Ponder your typical morning now, and compare this to pre-Coronapocalypse. What is different, better, or worse? For me, pre- Covid, mornings were always started unnaturally early, with far more rush and stress trying to get kids dressed and finally to school. Generally, an hour of yelling and searching for matching shoes for unwelcoming feet, and culminating in a full out sprint into school before the “tardy bell.” To be honest, the idea of a morning ritual before the school rush seemed more than impossible- completely absurd! I do remember the moment they got into the school building, after the wave of guilt for my incessant yelling at them had passed, a sweet appreciation for the sudden exercise as we raced to beat the bell, and some restorative breaths as I walked back to the minivan. That climax, I suppose, was the closest thing I had to a morning ritual, but clearly wasn’t the ideal start for a Lifestyle Medicine specialist’s (or anybody, for that matter) day. I knew I needed a shift, but the thought of morning silence would require even earlier awakenings, which was COMPLETELY off-limits. Knowing the importance of precious sleep to optimal health, I refuse to sacrifice those sweet REM dreams, and until recently, that great ritual idea trailed off to a “one day. . . . “ stream. Knowing successful changes begin with realistic goals, I’ve adapted my mornings with 3 simple shifts and now feel a whole new pleasure with my days, and more presence with my kids.
Undeniably, we are all sick of this never-ending pandemic, but my innate optimist voices the amazing opportunity it has offered to shift our daily behavior. Sometimes any deviation from our baseline is a blessing, as it shows us we CAN make changes. Adding a bit of intention and purpose-driven baby-steps can completely shift a morning poop-show to a day of mindful intention.
Don’t get me wrong- I still have 3 kids under 9. Even after my Covid- prompted, “re-definition of my morning ritual”, the event itself remains a moody giant. My mornings often begin bleary-eyed next to an “I had a bad dream” visitor (who head-butted me all night), wondering why he seems so happy and well-rested. The morning rolls right into various elephantine noises from upstairs or bottom wipes. I then try to decipher what role I’m supposed to play today- Am I a doctor? A PreK, 2nd Grade, and 4th Grade teacher? A yoga teacher? Or, is it a weekend (when I realize we have to come up with some hike or entertainment before I lose my mind) day?
Kid Friendly Morning Ritual, Step 1: Start with Gratitude and 3 Deep Breaths.
So, how might a kid-packed morning ritual look? Messy, but adorable! Start by defining a framework that works for your family. Depending on the ages and sleep schedules of your kids, give yourself grace as to what time your “ritual” begins. Sometimes, midst the gargantuan banging noises that are synonymous with a 5-year-old in the morning, my ritual begins with 3 deep breaths of gratitude during the noise. Sometimes my gratitude is a hands-on 20second hug with one of those little bears. Rarely, it’s 3 breaths in pure silence before the chaos has begun.
Kid Friendly Morning Ritual, Step 2: Include Movement and Personal Growth. Move Your Body and Feed Your Soul.
Most days, the ritual takes a breakfast-making detour, but I try hard to keep the gratitude theme going. I strive to appreciate the kids, or the warmth of my tea, or the view out the window. After the kids are fed and settled, I try to catch some exercise and feed my inner- student. For me, that’s a walk with a herbal medicine audio-lesson, a Lifestyle Medicine podcast, or listening to a Spanish audiobook (This is on days my husband and I can tag-team watching the kids). On other days, I stay inside for a yoga practice, (which often includes little visitors), or even High Intensity Interval Training with mandatory kid participation.
Choosing some exercise that YOU enjoy is key to staying with it, as this ritual should feed YOUR soul, not just check the “exercise today” box. Do it, even if it’s just 5 minutes. Physical activity is a quick way to improve your mood, energy, and well, reduce your chance of disease or dying, so it’s a must have in your ritual in whatever capacity you can grab it.
 Darren ER Warburton, et al. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006;174(6):801-809. Doi:10.11503/cmaj.051351
Kid Friendly Morning Ritual, Step 3: WAIT ONE HOUR BEFORE WORK, EMAILS, SOCIAL MEDIA!
One of the greatest challenges for me is this final piece: Keep work and social media OUT of your first and last hours of the day. This is a game-changer. Inevitably, the urge to get ahead of the day, reply to an email, pay a quick bill results in a complete shift away from the intentional, mindful, grateful day we are planning. The potentially nourishing, inspirational walk then decays into a frustration-fest, as we run through the “have to”/”should have done”s rather than the “want to”/ “ am becoming”s. Waiting until we are nourished to pursue the outside world will lessen the perception of stress and overwhelm, and improve our sense of control.
When unwilling to sacrifice more precious sleep to arrange a morning ritual, this plan may be just the ticket towards more enjoyable days. After employing these three steps, my mornings have shifted from frustration to “calmer” chaos and a much better perspective. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas for a fitting ritual to start your day off beautifully and intentionally.
Suzannah Bozzone, MD is a Board Certified Family Physician, Lifestyle Medicine Diplomate, certified yoga teacher, and expert in chronic disease reversal. She is the co-founder of TRUE HEALTH JOURNEY, a telemedicine practice that provides individual and group support. She has been featured in Delta Sky Magazine, HealthScope Magazine, Thrive Global, and is the co-author of the book “Lucy Cate and the Yummy Rainbow.” To book a virtual appointment, group series, or for more information, visit www.mytruehealthjourney.com