A morning ritual is one of the highest forms of self-care. We’re literally putting ourselves first. When we do this each morning, it helps train us to put ourselves first throughout our life. This is not selfish, it’s necessary. If we keep putting others’ needs ahead of our own, never taking the time to replenish our reserves, we will eventually run out. A morning ritual refuels us every day, keeping our life running smoothly.
The morning sets the tone for the day. Instead of looking at the news or checking email first thing, do something calming and uplifting. Make a list of what you’re grateful for. Read something inspiring. Listen to music that evokes joy.
The natural world soothes us. We are animals, after all, and being outdoors feels … well, natural! Simply stepping outside can calm us down if we are stressed. We become grounded and centered. Our breathing slows as we unconsciously mirror the peaceful rhythms of nature. We are taken beyond ourselves as we pay attention to the sights, sounds, and scents around us. We are refreshed and rejuvenated.
We access our deepest selves when we get still and quiet. We become aware of how we are feeling, and what our inner voice is whispering.
There are many ways to sit in stillness; you don’t have to meditate in a lotus position for an hour. You can get comfortable in a chair and simply pay attention to your breath, or silently repeat a word or phrase (like “peace” or “All is well”). You can sit outside and lose yourself in nature. You don’t even have to sit, actually. The rhythm of walking or a movement practice like yoga can lull your mind into that calm state.
Exercise invigorates you, not only physically but also mentally. It leaves you energized and enthusiastic and clears your mind. If you can incorporate some form of movement into your morning ritual, it will jumpstart your day.
When you start the day thinking about what’s good in your life and feeling thankful for it, you clear the pathway for more good to come. Look for things to appreciate, and you will find more and more of them.
Gratitude is an easy practice. In any given moment, you can find something to be grateful for, and you can do this at any time. Think about the fact that you are breathing with no effort at all—what a miracle!
We all hold tension in our bodies. Often we are unconsciously clenched and don’t even realize it. Our muscles hold tension even while we sleep. Stretching as part of your morning ritual will release that tension and help you start the day in a calmer frame of mind.
You don’t necessarily have to add anything to your day. If you can cultivate mindfulness as you go about your usual activities, it can have the same restorative effect as a morning ritual. Breathing deeply when you wake up, pausing to feel your feet on the floor before you get out of bed, paying attention to the sensation of warm water flowing over your skin in the shower, watching the clouds while sipping your coffee—these practices can all calm and center you, and they don’t take any extra time.
Take that time you already spend in the shower or eating breakfast or commuting to work, and make it yours. Quiet your thoughts by focusing on sensations: your breath as it passes your lips, the air or water on your skin, the sounds around you. Breathe slowly and deeply. Close your eyes if you can. Try saying a lovingkindness meditation: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be filled with peace.” Pray. Count your blessings. Sing your favorite song in your head. The point is to claim those minutes entirely for yourself, to nourish your soul and connect you to yourself.
As you consider what you want your morning ritual to look like, be true to yourself. The entire point of creating a morning ritual is to treat yourself well. Experiment with a variety of ideas and see what makes you feel best.
Your ritual doesn’t need to be elaborate. There is power in simplicity. What tiny tweaks could you make to your current routine that might have a positive effect? What easy practice could you implement tomorrow? Start small and build from there.
Excerpted from A Beautiful Morning: How a Morning Ritual Can Feed Your Soul and Transform Your Life by Ashley Ellington Brown
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