Each new morning promises a fresh start to the waking hours ahead. When you start the day on purpose, you can move forward with clarity. You can increase harmony in your relationships. And you can maximize your energy in all areas of life. In this post, I share the morning ritual I use to receive these benefits–and more–each day!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a morning person. As a kid, this definitely wasn’t cool when attending slumber parties. During one particular soccer team sleepover, my overnight bag was raided as punishment for being the first one to fall asleep. They stole my clean undies and socks which were reserved for the next morning. My friends got them wet and placed them in the freezer. I woke up the next morning to find both frozen solid! Yikes! Thankfully I lived a few houses down the street and could walk home to get a warm, dry pair before breakfast was served.
I share this in humor to let you know that these kinds of experiences did not deter me from rising early each day. For many years, though, I just lacked structure in doing so. My days would then spontaneously unfold. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Only, I wasn’t as productive as I could be. I wasn’t as aware as I could have been. And I didn’t capitalize on the joy and energy that comes from starting each day on purpose.
This morning ritual (which was originally inspired by The Miracle Morning), changed that.
Photo Credit: Ember and Earth Photography
YOUR HAND AS YOUR GUIDE
Your hand can be an incredible guide for wellbeing in your life. You have five fingers on each hand that correspond to the five basic areas of life.
- Pinky Finger: You have a body, which is a vehicle that allows you to explore this Earth environment.
- Ring Finger: Emotions are also part of your unique makeup that provides feedback about what you are experiencing in your body, mind, and relationships.
- Middle Finger: You’re a social being that interacts with other physical beings on the planet.
- Pointer Finger: You have a mind, which provides a means through which to understand, plan, and reflect on your experiences.
- Thumb: The glue that binds these aspects of your being together is your spiritual nature. It’s the core of your being, the light that we aim to shine more brightly each day of life.
Since these five areas are designed to work in harmony with one another, I address each element during my morning ritual.
THE MORNING RITUAL FORMAT
The entire process below takes me about an hour. I set my alarm for 6 am. This gives me plenty of time to complete each step before my husband and dog arise. If you want to give this a try on your own, I suggest you have the following ready before you go to bed:
- Quiet place you can dedicate to your morning ritual
- Large glass of water ready for you to drink first thing
- Comfortable seat for meditation
- Yoga mat (and any props)
- Journal and pen
- Book or podcast
- Timer (to track time in each segment)
As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits points out, it’s easier to start something new when it is obvious and easy. Preparing the items above beforehand totally sets you up for success from the get-go!
Then, as I go through each of the five steps below, I set my timer for each segment. This helps me stay on track.
STEP 1: EMBRACE STILLNESS (10 MINUTES)
There is magic in the quiet found first thing when you wake up. Your body and mind are in a transition period from restful slumber to an active, conscious state. You are often slightly subdued and not too heady, yet. This is the best time to enjoy stillness and savor the silence.
When you meditate first thing in the morning, you can hear the inspiration and wisdom of your inner being. You can be directed on the best ways to spend your energy during the day. Or, you might even be able to hear a solution to a problem at work you’ve been unable to hear above the noise found in everyday life.
This step in the morning ritual addresses your spiritual nature. Your thumb correlates to this aspect of your being because it reaches out and touches every other finger. Said another way, your spirituality–your guiding principles and values–determine the decisions you make in all other areas of your life.
That’s why I address this element first thing through ten minutes of meditation.
Things I find helpful when meditating:
- Pick a focus. Instead of thinking too much about the process, I select one thing to focus on during my meditation. Many times it is the rhythm of my breathing. Other times, I listen to the quiet hum of the heater or AC in the house. Inevitably my mind starts to wander as it wakes up. I listen to those thoughts for a moment, then turn my attention back to my point of focus. You’ll be surprised at how quickly 10 minutes can fly by with a little practice.
- Dress comfortably. Even in the summertime, mornings can be cool in my house. To ensure I am cozy during meditation, I wear socks and a cozy hoody. Both of these items are set next to the bed so I can grab them easily the next morning.
- Be flexible with the process. Some days my mind goes from 0-60 right away. On those mornings, I include active pranayama as my meditation. This gives me a focus right away and I can use my breathing to energize both the body and mind.
STEP 2: MOVE THE BODY (10 MINUTES)
After meditation, it’s time to move the body. While it’s beneficial to exercise any time during the day, doing so in the morning primes every cell of your body for the day ahead. These trillions of cells form the building blocks for your bones, organs, muscles, and every other part of your body.
Moving first thing in the morning opens the lines of communication between all of these cells. It also starts to build heat in the body. This helps to increase your metabolism, oxygenate your tissues, and focus the mind.
While I prefer yoga sequences for this segment of my morning ritual, you might want to walk, or lift weights, or ride a stationary bike. The trick is to listen to your body and what it needs each day.
Things that help me move in the morning:
- Start slow. This is the first movement of the day and I gradually ease my way from smaller movements to larger ones.
- Address the entire body. Ten minutes goes by really quickly. Ensure that you say hello to all areas of the body from the start.
- Roll it out. Myofascial release is one of the best ways to stimulate the connective tissue of the body. Since the fascia communicates system-wide, you can wake up the entire body by simply targeting a few areas. Two areas I suggest: the hands and feet.
STEP 3: CULTIVATE POSITIVE EMOTIONS (10 MINUTES)
For years, I have known that emotions play a huge role in how you process your life experiences. Emotions, represented by the ring finger on your hand, are the messengers about your relationship with your best self and the environment around you. When they’re positive, you get the thumbs up that you’re in the right direction. If you feel bad, it’s a sign some change in perspective is required.
That’s why this is one of my favorite elements in this morning ritual. While I’d like to say I wake up happy and joyful each morning, it’s not always the case. Some days I’m tired. Other days I’ve had a bad dream and wake up already out-of-sorts. The process below is how I shift my mindset into a positive space to greet the day.
Here’s what helps me do this:
- Select an empowering belief to embrace for the day. Essentially, I use a clear, direct and positive statement as a point of focus.
- Engage the whole brain. Then, I sit in a brain-integrated posture, with arms crossed and ankles crossed, and repeat the statement to myself while breathing deeply. It takes just a few minutes for me to experience a physical and emotional shift.
- Create a plan of action. When in a brain-integrated posture, thoughts about how I can live my empowering belief often arise. It can be a simple action, like calling a colleague or family member. Or, it could be to outline a new idea for an article or project at work. This step is important, though, because it reminds me to take my ideas and bring them to life with my physical energy.
STEP 4: VISUALIZE YOUR BEST SELF (10 MINUTES)
The middle finger represents your social self. On a base level, human interaction is essential to our wellbeing. Ideally, we’d like all of our interactions to be positive, loving, and compassionate. Yet, in the real world, you interact with all kinds of people who exhibit a wide range of emotions–not all of which are enjoyable to be around.
This fourth step of the morning ritual is designed to get you ahead of the curve in the way you interact in the world around you. Instead of reacting to others habitually, you can purposefully cultivate the kind of person you want to be during the day.
I do this through visualization. Here’s how:
Visualization is a technique that uses your imagination to paint a picture of your future. Since 10 million sensory receptors in the body are dedicated to the eyes, use your vision to imagine the kind of person you want to be during the day. To do this, I ask myself the following questions:
- What will my body language be when interacting with others?
- Where will I be today?
- With whom will I be interacting?
- How can I bring my best self to those situations?
Sometimes, this looks like me sitting at my desk typing away like a crazy person, enthusiastic to get the next leg of my course completed. Or, sometimes I see myself smiling to those I pass in the aisle of the supermarket or greet at the checkout stand. It might even be an image of me writing a thank you card to a client I deeply appreciate and placing it in the mailbox.
The images don’t have to be exceptional or grandiose. It’s just a way to set the tone of the kind of person I want to be during the day, and how I might see my best self show up in each instance.
STEP 5: STIMULATE THE INTELLECT (20 MINUTES)
While the mind is quiet and receptive during the first step of my morning ritual, this phase stimulates the intellect. The pointer finger, which correlates with the intellectual self, thrives on new information. It’s creative and likes to solve problems.
To get my mind working efficiently, I split my 20 minutes into two, 10-minute segments.
I spend the first 10 minutes absorbing inspirational material. I read a great business book or listen to an inspiring podcast. You might get tempted to listen for more than 10 minutes, and you can indulge yourself if you have the time. The goal here is to cultivate the flow of ideas in your own mind.
Then, I spend the second ten minutes writing in my journal. This includes insights that arose during my meditation, new thoughts from the book I’m reading, or ideas about how I can be a more effective leader.
Things that help stimulate my creative mind:
- Pick out my book or listening material in advance. I can’t stress enough how being prepared in advance will make the entire process easier and WAY more enjoyable!
- Designate one journal or notepad to my writing process. Some days I actually get inspired to start writing an article, so I make a few quick notes by hand before turning on my laptop.
- Write without judgment. Sometimes a free flow of thoughts can be one of the best ways to watch connections come together from the various experiences in your life. Don’t judge your words or sentence structure. Just let the ideas from your brain onto the page.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
A morning ritual is one of the best ways to start the day on purpose, get ahead of the game, and generate momentum to be productive, positive, and focused throughout the day. I use my hand as my guide, and follow the above five steps when I first wake up in the morning:
- Embrace stillness
- Move the body
- Cultivate positive emotions
- Visualize my best self
- Stimulate the intellect
This entire process is designed to build a set of habits that support all areas of your wellbeing. You can customize it to fit your own needs and time restrictions. Just have fun. Honor yourself. And, more importantly, be prepared for some massive shifts that will propel you forward toward your dreams.