About five years ago, I started a gratitude journal, and it changed my life. I had read studies showing that a daily practice of gratitude reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, and improves sleep quality, physical health, and body image (read more about that here). I figured it couldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes focusing on the positive things in my life, but I had no idea how such a simple practice would change the lens through which I saw the world every day. When we consciously spend time focusing on what is right, our brains are primed to recognize other great things that happen throughout the day. As far-reaching as it sounds, I became happier and more balanced as a person simply by adding a gratitude journal to my morning routine.
Since that time, my morning rituals have evolved significantly. I added meditation, then read the book The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod (get yours here – you won’t be sorry!), and was quickly convinced that having a morning routine dedicated to improving myself would help me feel great and be better able to serve others. My suspicions were confirmed almost immediately: even though my morning routine takes over two hours each day (including exercise), I feel I have more time during the day because my productivity and energy have skyrocketed. I no longer dread getting out of bed, or feel rushed from the moment my feet hit the floor until the moment I meet my first client of the day. When we dedicate time in the morning to ourselves, we get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and are better able to weather whatever storms life throws at us on any given day. (To maximize this feeling of satisfaction, try not checking your email before you do your morning routine – see here for more!)
I firmly believe that your healthy morning routine must be your own. You can Google “morning routines of successful people” and find hundreds of fascinating varieties. I encourage you to experiment and find what fits you. Maybe you start with one habit (as I did with the gratitude journal), give it a few weeks to develop, and slowly add on different practices. Maybe you are in a constant state of changing what you do, but you always have time set aside to do something dedicated to improving yourself. Maybe you spend 2 minutes, and maybe you spend 2 hours. It’s all individual. But whatever you do, I am confident you’ll be glad you tried it.
Here are seven practices that I include in every morning, and why I do them:
- Meditation. Meditation soothes my mind and reduces feelings of anxiety. You don’t have to be “good at” meditating – in fact, it’s those of us with the monkey minds that need meditation even more. The practice is one of awareness: being aware of thoughts as they come and go, and focusing on stillness and breath. I use the Muse headband, but I recommend Headspace or Calm for lower-cost alternatives.
- Affirmations. Reading positive statements about my goals helps me stay focused on what is important and who I want to become. Your affirmations can take any form, but I encourage you to make them present tense (“I exercise daily to boost my energy levels” vs. “I really want to exercise daily”), as well as realistic and action-oriented (“I take steps every day to get my finances under control and save money” vs. “I am a billionaire!”).
- Gratitude journal. I currently use the 5-Minute Journal, which helps me practice gratitude, identify things I can do to set my day up for success, and reflect on things that went well during each day.
- Reading. A few minutes spent reading gives me something to focus on each day and wakes up my mind. I currently read two daily passages: The Daily Stoic and More Language of Letting Go. I also learn from one video, which I listen to either while getting dressed and ready for the day, or while walking to the office. I highly recommend Brian Johnson’s PNTV episodes (he summarizes a book in a 15-minute video) or this “TED MBA” (a list of some of the best TED talks that share lessons you may learn from an MBA). Whatever you read, I encourage you to choose something inspirational and positive.
- Daily goal setting. I firmly believe in establishing goals for each day, to eliminate the feeling of “going through the motions” and put yourself in the driver’s seat of creating the best day possible. I jot down a few goals in a notebook on my desk, and check in with them again at the end of the day. I recommend this planner (which you can download for free) if you’re looking for a template.
- Exercise. I can’t say enough about moving your body in the morning. Not only do excuses (legitimate and not) come up throughout the day that may hinder your evening workout goals, but you miss out on the energy-boosting benefits of an early sweat session. Even if it means 20 jumping jacks and 20 push-ups in your bedroom, get your heart pumping within the first hour of waking … you’ll thank me later!
- Drinking apple cider vinegar and taking my supplements. I have written here about why I drink apple cider vinegar, and I recently did a video on the supplements that I take and recommend. Each person is unique, so you need to find the combination that works for you, but I generally suggest at least a good-quality probiotic and a fish oil or omega-3 supplement.
I am confident that when you create your own healthy morning routine, you’ll feel energized, productive, and focused. The early bird gets the worm, so get going!
Now it’s your turn … What is your current morning routine? Do you have goals to change or improve upon it?