Yes yes I know what you’re thinking. The time has come for me to tell you all about how awesome I am because of what I accomplish every morning and that only the key to happiness and success is waking up early, specifically before 5 am.
Nope! Not at all. In fact, I hate those articles for the very reason that I always felt like a lazy poop after reading them. So let me first say that I absolutely do not wake up before 5 am (unless I’m catching a flight.) I would never call myself a morning person, and in fact, the thought of having a morning routine/series of tasks I had to accomplish in the morning before work felt so daunting and nauseating that I’d rather accept defeat than even attempt to adopt something like that. But then I started working from home and then the pandemic happened, both major life events that completely derail one’s sense of normalcy. Any habits I had previously were completely thrown out the window. Walk to work? Nope, don’t do that anymore. Eat a yummy salad for lunch every day from my favorite salad place? Nope, that place is closed for the foreseeable future. Wash my face and brush my teeth? What’s the point? I’m not seeing anybody. Put on pants? Okay now you're just being ridiculous! And so on and so forth.
It got to the point where my day looked a little like this: roll out of bed around 9 am after finally deciding that I needed to somehow check my work email, stumble to the kitchen to make coffee, flop on the couch, turn on my laptop, and then promptly proceed to daydream about my bed, the weekend, my next trip, etc. Somewhere around 4 pm, I would realize how little I had accomplished, a feeling of dread would wash over me where I would then vow to be really productive tomorrow, knowing full well that wasn’t going to happen. Sound familiar?
I was languishing. I realized I needed to completely redesign my life, especially the weekday. I decided I could not continue living like a bored low-energy zombie day-in and day-out. I needed to make some changes, so I could be both happier and healthier.
Around the time, I was learning healthier habits through Noom, I was working through the Happiness Course, and reading Atomic Habits. From these resources, I identified certain habits that would help me become happier and healthier. Not only can adopting certain habits make you healthier, because of the habit itself i.e. eating a nutritious breakfast, working out, etc., but I also learned from Atomic Habits that when you complete a task, even a small one, it provides you with a sense of accomplishment as well as other positive emotions i.e. motivated, energized, happy, etc. Utilizing habit stacking and knowing that accomplishing multiple tasks is better than one, I designed a 2 hour morning ritual that makes me feel like a happy, healthy, accomplished badass, all before 9 am. For the first time in probably ever, I'm actually jazzed to get out of bed.
So here it is: The winning formula for me. I hope you read this and feel entertained. Maybe you even feel inspired! But please, do not read this and think: Ermahgerd I can’t believe she is suggesting I do that. I am not! Everyone is different. Everyone’s needs are different. This is just what works for me right now.
7 am: Morning Walk
Me deciding to go on a walk in the morning was a gradual process. I loved the idea of working out in the morning for multiple reasons, however my normal go-to workouts like running or lifting weights was a wee bit intimidating for someone who just woke up. I realized that in order to lose weight (something I was interested in) fasted cardio was the best option. From trying Rachel Attard's Lean Legs Program earlier in the year, I learned that walking first thing in the morning would aid in fat loss, and also help me achieve lean un-bulky legs. (For someone who has no problem gaining and retaining muscle, this was exactly what I was looking for.) Although I have treadmills in my gym, the benefits of being outside/in nature cannot be understated, at least for me. And for someone who works from home, this might actually be the only time I encounter the outside world. Therefore, I walk roughly 60 minutes outside while I listen to my favorite podcasts i.e. Tim Ferris (no surprise there!)
8 am: Meditate and Eat
Immediately after my morning walk when I'm feeling the right amount of light-headed because I've just sprint-walked 60 minutes with no food in my system, I plop down on my living room couch by the window and meditate for at least 10 minutes. I currently use the Calm app which always has a daily 10 minute meditation. And as you can see from the picture below, I leave room for Gary Kitty who also likes to meditate with me.
After meditation, I move to the kitchen and turn on some fun sounds (with headphones still in.) BBC 1Xtra is currently my go-to because the music is danceable and the DJ's always seem like they're in a good mood. I then drink some Athletic Greens and take some mushroom immune system boosty pills. Why? Someone(s) suggested them, so I've tried it and now I'm afraid if I stop, I might die. Hey! I didn't promise this would be completely logical or scientific.
Then I concoct my breakfast smoothie which is a bunch of baby spinach, one scoop of Onnit protein powder (so yummy), 1/2 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, and about 1/2 - 1 cup of almond milk. I also typically add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter because we all know peanut butter makes life better. Blend that and Boom. If your shake doesn't look like suspicious baby food... you're doing it wrong. Yes, I drink it out of a pint glass from my favorite brewery to remind myself that I've still got it.
8:30 Prepare Thyself
After I've gulped that down, washed the glass, cleaned the blender, I walk to the bedroom to initiate a sequence of events that can only be described as prepping to be a normal functioning human being. I first open my blackout shades, so my bedroom no longer resembles a cave, and I make my bed. This is mainly to make sure the top sheet is in the correct position for sleeping, as I've learned I tend to kick this thing to the bottom of the bd while I'm sleeping.
I then go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash my face, moisturize, whatever hygiene thingies you like to do. And then I change out of my workout wear/walking outfit. Notice, I didn't say put on pants. Rarely do I put on pants. Sometimes, I put on another workout outfit. Sometimes it's spandex shorts and a sports bra. Whatever I'm feeling. Just change into your "day clothes." (Some people need to actually put on my business clothes to be productive. That is clearly not me. I happy to leave those clothes collecting dust in my closet.)
At this point, you might be thinking, but what about the shower? Okay, before you think of me as some heathen, I will let you in on a secret. I don't sweat. Therefore, I find most showers unnecessary, unless I need to wash my hair or I actually did sweat after say my Sunday morning long run. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks "daily showers are dumb." And also yes, I might actually be a heathen, but when we run out of fresh water in the dystopian future that is hopefully only in my imagination, guess who's going to be feeling just fine. Me!
9 am: Coffee..
Ritual versus Routine
Sooo why do I use the term ritual instead of routine? Firstly, routine makes me think of something I have to do. Like, "You need to learn this dance routine or you can’t participate in the Homecoming step show!!" . . . Sorry college sorority trauma. For me, ritual is something that you choose to do; it’s intentional and more importantly it’s meaningful. I not only want to perform my morning ritual, I enjoy it, I look forward to it, and I plan around it. I know that it may be the only part of my day that feels “right,” and therefore I protect it. It is sacred "me" time.
I also like the word ritual because of its positive association with finding happiness and meaning through spiritual acts. Many religions utilize rituals to help their followers find connection to a higher power but also to each other. Rituals can be found in every religion from the Jewish faith to Confucianism. In fact, Confucius was big on ritual. He thought that ritual behaviors can bring us and our communities peace and joy, which was really important, given that he lived in a society that was basically “falling apart.”
So there you have it. If you’re thinking of creating your own ritual, start small and gradually add to it. This morning ritual was created over a span of several months.
Also stay flexible. Travel happens. Shit happens. Sometimes my morning walk happens at the airport, sometimes it's a walk with sprints at the end, sometimes it's a bike ride. And sometimes it doesn't happen at all. Don’t fret, and keep at it. Do as much as you can when you can. As cliche as it sounds, consistency is key. I can almost guarantee that designing a morning ritual that fits you and your needs will make your mornings much more bearable, perhaps even enjoyable. They definitely have for me!