I am not a morning person. So why do I wake up almost every day before the sun rises, an hour before I need to get ready for work?
Because the way I start my day is a reflection of how the rest of the day will go.
For a morning ritual to stick, it needs to be inherently meaningful. It has to be aligned with our values and needs. The issue is, we see plenty of self-help articles telling us EXACTLY what to do with our mornings, rather than giving us a formula to design our own ritual. For years I tried out different rituals, and none of them stuck for long. The rituals were either too tedious, too difficult, or too exhausting for me to keep up with.
Then, one day, after I had fallen off the wagon once again, and found myself snoozing each morning until it was time to scramble out of bed half alive, throw on a mismatched outfit and run out the door guzzling coffee, I decided it was high time I slow down and listen to my own inner navigation system a bit. This was not helping me in any area of my life. Starting my morning in such a hurried fashion made the whole day feel rushed, even if it was not.
But then, a quote from a morning meditation that I love by David Gandelman came to mind, “If you start your day grounded, your day tends to be grounded.” I knew, intuitively, that a morning ritual was essential to feeling grounded, present, and productive in my life. But I also knew that I needed to create a habit unique to my needs and my personal style in order to stick with it.
Today I’m going to present you with a basic formula to design your own three part morning ritual, a routine to help you start each day centered and aligned. For this ritual to be effective, there are a few important things to consider.
First, keep it simple.
Do not overcomplicate this process. If you say, well three steps is great, but I want to do this fourth or fifth or sixth step in – well, that’s great if you have the time. But if you make the ritual too complicated or long then you run the risk of dropping the whole thing out the window after that one night that you are struck with insomnia or stay out too late or have an early morning work meeting.
That said, feel free to include “optional add ons” but do not make these part of the essential three part process. For example, I have yoga as an optional add on to my morning routine. The reality is, most days I don’t have time for it, but it’s a nice thing to keep in mind if I do.
In general, try not to drag out the morning ritual beyond an hour. Mine usually takes me 30 minutes, but I wake up 45-60 minutes before I need to get going, so I don’t rush the ritual. Whatever your ritual takes, add 15 minutes of buffer to avoid the danger zone of “Oh, I can’t today, because blah blah blah.”
Second, while you shouldn’t overcomplicate it, DO commit to ALL components of this morning ritual.
If you make the core components optional under certain circumstances, your nagging desire to hit snooze will get the best of you when the brain is offline and unable to fight off powerful old habits. You’ll snooze your way down to a two part ritual, to a one part ritual, to one half of a one part ritual, to all-out snooze-city in no time.
Lastly, take time to consider the elements of your ritual, but once you find the activities that work for you, stick with it.
The desire to experiment with new rituals is often the brain’s sneaky way of derailing us. In order for something to become a HABIT, it has to be automatic, and that process can’t take place if you keep switching up the routine.
This ritual is designed to center you in three strategic areas. That way, you can come into the day grounded not just physically, but also in your thoughts, your plans, and your attitude. You can rearrange the three steps to fit your basic needs. I find it helpful to start with the task that is least mentally challenging for my not-a-morning-person brain, and then moving up to the most demanding of the tasks. So I’ll have the steps arranged the way I personally flow through them each day, but you may prefer a different order. The most important thing is to make it YOURS.
OK, ready for the three part formula? Here it is.
Step One: Align The Body
The first step is to do something that engages the physical senses. This can be anything that engages sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. The goal of this task is to awaken the body mindfully. Avoid anything that involves the use of language for this. Here are some examples:
-Mindfully drink a cup of green tea
-Watch the sunrise on your balcony
-Listen to some binaural beats or singing bowls or songbirds outside your window
-Gaze at a candle
-Do a few sun salutations
-Walk (deliberately or briskly) around your block
-Do 50 crunches
What is my body ritual? I place peppermint essential oil on my temples and wrists, then place one drop on my hands, rub my hands vigorously together, and inhale deeply. It takes 30 seconds.
Step Two: Align the Mind
The second step is to do something cognitive. This is anything that involves words, written or spoken. The cognitive task is to intentionally choose your mindset for the day. Here are some options:
-Free write stream of consciousness style
-Read a poem
-Read, listen to, say out loud, or write down affirmations
-Write a letter to yourself
-Make a gratitude list
-Recite a mantra
-Sing or listen to a song with words
What is my mind ritual? I write a “letter to the universe,” almost in the form of a prayer, sharing my appreciation for the blessings of my life, as well as writing down my hopes and dreams for the future. It takes about 10 minutes.
Step Three: Align the Spirit
The third step crosses into the “woo woo” if you want it to, but can be performed in a secular way as well. This is anything that settles you, gives you perspective, increases your sense of connection or meaning or purpose. Here’s some ideas:
-Concentrate on the breath (mindfulness meditation)
-Lay on the ground and take in the shear enormity of the sky
-Visualize what you want to manifest in your life
-Spend a few minutes reverently sitting in front of an alter or vision board that contains items or pictures that bring you joy, peace, and motivation
Full Blown Woo:
-Do a tarot card reading
-Do a chakra alignment visualization
-Pray to your higher power
What is my spirit alignment? I light three candles for the three refuges in Buddhism, practice a combination of mindfulness and metta meditation for 20 minutes, and bow to each candle as I blow it out.
As with any new habit, once you find three things that work in the areas of body, mind, and spirit, make sure to stick with them for at least 60 days to make it a habit!
Feeling motivated to take back your morning? I’d love to hear your three part morning ritual!