The morning is enormously important. It’s the foundation from which the day is built. How you choose to spend your morning can be used to predict the kind of day you’re going to have.
When I awake in the morning, my mind gradually gathers, and I begin to move as the early morning light is just starting to seep through the windows. My family is still sleeping. It’s a peaceful beginning.
I stretch, have a glass of water, start the tea kettle, and practice a gratitude meditation for ten minutes. Then I enjoy a cup of tea as I read one chapter of a good book. And finally, I write for an hour before the busyness of the day begins.
Once my family awakes, I pause to join them for a short time and we follow some simple morning rituals together too.
This is just a rough sketch of my mornings, and they make me happy.
It wasn’t always this way though. I used to awake in a hurry, rushing and cranky before stumbling into work and errands and meetings. It was awful, but it was my life. I didn’t know any better, so I didn’t think I could change things. Thankfully, I was wrong.
I’ve changed my mornings, so they work for me and not against me, with just a few simple rituals. And I’ve shared these morning rituals with thousands of coaching clients/students over the years, and many of them come back to me a month or two later and say, “Thank you!” Perhaps they will help you as well.
1. Get an early start.
If your mornings are chaotic, the simple solution is to get up a little earlier than the chaos. This, of course, starts the night before by going to bed a bit earlier too.
Adjust gradually, wake up just 10 minutes earlier each week for the next 6-9 weeks, and you’ll barely notice the change from day to day. This extra time will help you avoid stress, speeding tickets, tardiness and other unnecessary headaches.
2. Meditate on the goodness.
Begin each day with love, grace and gratitude. When you arise in the morning think of what an incredible privilege it is to be alive – to be, to see, to hear, to think, to love, to have something to look forward to. Happiness is a big part of these little parts of your life; joy is simply the feeling of appreciating it all.
Realize that it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. Make a habit of noticing the goodness that’s already yours first thing in the morning, and you will see more goodness everywhere you look throughout the day.
3. Stretch it out.
Simple, but so often forgotten… stretching your body in the morning has these key benefits:
- Creates an increased range of movement in the body’s joints
- Enhanced muscular flexibility and coordination
- Increased circulation of the blood to various vital organs
- Increased mental and physical energy levels (resulting from increased movement and circulation)
If you’re uncertain about how to stretch properly, you can find hundreds of great tutorials on YouTube. Choose one that you think will suit you best and practice it for a minute or two every morning. You will sense a change yourself, guaranteed.
4. Drink a tall glass of water before consuming anything else.
Another obvious practice that goes by the wayside…
Your body is more than 60% water, and when you’ve been sleeping all night without drinking any water, it gets dehydrated and desperate for hydration. So quench your thirst with exactly what your body needs. Avoid drinking coffee, tea or other beverages before you have at least one tall glass of water. By doing so your body will start to wake up and you’ll naturally feel more energized and alive. (Read Healthy Habits.)
5. Keep things simple.
One of my personal mistakes several years ago was trying to fit too much into my mornings. When I first started waking up early I wanted to workout, meditate, handle household chores, read, write, cook breakfast, reply to work emails, run errands, etc., and it turns out I couldn’t do all those things. I was waking up early and stressing myself out. I made my early mornings just as packed as the rest of the day.
What has helped me is having a few key things I do early, but not being over-committed to lots of goals and agendas. I’d rather have space and flexibility, which makes the time much more peaceful and useful. So the glass of water, stretching, gratitude meditation, tea, reading and writing are the only agendas I have on most mornings, but I’m flexible with those also.
6. Do a few things that move you.
Again, DO NOT fill your mornings with things you have to do… but, DO have a few things you can’t wait to get out of bed and get started on. For me, that goes back to my short list, which includes reading and writing – two of my greatest passions. For you, perhaps a long meditative walk, yoga, prayer, painting, or simply reading the morning paper.
In other words, don’t just have a long list of things you think you should do but don’t really want to do. Give your early mornings to yourself as a gift.
7. Read, review or listen to something that nurtures your mind.
Some of the happiest and most successful people I know read a bit of scripture each morning, some read inspiring books, articles or quotes, while others listen to radio, podcasts or audio programs that move them to get their day started. The key is having a ritual focused on absorbing small doses of self-improvement content to stretch and nurture your perspective and knowledge base. It starts the day off on a positive note with positive, productive ideas to guide your day’s journey. And that’s crucial, because your thoughts guide your reality.
So indulge in something positive every morning when you awake, and let it inspire you to do something positive before you go back to sleep at night. That’s how memorable, manageable days are made. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Inspiration” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
8. Be present, breathe, and appreciate the space between activities too.
Your early morning moments aren’t just about the things you do; they’re also about the open space between the things. That means the space itself is something to be appreciated as well.
So if you meditate and read, the morning isn’t just valuable because of the meditation and reading… the space around those two activities is also incredible. The time spent walking over to your meditation mat, or finding your book, or turning the pages, or pouring a cup of tea, or sitting and watching the sunrise… these little open spaces are just as important as anything else.
Pace yourself so you’re not hurrying from one thing to the next, but instead noticing and appreciating the spaces in between, too.
9. Move on gracefully to what’s most important.
As human beings we are goal oriented. We like making progress. When we accomplish one of our goals, we smile about it. That’s why the happiest people I know are also some of the most successful people I know.
As your early morning winds down, the key is to funnel your attention directly into the right things, not the urgent things. Because at some point we all wonder, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” And the answer is stunningly simple: We’re doing too many of the wrong things.
Several research studies have shown that people never get more done by blindly working more hours on everything that comes up. Instead, they get more done when they follow careful plans that measure and track key priorities and milestones. So if you want to be more successful, less stressed, and a lot happier at the end of each day, don’t ask how to make something more efficient until you’ve first asked, “Do I need to do this at all?”
Simply being able to do something well does not make it the right thing to do. I think this is one of the most common problems with a lot of time-management advice; too often productivity gurus focus on how to do things quickly, but the vast majority of things people do quickly should not be done at all.
A great morning isn’t something that magically happens – it’s created consciously.
You don’t have to implement all these ideas, but I challenge you to try one or two and see how your mornings improve.
I bet you’ll begin to enjoy them as much as I do.
The floor is yours…
How do you like to start your mornings? What helps you start the day off right? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.
Photo by: Petr
Susan Ball says
I’ve been an early riser for years and I simply go with the flow. Whatever I feel like doing is what I do. It can be quiet contemplation, writing in my journal or reflecting on my success and how I will build on them. Listening to music or reading a book.
The only constant in my morning is a quiet mediation and my personal vow that I will Make it A Great Day!
Jason - KAC says
Very good piece. The morning is indeed a powerful time for us to get our minds in order and focus on what matters, leaving the rest behind.
An extra point to add (and part of my own personal practice) is to write in a journal as part of your morning routine. I find doing so straight after meditation (when the mind is clear) is an great way to get a handle on what you’re grateful for, and what your objectives are for the day ahead. There are many ways to go about journal writing, however I like a structured approach as in the 5 minute journal (can find on Amazon), where you consistently address key questions each morning to get the brain juices flowing. It’s useful because you can look back later and compare your progress and see what days were better than others.
Having a journal most definitely helps with your #9 of getting important stuff done first. Listing the “Top 3 achievements” for the day for instance, is a great way to have something to aim for each day. Three is good, any more than five is a stretch for most people though…
I wonder if you have any experience journal writing yourself? Have you found writing your morning pages useful to kickstart your mornings?
Thanks for the thoughts!
I’ve never been an early riser. Just the polar opposite. ..a die hard night owl. But I’ve been making some changes in my life and I know my routine had to change if I wanted a drastic life style change makeover.
After a few small attempts to meet the sun right before it reared it’s head I’d roll over on my back as whisper a heavenly good morning to my father and recite a hebrew morning prayer. With my eyes still shut from the night’s slumber I gently strectched every member in my body….it was time for deep breathing and meditation.
Swinging from one mood to the next you’ll find a book in my hand. ..just a page will do as I transition to a full awakening in a gust of cardio or strength training. Calm but focused.
I’m ready to seize the day!
Great post! Thank you for the positive message 🙂 I’m glad I found this blog!
I love this article! I think mornings are so important, whether your morning is 5 am or 9 am. It’s great to have a ritual that you can grow from positively through your day. I rise before my children, have a nice hot cup of coffee while I read the news and uplifting articles along with writing some of my own words. I then take all that mindful exercise and move on to exercising my body through a walk or yoga. Thanks for sharing your mornings with us!
I am off and on with this. I know a few sun salutations and some morning pages make me feel better, but most days I just groan and roll out of bed when the 6 am alarm goes off to get my poor middle schooler off to the bus.
And that is what I wonder. What do these poor early rising tween-teens learn about greeting the day? So dark, so early. I am looking for ways to teach, model, explain, the ideas of meditation, mindfulness, etc to my 2 young boys. Where can I find help? I always think of the joyful, grounded young Tibetan monks I encountered in the far west of China and wonder what they had learned to face the Chinese (who were never ever so happy, even tho they were “the rulers.”) Anyway, kind of rambling but would love to know re kids…
thanks for all the great inspiration on this blog!
Walk your dog. It offers outdoor air, exercise, a time to plan your day, and it gives you the gift of empathizing with another living thing who loves you and life without question.
Thank you so much for publishing this!
I will follow your advice. Everything you say is so true. My mornings are always so full of things, and I’m always in a rush.
First of all, I will try to start getting a little bit earlier each morning. Then I will have some water with lemon and stretch a few minutes. After that i will think about all the things I have in my life that I’m grateful for, and I will have a healthy and delicious breakfast in the balcony, while thinking and reflexing about life and reading one of your posts.
Thank you again, you made me really happy today!
Thank you for this article.
I start my day with Bible study, reading my Bible and prayer. And thanking God for his goodness and forgiveness. Knowing there is nothing good in me, but God helps me throughout the day to be thankful for my life and for all the many blessings He has blessed us with.
Many blessings to you for your insight and help in living life to the fullest.
This is one of my favorite posts. Before reading it I had already started my early morning ritual, and many of these these points were gradually falling into place. This post is still such a good reminder of these points though, and unlike many other ‘X number of things you should do when Y’ each point feels inspiring. That’s probably related to how well-written it is too. Thank you for this post, Marc. I review it regularly.
Karen Elaine says
Early mornings are absolutely my favorite times of the day- even in the metropolis one can enjoy the sounds of nature before the chaotic noise of machines gets started. While I try to get caught up on the news among other things, the best advice you give here is ‘to read so etching that nurtures the mind.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I am inspired….
1) TALL GLASS OF LEMON WATER
3) OUT FOR A RUN
All before 6:30 A:M:
Braja Patnaik says
I have this morning routine: Wake up at 5:00, Drink Water, Meditate, Review Goals, Go for a Run. I liked the idea you have shared about giving space between activities. I think it is really important to do things slowly and unhurriedly so as to reap the maximum benefit out of it, rather than rushing though the activities as if to tick off a checklist mechanically.
Thanks for sharing!
Hi, recently I have been an early riser. I wake up take a moment to pray and be grateful to God, I then smile get into my work out attire (I make sure I wear the entire so as to motivate me to do some stretching and jogging) 15 minutes work out gets me fully awake. I end my working out session with a 5 minute meditation. Now I can Plan my day, read a verse from the Holy Bible ‘Proverbs’ my favorite book. My morning actually kicks off. Thanks for the insights, I will add a little time to read or listen to something which will nature me plus a glass of water before taking anything. Cheers you are doing a great job, I admire.
Mayuri PATEL says
Thank your – an amazing piece on the benefits of early mornings. As an Ayurvedic practitioner I believe and promote early mornings to all. Giving yourself quality ‘me’ time is absolutely essential. To start the day and to build and refil your own personal cup.
I do all the above plus more. I wake up at 3:30-4am just because I’m greedy for lots of me time. I meditate, listen to lectures, music, dance, have an amazing Ayurvedic cleansing routine which involves auto massage, oil pulling, and much much more. I love my stretches, going outside and standing on the grass allowing the morning dew to absorb into my feet. And thanking the elements for yet another day. Being grateful and doing mirror work allows me just express abundance of gratitude. It’s essential to be focused and give this time to yourself.
I’m a huge believer of me time. And think the world needs more of it. I guess when people ask me why I’m always content or smiling, or always full of energy. I believe it’s my me time that allows me to maintain my day.
Meditation/ gratitude or prayer. What ever it may be is just some personal time to connect, reflect and allow us to be still
Ayurveda states the morning hours are essential and powerful. For reflection and for the mind ‘brahma muhurta’ soul conscious hours. We were brought up to study at these hours when we were younger. Now through personal choice we spend them hours on us learning in a different way.
I’m so grateful for this time.
Have a splendid day ahead ….
I have been enjoying being grateful and feeling joyful everyday the past few months thanks to my daily morning rituals. I used to be an angry person and now I realized I have become a calm and better person than I was. I noticed too that a lot of people now notice the joy and peace that I have in me. My morning rituals are so simple I truly recommend this to anyone to just try. When I wake up, I would kneel down and thank GOD for the opportunity that I see another beautiful day, for the beautiful day that I will have and for the healthy body that keeps me going everyday. Then after that, I meditate for about 10 minutes (if I am late for the train I try at least 5 minutes but never miss a day) and then I get out of my bedroom and drink a glass or 2 or lemon water. That is it. So simple yet made a whole lot of difference in my life now.
Tall Glass of water
Plan my day whilst taking it through with my horse and going about his daily routine.
Its hard to get your head in a mind set for yourself sometime and reading this has given me the push to do just that. Get up a little earlier and spend some time on my own before rushing around after everyone/thing else.