“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Your mornings set the tone for the rest of the day. We all know this. If you get off to a bad start, oftentimes the rest of your day follows suit.
The best way to combat this is to come up with a meaningful morning practice that acts as a buffer between getting up and starting your day, and puts you in the right headspace to go out and face the world. (Or do whatever it is you do, on a day-to-day basis.)
It gives you a space in the morning where you know you can be mindful to help you strive for mindfulness for the rest of your day, and it also kick starts your body and mind.
What is a Morning Practice?
It can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be. I like to think of mine as a set of rituals. I get up, drink some water, and then do yoga and Shiva Nata. After that, I ground, center, and then meditate for five to ten minutes.
Then I shower, get dressed, sit down at my desk, and do a daily one card tarot draw, recording it in my journal. After all of that, I can boot up the computer and write my words for the day.
It sounds awfully involved when it’s listed like that. In actuality, it only takes thirty to sixty minutes, and it has enough factors that it can be tweaked depending on how I’m feeling in the morning and how much time I have to spend on it.
You might notice that it includes not only physical activities, and not solely mental activities, either; it’s a good blend of both. It doesn’t do a lot of good to start the day mentally awake but with a stiff and sluggish body, and it doesn’t do any good to start the day with your body warmed up but your mind not.
Exercise will get your blood flowing. It also makes you feel more energized and provides a rush of endorphins (basically, chemicals that make you feel awesome). Who wouldn’t want to start their day off with that?
There’s just as many options for waking up mentally. Meditation is another activity with well proven benefits, and it’s so simple that you can do it without any tools at all. If you like, though, you can listen to music without words or sounds to help you along. I like beach or water noises, personally.
I’d suggest starting out with an easily manageable chunk of time, just a few minutes, and then working your way up to ten minutes or longer. I’d also suggest meditating after exercising, so that there’s less risk of falling back asleep!
Another option is writing. I use 750words.com. It’s the digital version of the morning pages exercise from The Artist’s Way. Or you can write three pages by hand—whichever works better for you. This is especially useful for writers, because it lets us get all of the “gunk” out of our head. That way, when we sit down to write again later in the day, we have clear minds.
And of course, there’s always prayer, if that works with your personal worldviews.
Building Your Practice
If you don’t currently have a morning practice, don’t design something long and complicated when you’re starting off. I started off with five minutes of yoga. That was it. Then I went up to fifteen minutes, added a few minutes of meditation, added the daily draw and writing, and the Shiva Nata came last, very recently.
I first began six or seven months ago, so it does take time to build a balanced morning practice. But it’s so worth it to start with just one small change today. There’s nothing like starting your day off feeling fabulous, physically and mentally.
Photo by Shaun Scholtz.