In a previous post I talked about a new way to look at wellness that resonated strongly with me. I paraphrased it as:
Wellness is how you show up
Today I want to start looking at ways this mantra can be put to work in our ongoing journey toward well-being. Specifically, I want to take a look at the foundational practice of morning rituals. These are the little things you do every morning, from the moment your feet hit the floor (I’ll take a deep dive into sleep patterns and how they affect the wake up process in another post), through your bathroom grooming habits, morning coffee, up until you arrive at work. In other words, the things you do to literally get the day off on the right foot.
I’ll use my own morning as a jumping off point. I get up between 5:00 – 5:30 most days and my first stop is to brush my teeth (I can’t abide by morning breath any longer than necessary). Then it’s into the shower (often there’s a pit stop in between these to empty my overnight-full bladder), throw on my house flannels and a t-shirt and hit the kitchen to make tea. While the water is coming to a boil, I’ll do a short, wake up series of stretches. Then once the tea is steeping I open my laptop for a morning email check and to catch up on my RSS feed.
Once I have tea, I generally shut the laptop down again and read for a while. Once the tea is drained, I head to my meditation cushion for a sit. These morning sessions are generally on the short side, depending on what I have on the docket for the day, say 15-20 minutes. At this point I either head back to the kitchen for a second round of tea, or I start getting dressed and ready to head out.
Now, contrast that with what my mornings used to look like (let me know if you see anything familiar in here): Up at like 7:30-8, depending on how many times I smacked the snooze button. Haul it to the shower, teeth, potty stop; toss on clothes because I’m already late and out the door without tea, coffee, or breakfast. Once at work, I would take care of caffeinating myself and looking for a stale bagel to hold me until lunch.
Which of these do you think leads to me showing up as my best self? Which sounds like it would help you be YOUR best self, displaying your well-being to the fullest?
Exactly. A relaxed, practiced morning routine is key to starting every day on the right footing. And all it takes to develop one for yourself is some practice, willpower, and a willingness to try things that may not work for you (sound familiar?). Let’s look at some specific steps you can take this week to get the ball rolling.
1) Get up earlier
I know, I know, call off the posse and put down the pitchforks…this one always riles folks up. There are scientifically proven benefits to getting up earlier. I’m not going to talk about those however. I want to make this as simple and clear as I can. Getting up earlier gives you more time to develop YOUR morning ritual, and helps you start the day mindfully and intentionally. That’s the root of any good, solid morning routine.
And yes, I realize this means you may have to forgo your late night Netflix binges. But then you already knew those weren’t healthy, right?
2) Lay out your routine
What are the 5 most important things you need to do in the morning to feel your best? Make a physical list, along with as much description as you need to accomplish these 5 things – every morning for 2 weeks. Then add 1 new thing that you think may add something beneficial to that routine. Do this routine for 2 weeks, then reassess. If you like the results stick with it. If not, well, delete that item from the list and try something else.
Over time, the idea is to develop this routine into something you can do every morning without having to give it much thought. If something you add during this time doesn’t lead to you being your best self, remove it post haste and try something else. I used to eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every day as soon as I got to work. Then I figured out that I was reacting to grains so that habit had to go.
3) Monitor how you show up
In this case I mean it literally. Watch how your interactions with coworkers changes as you get more and more stable in your morning routine. Watch how you react to morning traffic. Watch what you put out there in morning meetings. You’re using yourself as a test guinea pig, so monitor the results of your testing and adjust the developing routine appropriately.
Morning rituals and routines are one of the foundational elements to developing a healthy outlook on the day to come. From here you can adjust, modify, or add practices that aid in showing up as your best self and removing some that may not be helping – or actively hindering – your efforts.
Next time, we’ll look at some ways to build on this foundation as we dig a little deeper into the idea of wellness, well-being, and how you show up in your daily life.