How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine

While working from home, it’s easy to feel like you no longer have a morning — 9 AM blurs into 1 PM and suddenly it’s 7 PM and you’re still chipping away at a project. Before the pandemic, I had big plans to develop a consistent morning routine. I was doing pretty well and then I sort of hit a consistency wall recently. When I get busy, my brain tricks me into believing that it’d be better for me to work during every waking hour. I forego my yoga, morning meditation and practice session believing that I’ll get more done if I do so. However, I find that in doing so I actually feel more stressed and unproductive. So today, I decided to take my mornings back in the midst of a busy week and fought through the guilt of “not having enough time” to just chill. The truth is, you always have enough time to just chill, even if it’s only for three minutes– you just need to schedule and prioritize it.

“If you study successful people, one thing that you’ll notice really quickly is that they share a bunch of similar habits — and the daily ritual is one of them…And being busy isn’t an excuse. In fact, the busier that you get, the more you need it”

CTO of Twitpic, Steve Corona

Lately, I’ve realized the way I start my morning has a huge impact on the rest of my day. Last spring, I got the urge (as many do) to beginning jogging along some beautiful nature trails along the Rio Grande River. About 3 times a week I would opt outdoors instead of doing yoga in the morning. Those moments of movement and tuning into my breath alongside the chirping of birds was life giving and made the rest of my day more productive and less stressful. As winter settled in, I stopped going to the Bosque as much and really missed that aspect of my morning routine. So today, I resurrected my running and it felt so good.

To be clear — I’m not advocating for you to get up at 5 am and run a marathon. I’ve never been a super early riser and I’m by no means an experienced runner. However, I don’t feel like I really need to be to get the benefits from a mindful morning routine. Of course, different people will find different routines to be most beneficial for them. For me, simply taking the first few minutes or sometimes hour of my day for some calm “me” time is where the real magic lies.

Here are a few tips to help you cultivate some calm at the beginning of your day.

How to Create A Mindful Morning Routine

When you’re first establishing a habit, it’s easy to get a little ahead of yourself and establish goals that may be too big. In my initial plan I wanted to do 30 minutes of yoga or Bosque jogging every weekday followed or preceded by at least 5 minutes of breath meditation. Despite my efforts to follow one of Adriene’s 30 day yoga journeys, I found it just wasn’t happening consistently. So instead of giving up on my instant yogi dreams, I decided to scale back my goal which brings me to the first tip — start small.

Start Small

In Pilar Gerasimo’s book,  The Healthy Deviant: A Rule-Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy In an Unhealthy World, she advocates for what she calls “The Three Minute Morning Ritual” as one of her “three renegade rituals for holistic well-being.” When I first read this, I was a bit shocked by the timestamp– three minutes?! My instagram feed often tells me that I need to do an hour of HIIT to feel really on top of my morning game! Nope. Soon you’ll find that sometimes 3 minutes leads to 20 and then to 45 and then before you know it you’ve suddenly become somebody who has a morning routine. So what do you do in these three minutes? The good news is it’s as simple as it sounds.

Here are Pilar’s instructions:

  • When you wake up, before you do anything else (especially looking at your phone or laptop,) choose any activity that makes you feel good and do it for at least three minutes. This could include mindful activities like meditation, yoga, stretching, reading, journaling, stepping outside and listening to the birds or playing an instrument.
  • Before and during your morning ritual, avoid all exposure to technology, media, news etc. No texts, email, social media.
  • You might use the last few minutes of your practice to set your intention for the day, visualize how you want it to go or reflect on something you’re grateful for.
  • End your practice with three deep breaths.

And that’s it! You may start out doing one thing in your three minutes and then over time you might find that you’d rather meditate or go for a walk instead. Find what feels good and remember that your minimum commitment for whatever practice you choose is three minutes. This simple, three-minute practice is where your new morning ritual begins.

Here are a few additional tips for starting your day mindfully:

  • Plan Ahead– “Creating a mindful morning routine is all about intentionality. Early risers, and those who have effective morning routines, plan their day on paper. The best strategy that has worked for me for years, as well as many other people is to plan tomorrow on paper tonight. It’s highly effective to have an evening boundary, where you stop your work for the day, in order to properly plan the next day,” says Jeff Sanders, author of The 5 AM Miracle.
  • Ignore Technology– “I highly recommend you don’t watch television, or even check email until you have completed your most important morning habit. Technology is enticing, but it’s also a major distraction that prevents us from doing what we know is best for us,” says Sanders.
  • Move Slowly-Instead of jolting yourself awake, scrolling your iPhone in bed and immediately going into work mode with some loud music, slow way down. According to Pilar, “Waking more gently lets you take advantage of important theta-brainwave states and ramp up more gradually toward demanding tasks. Regularly adhering to a simple morning ritual also helps you build self-efficacy, develop mindfulness and equanimity, and prepare for a successful day. It lets you start the day on your own terms.”
  • Set a timer to hold yourself to the three minutes.

And finally, notice and track how you feel when you incorporate your three-minute practice into your morning. Starting the morning out mindfully may help you feel less stressed and more focused throughout your whole day. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

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