For most of my life, I did not consider myself to be a “morning person”. I was a night owl for the first 25 years of my existence, and I would have much preferred to be up until 3am working on things and sleep until noon any day I possibly could. My internal alarm clock has never been one to naturally wake me up early, and it took a lot of mindful work and practice to get my body to actually enjoy being an early riser.
Our morning routine sets the tone for the rest of our day. If you’ve ever woken up super late or on the wrong side of the bed, you know it can send you into a panic and impact how things go, later on, leading to stress and frustration later in the day. My old routine usually started by me waking up to one of my 50 alarms I set 5 minutes apart because I decided to stay up until 2am watching Netflix and had a bad habit of pressing snooze. I would usually go down a social media scrolling black hole, respond to some emails, watch the news (which was always depressing), chug a cup of coffee, scarf down a quick breakfast (if I had time), and then sprint out the door to – hopefully – make my train to work (which I would usually make with seconds to spare, or miss completely). Sound familiar?
This is no life to live, friend. Trust me, I know because I ran on this hamster wheel for 5+ years. Ever since the pandemic started almost 9 months ago (what?!) I’ve completely overhauled & upgraded my morning routine. Looking back, I realize how badly I was treating my body and why my stress levels were so high all the time. No wonder I hated mornings!
My natural alarm clock has moved up and I often wake up with the sun these days. I now ENJOY my mornings and they have actually become my favorite time of the day!
What Exactly Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is by definition “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. In other words, mindfulness is the practice of being present deliberately and actively in the present moment.
Have you ever “zoned out” on your commute and suddenly looked up and realize you have no idea how long you’ve been traveling or where you’re at? Maybe you’ve done a simple task like brushing your teeth while your thoughts were elsewhere, and you suddenly realized had no idea how long you had been brushing for. We’ve all done this before, but it can start to become a habit in our daily lives. Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally choosing to stay in the present moment. It’s a way to be fully aware of our everyday decisions and choosing to live out of intention rather than habit.
Why Does It Matter?
Mindfulness includes all facets of our lives including our mindset, how we interact with others, how we talk to ourselves and how we make our choices. Instead of constantly thinking of the future or of the past, mindfulness allows us to stay in the present moment and take things one step at a time. It has been scientifically proven to help lower stress, and there’s growing research showing that it can actually remodel the physical structure of your brain!
Mindfulness can have a profound impact on our health and happiness. With regular implementation of a mindful morning routine, you will most likely start to see shifts in your mood, stress levels and overall well-being.
How Can You Create a Mindful Morning Routine?
Here are some of my favorite tips for creating a mindful morning routine:
Set an alarm for an extra 30 minutes before you absolutely need to get up
It’s important to get up even just a few minutes before you absolutely have to so that you have time to slowly wake up and enjoy the morning. I started by making small 5-minute time increments and worked my way up. It also helps if you get in the habit of going to bed at an earlier time every night. I usually go to sleep between 10 and 11pm every night and it has completely changed my sleep schedule. I’m now able to easily get between 7-8 hours of sleep every night and I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day!
Open your blinds first thing!
There is something so therapeutic and relaxing about waking up with the sunshine. I LOVE opening my blinds first thing when I wake up and having golden light spill into all corners of my room. I used to keep the blinds closed and use the TV to wake up to which was not only depressing as hell, but it was terrible for my eyes.
Most of us don’t spend a lot of time outside during the workday. I remember my office cube didn’t have a window and the only time I saw sun was on my short commute to work. Sunlight has been proven to increase serotonin in the brain – a hormone that boosts your mood and helps you feel calmer. Notice how the sun feels on your skin. Notice how the room feels when its glowing in gold light. How can you enjoy the beauty of nature more?
Spend time with your loved ones
I usually spend the first 10 minutes of my morning cuddling with my puppy Hector, and my cat Harley. It brings me so much joy to be able to spend time with them and I know they love it as well. I consider this to be my “state amplifier” for my day. Gerry, my fiancé, usually wakes up before me so I’ll make sure to give him a hug as well and we’ll try to spend some time together cuddling on the couch and chatting over a cup of coffee before work.
Practice staying present with even the most mindless tasks
There’s a lot of tasks that we often do in the morning such as brushing our teeth, showering, grabbing a cup of coffee and getting dressed that often become a habitual practice. Practice staying present during these tasks (it sounds a lot easier than it is). Rather than thinking about all the to-do lists and things you have to do later in the day, try to focus on what is happening right here and now. How does the hot water feel on your skin? What color is your toothpaste? Do you notice the smell of the morning coffee brewing in the air?
This might seem a bit silly to you at first, but these are all repetitive activities where our mind tends to go on autopilot and our thoughts wander off to other things. Mindfulness brings us back to the present moment and helps us act out of intention rather than habit. When we incorporate these small actions into regular practice, you may start to notice that you do this for bigger things as well such as listing to your friend with full attention rather than drifting off into thought and tuning them out.
Meditation has become a huge part of my morning routine. I usually take anywhere from 5 – 30 minutes each day to meditate. I love to meditate in my bed since it’s usually comfy and warm. I’ll usually pop on one of my favorite guided meditations and tune into my breath. Meditation helps me calm my mind, reduce my stress levels and sets a strong foundation for my day. If you need some recommendations for guided meditation apps, check out my blog post HERE
Create a gratitude journal practice
Another mindful practice I have adopted recently is my regular morning gratitude journaling practice. I won’t lie, this took some time to get into the habit of, but it’s something I really look forward to and enjoy now. I open a fresh page of my journal and write down 5 – 10 things that I’m truly grateful for each morning. I also recommend adding a section explaining WHY you’re grateful for the things you’ve written down. This extra step allows you to dive deeper and cultivate a true feeling of gratitude, rather than just focusing on the surface level.
What I am always in awe of is that I never run out of things to be grateful for. In fact, my journal has helped me realize how much I truly have. It’s so easy to focus on the negative sometimes (especially in 2020) but when you start to get in the habit of focusing on the good, you’ll notice big shifts in your overall mood and how you interact with the world. Gratitude is a powerful thing!
Eat a mindful breakfast
I almost never ate breakfast in pre-pandemic times. I would chug some coffee, grab a protein bar and run out the door without a second thought. But I have really been loving having a sit-down breakfast recently. I try to make avocado toast, oatmeal, or a smoothie for myself each morning and actually sit down at the counter and eat distraction-free. It sounds odd, but it feels like such a luxury for me now. Eating breakfast at a table is something I do when I’m on vacation, but rarely in my everyday life. I actually have time now to ENJOY my meals, and fully taste all the flavors. Trust me – it’s not easy to do that when you’re in a rush. It’s the little things that make such a big difference.
This doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or do a 60-minute HIIT training every single morning. I used to think “moving” only meant doing extreme workouts, but I’ve recently made some mindset adjustments around my definition of what movement actually is.
Mindful movement is anything that makes your body FEEL good. For me its yoga, walking and running outside. On warm days, I love to take my pup on long walks around my neighborhood while listing to an inspirational podcast. There is something so satisfying about breathing in fresh air, getting your blood flowing and soaking up the sun’s ray’s. Whether it’s 5 minutes of stretching in bed or 1 hour of running, find something you love to do that genuinely raises your vibration!
Pick an intention for your day
Setting an intention for your day can be a powerful way to cultivate mindfulness into your life. Have you ever stopped to consider if you are living a life that TRULY makes you happy? How much time are you actually spending on deliberately & intentionally living a fulfilling, meaningful life?
I like to take just a few minutes each morning to breathe and answer the following questions:
- How do you choose to show up today?
- How do you choose to feel?
- What matters most to you today?
- What would make me the happiest & most fulfilled today? If I can’t do that exact thing, what is one step I can take to getting there?
- Are you holding onto anything you want to let go of or does not serve you anymore?
Find things that YOU enjoy
I can’t explain the importance of this enough! The secret to creating a sustainable, mindful morning routine is that it has to be something you truly enjoy and look forward to! Just because I told you the things that I do every day doesn’t mean yours has to look anything like mine in order to be “mindful”. I always recommend that you try different things and see what works best in your schedule and your life.
Know that not every morning is going to go to plan and look exactly the same – and that’s okay!! This is a pretty comprehensive list, and even 5 minutes of mindfulness or choosing just one thing from the list can positively impact your day.
I would love to hear from you. What does your mindful morning routine look like?
Photography by Elena Cuellar