On most days I wake hours before the sun rises. I’m eager to get up and going, mainly to have the time alone until my husband’s alarm clock informs us it’s time to begin another day.
I collect my things beneath the glow of the universe nightlight projected on the ceiling while my feet shift into auto-pilot, avoiding creaky floorboards that could wake my husband.
I walk gently out of the room where the pack of cats are waiting for me on the other side of the door. We make our descent down the stairs to the main floor where the aroma of fresh brewed coffee fills the air. The echos of them trailing behind me fade into the darkness of the stairwell.
All is quiet, calm and still. Including my body and mind.
Productive morning routines are trending. How much can we accomplish during those early hours? Even our ‘self improvement’ and ‘life hack’ tactics aren’t necessarily intended to make us healthier, although I could argue some do, but the ultra productive morning routine is a mere symptom of a larger issue — the current state of everything is to be in it solely for the gain.
I vote we slow down and here’s why: if our primary purpose for independent creator careers and entrepreneurship (and the recent popularity of running for miles at 5:00 AM) is to overload ourselves before our “work day” begins then we are missing the point.
Wouldn’t bettering ourselves automatically better everything else in our lives? Wouldn’t focusing on maintaining our health, limiting our consumption and managing our stress be considered a productive morning routine?
Until three years ago I had the same morning routine for my entire adulthood up to that point — start running when my feet hit the ground. This collaborated well with my nighttime routine of falling asleep the instant my body hit the bed, but this is no way to live. Not for me, anyway.
This was back when “lifestyle” changes were all the rage, BTW.
I’ve never taken a single moment of being a wife and a mother, and having a full time career for granted, but with all of my attention focused on serving others, I went decades without serving myself. Now I’m feeling it and it’s motivated me to bump myself up on the priority list.
I steadily implemented what I want and need more of into my life and through trial and error, ditched what didn’t help. It’s not a designed routine. I’m human and therefore a creature of habit.
1. No electronic devices.
Notifications, immediate access to the news and scrolling through endless social media feeds is an information overload for me and my brain shuts down. It’s not that I think these things are entirely bad for me but in the morning it’s more stimuli than the capacity of what my “waking up” brain can process.
When I do finally touch base with the World Wide Web I’m still rather strict about it. Every morning I email my friend before starting anything else. Then, I stay off of social media until I’m on my late morning break from writing.
On Sunday morning my husband and I read the print edition of the local newspaper while drinking our first cup of coffee and shortly after rousing, but we toss the front page, nation and world news sections and stick with the community information, educational and historical pages.
We free ourselves from the bad and focus only on the good.
This easy, for beginners yoga practice feels amazing and worth the ten minute time investment. With each stretch I feel the stress release from my muscles and my joints break free of tension. It also calms my body, spirit and mind.
I do this practice in silence but meditation music can be found almost anywhere on the internet using Google as a search tool.
3. Hang out with my cats.
As an introvert I feel rejuvenated and more focused after spending quality time with my cats. These loving moments of non-verbal communication catapults me into creative spirit.
We tend to spice this up a bit whether we’re walking around the yard, laying in the grass or watching the sun rise through the living room window together.
Unable to audibly speak with one another, the cats and I read one another’s body language ques which are typically the same each morning.
My non-verbal message: Go away. I’m grumpy.
Cat’s non-verbal message: I’ll just sit on your lap then.
This equates to a great deal of appreciation and love.
4. I go outdoors.
This is a tough one during the subzero winter months but I still make it a point to follow through bundled up with no skin exposed. Each morning I go outside shortly after sunrise to connect with the outdoors.
I just sort of hang out, walk around and take pictures. Depending on the time of year it maybe of animal tracks in the snow, a flower blooming or a ready to harvest watermelon.
More so, according to the National Institute of health there’s evidence to back the claim up that going outdoors has significant benefits for both physical and emotional health.
5. Hand write a to- do list.
I think this habit may be my favorite. The first week of each month I write a massive list of creative and home projects I want to get done. This makes it easier to write an individual to-do list each day since I already know what my current “big” goals are.
The nice thing about writing a daily to-do list is that I can break my life down from day to day. I write the list on an index card in pencil. I use highlighter to mark the items that must get done or the sky will fall and the earth will shatter.
Once I get past the earth shattering stuff, I move on to priorities until all that remains are the “want” to do’s. This is where using pencil comes in. I can erase whatever I don’t want to do that day and it’s totally acceptable.
At the end of the day I will finalize a hard copy of what I did for the day in my notebook written in pen.