If you’re a
space alien morning person then you can save yourself some time and stop reading now. There’s nothing here for you, with your bouncing out of bed and your chirpy Good morning! and your ability to navigate the world wholly uncaffeinated.
But if you’re like me, an easily overstimulated introvert who is often all peopled out; if every morning is like a difficult birth, a cruel expulsion from the warm womb of your bed into a harsh, rambunctious, overlit reality that expects you to function as an adult and operate the coffee machine and be civil before midday, then read on.
For there is a secret to making your transition from dreamy to dexterous a calmer one, involving fewer expletives, hardly any tantrums, and considerably less broken crockery.
The secret is to have a morning routine.
Why Have A Morning Routine?
The morning routine works for three main reasons.
First, it is a routine, a set order of steps, a series of actions that occur on automatic pilot. This removes the great enemy of the newly awake and uncaffeinated brain: decision making. The decisions have been pre-made – the scrambled mind need only follow the routine. Very little thinking is required. Which is perfect, because at that point very little thinking is pretty much all we’re capable of.
Second, it protects you in your fragile state from known irritants in the outside world – from annoying people who expect you to speak in coherent sentences through to information that requires active brain cells for processing. A morning routine lets you slowly build up your stamina before you have to cope with such gruelling demands.
Third, it sets you up well for the day. You check in with yourself. You’re more conscious. You clarify what matters, what you want from yourself.
Sounds good, right? So what are the elements of the ideal morning routine?
What Is The Perfect Morning Routine?
Here’s my 7-step prescription for a great morning routine.
1. Stretch, Rise, Throw Back The Covers
While still in bed, take a moment to gloriously extend your limbs, neck, ankles, wrists, hips, torso. I find it helps to moan and carry on a bit, really drawing out the pleasure of streeeeeetching your body.
It feels nice – enjoy it!
Next, get out of bed and throw back those covers. This step lets your bed breathe for a while and signals that you have left the womb. Tada! We are bleary eyed and vague, but we have emerged.
It is the cutting of the cord. But less ew.
2. Defer Devices
I can see the terror in your eyes as you read this but trust me, avoiding the internet is key. In your delicate condition, difficult news or a troubling email or an ambiguous comment on social media can instantly wreck your mood or cause you to completely overreact (this has never happened to me) and set you up for a crapful day.
I know you’ll be tempted – we all are. Although I’ve been using this morning ritual for many months now, I still fight the urge to grab my phone and sneak a somnambulant check-in.
But unless you’re right on the verge of curing cancer or ending poverty and every update matters, resist.
Just try it for a few days and see how you feel.
3. Make Yourself A Delicious Breakfast
For me breakfast is piping hot, grainy toast with melty butter and a strong flat white. I’ve been having the same breakfast for years and I just love it. I’ve worked out the timing so the coffee and toast are ready at the same time, like an operatic crescendo of melding harmonies. (It’s possible I may be overly dramatic about my breakfast.)
As a Sunday ritual Craig and I treat ourselves to large, oven-warmed croissants with butter and raspberry confiture, and of course coffee.
This is not the time to force-feed yourself kale smoothies (unless they make you feel good). This is the time to enjoy something nourishing and delicious. Something good for your body and mind.
4. Do Something Enjoyable While You Have Breakfast
What would make breakfast time more pleasant for you?
I complete the Sydney Morning Herald quick crossword on my iPad (the crossword is on a timer, which keeps me disciplined about staying off email and social media). It’s fun, and as a writer I like having a daily vocabulary challenge.
I know people who love to sit on their balconies and watch the world wake up, or who feel stimulated by reading a motivational book, or some who even talk to family members, which seems awfully brave and foolhardy to me, but to each their own.
Don’t use this time to stress yourself out over email or yell at people on Facebook or howl at the state of the world. You can do all that later.
If you have family or housemates who expect to engage with you at this time, consider resetting expectations. No need to make a big thing of it, simply say something like:
I’ve noticed I’m crabby in the morning so I want to try a new morning ritual and see how that works. I’m going to sit in the spare room by myself and have my cereal and read a novel for 20 minutes every morning.
If you have little ones and a partner, you could each take turns to get your 20 minutes.
If you have little ones and no partner, you may have to *DUN DUN DUN!* leave the
wombbed earlier. I’m no fan of rising any earlier than strictly necessary but I think this may just be worth it.
5. Have An Inspiring Morning Activity
Next, spend some time – 5, 10, 20 minutes, whatever you can manage – doing something that motivates or inspires you, or clarifies what’s important to you right now. Something that sets a good direction for your day, for what you want to achieve and how you’d like to comport yourself.
For me, this is my version of Julia Cameron’s morning pages. It’s a kind of self-therapy where I write with abandon about whatever – it could be downloading something swirling around in my brain, troubleshooting a personal or professional problem, giving myself a pep talk,
horrendously overanalyzing something trivial, exploring an idea – anything at all.
I never censor myself and I never re-read (couldn’t if I wanted to, as my scrawl is indecipherable, composed entirely of such brilliant nuggets as harden of antelope Toblerone).
Regardless, I use a beautiful Lamy pen and Moleskine journal, so the process is rather lovely.
Many people like to do a meditation practice, which is a fine idea. (Sadly my attempts at meditation have not been successful and have usually involved my screaming at various people and inanimate objects to be quiet so I could be serene in peace.)
6. Make The Bed
Making your bed is one of those tiny, undervalued tasks that more than returns the time and effort it takes, giving you a precious feeling of peace and order. It makes going to bed that night a much nicer experience too.
After a couple of weeks of bed-making you’ll be able to whip through it in about 3 minutes. It looks good, it feels good.
Make the bed even if you live alone. Even if no one else in your home appreciates it (they probably won’t). Even if you think it’s a waste of time because you’ll only mess it up again tonight. Even still.
If you aren’t a regular bed-maker then it may feel like unnecessary work for a couple of weeks. Persevere. If you’re not convinced by the end of that time, I set you free from this step.
7. Dress Your Best
Whether you spend your days walking the catwalk or cleaning the kitty litter, take care in your self-presentation.
Wear flattering clothes, do something you like with your hair, cultivate a good posture. Carry an attractive handbag or satchel. Have a little style.
Because you’ll feel ready for the day, you’ll feel bien dans sa peau – a lovely French expression that means feeling good in your skin.
Wouldn’t you like to go about your day feeling good in your skin?
Bien sûr, you whisper breathlessly, all Jane Birkin. Why, you little minx, you!
What is Your Personal Ideal Morning Routine?
Do you have a morning routine of your own? I’d love to hear it!
Just let me finish my croissant and crossword first.