know what works for you until you actually try it. So, experiment, explore, and reevaluate. I know that right now is a stressful, strange, surreal time for all of us. Plans are up in the air. Life is up in the air. You have extra responsibilities, and you’re exhausted.
This isn’t about putting one more thing on your to-do list, or about feeling guilty because you can’t stick to some “effective” or “essential” routine.
Rather, it’s about finding one or two practices that help you feel the way you’d like to feel in the mornings. It’s about nourishing and supporting yourself in a small, caring way during a confusing, overwhelming time. And I hope you find an activity, a tiny action, that helps you do that.