Mornings tend to be tough for many of us. And you’re one of those people. You open your eyes to the blaring of your alarm, and think “Ughhhh.” You think about your super long to-do list and dread the day. You calculate the cups of coffee you’ll have to consume so your head doesn’t smack the desk. You scroll through random sites and social media. You check your email five thousand times.
After a snooze or 10, you finally stumble out of bed, and trip 18 times on various objects — shoes, toys — on your way to splashing water on your face.
In short, mornings aren’t exactly your thing.
But there are small ways you can turn that around. Below are seven suggestions for making your morning more meaningful, brighter and a bit more fun.
Check in. “Take a moment to check in with yourself, your partner or your journal about how you are feeling,” said Caroline Leon, a business and mindset coach to purpose-driven, female entrepreneurs and founder of the Female Business Academy. She suggested exploring these questions: How did you sleep? Are you worried about anything? What are your priorities for the day? What is your mood like?
Another option is to try Julia Cameron’s famous morning pages, Leon said. According to Cameron, “Morning pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.”
Move your body—on your terms. Think about movements that feel good to you that day, and go from there. (This is very different from going to the gym at 6 a.m. when you absolutely hate the gym—or engaging in any exercise that you don’t like.)
For instance, sometimes, coach and writer Helen McLaughlin starts her mornings with a series of long, simple stretches, such as shoulder rolls and spinal stretches. Other times she puts on upbeat music and dances. Lately, she and her husband have been setting their alarm a bit earlier to enjoy a local trail walk.
Get quiet. “I find that the perfect antidote to my busy morning mind is to take just 10 minutes to sit in silence,” said Leon. She likes to sit on a cushion on the floor in a comfortable posture.
If you’d like to repeat a mantra in your mind, Leon suggested the “ultimate success mantra,” offered by Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap: “I expand in abundance, success and love every day as I inspire those around me to do the same.”
Or repeat any words that you might need that morning—like words of support or encouragement. Today might be a hard day. That’s OK. I will try to take breaks and do my best.
Take your breakfast outside. McLaughlin suggested eating outdoors to take in the morning air and light. “Being outside gives your mind a chance to wake up,” she said.
It’s also an opportunity to take it slow and savor a slice of nature before your day turns hectic. Plus, “if it’s a little chilly, your warm shower will feel more luxurious than usual.”
Take 10 minutes to create. What kind of creative acts make you happy? Set a timer for 10 minutes (or more) and do them. Maybe you draw your breakfast. Maybe you explore a funny memory for your memoir. Maybe you think about the traits of a new character for your new novel. Maybe you write a poem about the morning sky.
Read something you love. At the end of the day, many of us can’t wait to snuggle under the covers with a good book. McLaughlin especially loves reading thrillers, which helps her to relax and quiet her mind.
She recommended reading in the morning, too. “It’s infinitely easier to keep my eyes open in the morning when, instead of a phone screen or climbing out of a warm bed into the cold air, I get to indulge for a few minutes in another scene from that novel.” (Right now she’s reading the psychological thriller In the Woods by Tana French.)
What do you love to read? Maybe it’s poetry or scripture. Maybe it’s short stories or science fiction. Maybe it’s children’s books, because they always put you in a great mood. Carve out a few minutes or more to start your day with beautiful words and magical stories.
Pick one process to savor. Our environments are actually a buffet for our senses. We just don’t see it when we’re racing around. Which is understandable. And which is why it helps to have a reminder. Here’s a powerful example from Russ Harris’s book The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt on preparing tea:
Notice all the different sounds involved, listening to the changes in pitch, volume, timbre, and rhythm: the crescendo of the kettle filling up, the sharp click of the “on” switch, the rumble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam, the swoosh as you pour the water into the cup, the trickle as you lift the teabag out, and the gentle splosh as you add sugar or milk.
Notice all the different visual elements, including shapes, colors, textures and light and shadow: the thick rush of steam spouting from the kettle, the misty swirls of steam rising from the water in the cup, the light rippling on the surface as you dunk the teabag, the dark stream of tea diffusing from through the hot water, the fluffy clouds of milk billowing up to the surface.
Notice all the different body movements required: the effortless interaction of your shoulder, arm, hand and eyes as you’re lifting up the kettle, turning on the tap, replacing the kettle, pouring the water, dunking the teabag and so on.
You might focus in this way while taking a shower or studying the sky or getting ready.
You don’t have to be a “morning person” to include a ritual or two that makes you smile. After all, our mornings typically set the tone for the rest of our day. Consider how you can set a sweeter tone with one tiny change.