I WANT TO HAVE MY OWN MORNING ROUTINE, BUT HOW AND WHERE CAN I BEGIN?
I love this question and I love even more being able to share with you a few tips on how I got to create my own and how you can also get there. Morning routines can really be a game changer, but it might not be for everyone and that is ok.
You should know, that a morning routine is not something I have always had. In fact, it has been just about a year that I have included one in my daily routine. I remember wishing I could have a morning routine for years before I actually managed to create one and keep it. I would research about its benefits and read "how to" blogs, articles, watch videos, etc., but still... for years it was nothing more than a wish and I will tell you why... together with my very first piece of advice:
MAKE SURE YOU CAN REALISTICALLY MAKE TIME FOR IT
You see, a morning routine means that you either have to wake up earlier than your usual or that you can use some of your morning time to dedicate it to yourself. Back then, when I was only wishing for a morning routine, my alarm would ring at 4:30am to go catch the bus at 5am, be at work by 6am and get back home in the evening at around 10:30, 11:00pm. The chances of me waking up even earlier than 4:30am or using some of my morning time - those 30 minutes during which I would just about have time to get dressed, have breakfast and walk to the bus stop - were very little. I realistically could not develop a sustainable and healthy morning routine that way, no matter how much I wanted it. It would have actually been more detrimental than good for my health, in my opinion. So, instead of adding extra stress or frustration to my life, I accepted the situation I was in and told myself it would have been something I would have developed under other circumstances. I could still take some morning time for myself during the weekend - that would have had to do for the time being. I am telling you this as you might have all the best intentions and really want to create a new healthy habit for yourself and that is great, but I also want to highlight to you the importance of it being something you can realistically commit to and and therefore achieve. So, first thing to ask yourself: can I realistically commit to an early morning routine, without it becoming an added stress or frustration?
2. A MORNING ROUTINE STARTS IN THE EVENING
Yup! Ah! If you think about it though, it becomes pretty obvious since the very first day you decide that tomorrow you will wake up that little bit earlier. Things might be a little different now due to the current situation [you should know that it was actually thanks to the first lockdown that I managed to create my own morning routine] but if you are used to your 7, 8 hours of sleep, meaning going to bed at around 11pm, 12am and waking up at 7am or 8am to go to work, you can't expect that your body will wake up just as refreshed and rested as usual if you go to bed at the same time and wake up at 5am instead. You might be able to do it at the beginning - thanks to that initial, exciting motivation rush - but in the long run you will very likely accumulate some sleep deprivation - not a good idea. So, another very important thing to realise is that by wanting to create one habit you might have to change and adapt some of your current habits as they will no longer serve you and your new routine.
This brings us to the second question to ask yourself: is this something I can do? Better yet, is this something I want and am willing to do? I also need you to know that a habit takes some time to become, well, a habit - you are the result of years and years of repeating the same behaviours over and over again - so if you suddenly decide to be in bed by 10pm and up by 5am, you might want to take into account the fact that you will probably not fall asleep straight away for a few nights or first few weeks and you might not wake up as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning either.
Radical change rarely works in the long run.
Start gradually by going to bed, perhaps, half an hour earlier and waking up half an hour, or even just 15 minutes earlier. Once you can do that with no problems, then reduce again by another 15, 30 minutes until you reach the desired bed and wake up times. See what works for you and be patient.
3. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS, WHEN IT SO NICE AND COZY UNDER THE COVERS AND YOU CAN SLEEP?
[I am not talking you out of creating your routine here, bare with me, but I think that when you read similar blogs and articles the focus is more on what to do and not on how to get there; and it all seems fairly easy, but then what you are confronted with is something different and I want to share with you those other fundamental aspects of creating a new habit that not many talk about, so that you are better equipped and more aware of what it takes to get there.] Firstly, this is a very common "objection" that people around you might start asking you.
Why on earth are you doing this? Are you crazy? You are not normal. It makes me laugh a little every time, but like I said at the very beginning, this might not be for everyone and the above are normal reactions from those who do not understand WHY you are doing what you are doing. Just be aware and ready to be questioned, but also know that you do not really need to give any explanations to anyone if they are not really willing to have a healthy conversation about it. What might help though, is to share why it is important to you with your partner or closest friend or family member you are living with. They will notice the change and if you explain your reasons and that you just need this space and time in the morning, it will simply make things easier for all of you. So, this brings us to point n.4.
4 . KNOW YOUR WHY This is probably THE most important question you could ask yourself.
Why do I want to create a morning routine - or any other habit for that matter? Why is it important to me? What does it mean to me? How would my morning/day/life be different if I had a morning routine? How would "I" be (feeling) any different if I had a morning routine?
If you want to create a morning routine, because your best friend is doing it or because you like the idea of it and you know it can bring some benefits to you, I invite you to dig a little deeper as that will not be enough of a reason to get you out of bed in those mornings when all you want to do is just pulling yourself under the covers and hide from the rest of the world. So, take some time for yourself here and start by writing down your very first reason; ask yourself why that is important and discover your second reason; ask yourself again why that is important and so on. Your "last" reason should be the dearest and most important to you. When we attach meaning to our actions, we are capable of big accomplishments.
5. MAKE IT YOUR OWN & BE FLEXIBLE
Last, but not least - and this can also be the fun part - create YOUR OWN routine and BE FLEXIBLE.
It is very easy nowadays to be influenced by social media and while there is no harm in learning from other people, it is important you realise that what works for one person might not work for you. Also, what works for you now might not work the same way in six, seven months time. So, be open here to experiment, test and be flexible with your approach.
I remember starting with writing down a list of what I wanted to do in the morning:
wake up at 5am when the alarm rings - no snooze button
hydrate - keep a bottle of water by the bed
move your body - whether that is some stretching and mobility, a short workout, a walk...
However, the first thing I realised was that I could not wake up at that time, so I had to work on that (see points 1 & 2); secondly, I also noticed that by meditating straight after waking up, the chances of falling back asleep were particularly high (LOL), so I understood that moving my body first, was a better a idea, it worked better for me; I also learnt that meditation can even happen during body movement, while you exercise, train, practice, you do not necessarily need to be seated with your eyes closed to meditate; when the days started to get darker sooner, I found it was getting harder to wake up at that same time when outside was still dark, so during winter months, the alarm started ringing a little later, but event if that meant waking up at 6:00, 6:30, my morning routine was still present: instead of an early morning walk to the park, I would start with foam rolling, stretching, mobility or some yoga in the living room.
So, it turned into something like this:
wake up at 6:00/6:30am
foam rolling, mobility, dynamic stretches, yoga or short strength workout while listening to some music and being as present as I can
and I am sure it will keep adapting and changing. Starting with this little bit of structure though makes my days so much more productive and positive and it makes me feel more in control of, not only my days, but my thoughts too.
I believe there is a lot to gain from a morning routine. It might not be among one of the easiest habits to develop, but one that will surely change your day to day for the better.
I wanted to share this, not so that you feel you have to do or have the same morning routine, but to give you, what I believe to be, a more realistic idea of how change happens. You see, some mornings you might oversleep, some mornings you might wake up even earlier than your alarm, some mornings you might not fill in your gratitude journal... it's ok, carry on the best way you can anyway. Life is never linear!
What is important is not WHAT you do right once a year, but HOW you keep going even when life gets on the way or you mess up.
So, get creative, take action and go keep discovering more and more about yourself!