let’s talk about some of the things you might want to add to your morning routine. Everyone’s ideal morning routine will be different, so the suggestions on this list are meant to be starting points, not a step-by-step guide (especially because who would have time for this all???). A morning routine might also involve some creative maneuvering to implement (like waking up a little earlier to fit in some solo time before your kids wake up, or involving them in your routine somehow). Experiment with what works for you, and remember that the key is consistency.
1. Stretch your body.
I didn’t want to put exercise on this list because I’m a firm believer that you’re either a morning workout person or you’re not, and no listicle on SELF is going to convince you to add exercise to your morning routine if you don’t want to.
But—but—anyone can enjoy a good stretch in the morning. It doesn’t have to be a full-on yoga routine or even have the purpose of supplementing your regular workout. It can just be a way to get your blood flowing and, TBH, to tap into the nice feeling of a good streeetch. Of course, stretching properly to avoid injury is extra important, especially in the a.m., when you might be stiff and not properly warmed up. This full-body stretch is a good place to start.
2. Drink some water.
The benefits of drinking water are well documented. You know you should be hydrating throughout the day, but a glass of water in the morning kind of gets the whole process going. Not just physiologically (because, hey, you’re getting some water in your body after eight-ish hours of not drinking), but also mentally. Anyone else sometimes make it to noon or later only to realize they haven’t, uh, had a drop of the stuff? Making a habit of knocking back your first glass in the morning can help a lot. Some people even go as far as setting out a glass of water on their bedside table the night before. I have a friend who swears by this, but since I’m team #coldwater all the way, I make sure to pop a fresh jug in the fridge before bed so it’s just how I like it in the morning. Whatever works for you!
3. Write or review your daily to-do list.
For some people an ideal morning is a protected bubble wherein work isn’t allowed. Totally valid. But for others (like me!), it’s the perfect time to get some strategizing done before becoming distracted by the inevitable deluge of emails or slate of meetings. When you take the time to write out or review your game plan for the day, you’re once again getting ahead of making decisions based on your mood.
This is great for productivity, yes, but planning is important on a larger scale too. My favorite explanation for the importance of planning your tasks and schedule ahead of time comes from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. He writes, “When we don’t purposely and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people—our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families—will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.
4. Do something fun or creative.
The idea of a “routine” kind of has a no-nonsense connotation that you get shit done. But, honestly, one of the best things I added to my morning is playing video games as I drink my coffee. Seriously, I currently start my day with Pokémon Shield. Making time for something fun and silly helps me conceptualize the morning as its own unique segment of my day rather than just a prelude to work—which in turn makes it easier to wake up because my alarm clock no longer signifies the beginning of the daily grind but the start of a two-hour chunk that is peaceful and focused on me time.
You might not be a video game person, so here are some other ideas: streaming an episode of TV, crafting, dancing around to pump-up music, playing with your pets, reading, trying a new breakfast recipe, or whatever fun or creative activity you usually reserve for another time of day.
5. Write morning pages.
You might brush off writing in the morning as something just for, well, writers, but it can be a really good practice for anyone who wants to live more creatively or engage in more self-reflection. Officially, morning pages are the brainchild of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. She encourages people to start the day with three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing—“whatever crosses your mind”—and claims doing so will improve your life across the board, including by getting you more in touch with your emotions. She writes, “Working with the morning pages, we begin to sort through the differences between our real feelings, which are often secret, and our official feelings, those on the record for public display.”
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