Many of the worlds most influential people abide by a personal morning ritual. The great names in business and spirituality like Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, Marie Forleo, Oprah Winfrey and Gabby Bernstein all have their unique ways of starting their day.
Each morning that you wake is like a rebirth, a blank canvas from which to paint your experience. You only get one opportunity per day to begin your composition with exactly the right intention.
So, how do you begin to paint?
What is the first thing you do when you wake? Do you stop to feel grateful for waking, or are you groaning into the darkness as your phone alarm sounds?
Do you open your ears to drink in sound, or are you reaching for your phone to check the contents of your inboxes?
Do you take a few mindful inhalations and exhalations, or does your breath unconsciously quicken as you remember that deadline, or that email that has to be responded to right now.
Are you present to the aliveness in your body? Honouring it with a light stretch or some gentle movement? Or is the only thing moving your thumb as it scrolls through social media?
Are you intentional or hurried as you dress for work?
Do you eat somewhere quiet, on the run, or not at all?
The importance of a morning ritual
Life can be lived on autopilot, or in great presence. How you wake up and how you begin your morning often sets the tone for the whole day.
I often hear my clients say they’re too busy to honour a morning ritual. But that logic doesn’t add up. Should I ask them if they are busier than Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris or Steve Jobs, all of which have (had) consistent rituals?
Brendon Burchard, the author of High Performance Habits, talks about daily rituals in his books. He tells us how important a morning routine is for a healthy, happy and productive day. He also talks about another gigantic problem, and perhaps the most pervasive addiction of our time: waking up to a phone.
In High Performance Habits Brendon offers an astounding statistic. If you look at your phone (or computer or any other device) within the first 60 minutes of waking, for more than 7 days in a row, your daily productivity decreases by 30%.
30%. Let that sink in.
Even if you don’t identify as a high performer, you may still want to take note. Throughout the book, Brendon often equates productivity with overall happiness. Which means beginning the day on your phone is a pretty solid drop in joy too.
Scrolling through your phone in the morning may have become an addiction for you, so you’ll have to learn to replace that addiction with something else: something more nourishing perhaps.
Here are some of my ideas for what you could do within the first 60 minutes of waking instead. Try choosing one two or three of these, or create your own, and set a time frame (21 days is the traditional phase for instigating a new habit) from which to commit.
Morning ritual Ideas
- JUST A CUP: Make a cup of tea (or coffee) and allow your self enough time to just do this one task. Instead of to-go cups and drinking on the run, can you sit somewhere and really notice the joy of drinking a warm drink? Be present as you sip, noticing warmth, flavour and smell.
- MEDITATE: Schedule in a 10-30 minute mindfulness meditation. Creating a place to do this daily is essential to ongoing success. Set up a cushion, or a special altar, or both that is designated only for this one thing. If you don’t know how, use a guided CD or app at first, and then slowly wean off.
- CONNECT TO NATURE: Sit or walk outside for a period of time so you can mindfully observe the sights and sounds and look for all that is alive and buzzing. Are there flowers? Birds? How is the temperature of the air? Is the sky blue or are there colours from the sunrise, or maybe some clouds?
- GRATITUDE: Think up or write down at least 10 things you are grateful for. A conscious effort of gratitude first thing in the morning will train your brain to look for what is good for the rest of your day.
- PRACTICE YOGA: Create a basic morning yoga flow with gentle warming poses and some sun salutations. If you’re not sure what to do, have a teacher write a sequence for you or go online to sites like Yogaglo or you tube.
- MINDFUL TASKS: Make your bed, wash your dishes, brush you teeth, shower, or complete any other task with complete presence and appreciation.
- INTENTION SETTING: Use mirror work, affirmations or mantras to consciously announce your intention for the day. Be clear about who you want to be, how you want to live, and what you plan to achieve every single morning.
- STRATEGY SESSION: If you work for yourself or have a demanding job, perform a daily strategy session BEFORE opening any emails, messages, or looking at your phone.
Here is an example of what you might do:
- Reconnect with your larger long term goals: What is my highest intention?
- Make a contact list: Who do I need to contact today? What emails need to be sent or calls made?
- Make an action list: What tasks need to be completed, and in what order? Which are essential to be finished today, and which can be held off if needed?
- Make a self care list: What do I need to do for me today? A walk? A yoga class? A massage?
I recommend choosing however many rituals would add up to approximately one hour and write down the order in which you do them. For example your morning ritual may look something like this:
An example Morning Ritual
Stretch/Yoga for 15 mins.
Meditate for 10 mins.
Sit outside with tea for 10 mins.
Strategy session for 15 mins.
Make my bed for 10 mins.
A morning ritual prevents the overwhelm and scramble that comes from being on autopilot and in a hurry. Keeping the phone off until your ritual is complete eliminates the distraction that begins with being sucked into other peoples worlds. Each email, text or call takes us out of our clarity and into what others want from us, instead of what we want from our day.
Most importantly, starting the day with a morning ritual sends a strong message about how we value ourselves and our time. We are letting ourselves know: what I do and who I am is important.
Take some time to create your own morning ritual. Once you’ve got it set, remember these tips:
Tips for Implementing a Ritual
- Keep it simple and start small: if you’ve never done anything like this before, add one thing at a time. Try to avoid over-committing, like saying you’ll do an hour of yoga every day, when that may not be sustainable for you.
- Make an out-loud commitment about your phone boundaries. Tell your friends, or find an accountability buddy to do this with you. Get an old fashioned alarm clock, that way you can avoid the desire to check your phone when wake up in the morning
- Create your own strategy session document that you can fill out each morning.
Even if your morning ritual is super simple (like taking three big conscious breaths and pulling your knees to your chest while still lying in bed) anything is better than nothing. Even a small effort to start your day with a little more peace, and a little more intention can bring a lot more happiness, peace and productivity to your day.