Morning Rituals Make Better Days

While I’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I rarely wake up with an appetite for food. What I do hunger for each morning is connection to what’s personally meaningful before I dive in to the work of the day.

I wasn't always this intentional. Twenty years ago, I started my day by waking up to the voices of National Public Radio reporters, before gulping down some coffee, dressing for work, and running out to catch the train to my office. I was informed and caffeinated, but not exactly enlightened.

In 1997, a little book called The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity found its way to me and everything changed, starting with my mornings.

Julia Cameron, the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, recommends that we begin our days with something called Morning Pages. They are three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness writing to help us greet ourselves on paper before the day’s demands tug and pull. Julia likens the practice to calling ourselves first thing in the morning to see how we’re doing. She recommends allowing 20 to 30 minutes, being radically honest, writing whatever is in our minds, and moving the pen with no censoring or editing until we’ve filled three pages.

I gave it a try, even though it meant getting up a bit earlier, and pretty soon I was hooked, adding candles and soothing music to the practice of writing these pages. Eventually, green tea replaced coffee as I found that it made me, and my writing, less jittery. Within a few months, mornings had become my new favorite thing and I was firmly on the path to a more authentic and self-designed life.

Over the years, I’ve added other rituals to my mornings, such as yoga, meditation, walking, prayer, and gratitude lists. That’s not to say that I do them all at once or every day. The routines changed along with me as I left my radio career in the late 1990s, spent two years living and working at Kripalu, and eventually landed in the Boston area to teach and coach the transformational practices that had changed my life, including The Artist’s Way.

In a Huffington Post interview, Julia Cameron says this about her own morning rituals, “I get up and I make myself oatmeal and coffee. Then I start my morning pages. After that, I write out a series of prayers.”

I do something similar these days, minus the oatmeal, offering my prayers and gratitude at a homemade altar. At the end, I often rub my hands in glee, assume a power pose (arms overhead in victory), and recite my affirmation du jour.

Yes, it’s kinda corny. And it feels so good.

The thing is, we can create any morning ritual that’s meaningful to us. Some people start with exercise or even a little dancing to get the juices and the positivity flowing. Moving can boost our mood in as little as a few minutes, and it’s hard to dance without smiling. I recently added reggae dancing to my brunch preparation on the weekends. It’s fun, and it revs up my metabolism for the calories ahead.

A few minutes of deliberate silence each morning can also boost our well-being, especially if the rest of our day is noisy. One of my coaching clients fell in love with sipping tea on her porch for 15 minutes before the kids and household chores consume her. When she skips this ritual, her temperament suffers. My mom loves sitting quietly in her favorite chair with a cup of coffee, a view of the trees, and a book of inspirational passages before my dad wakes up. “It’s so peaceful,” she says, claiming this special time for herself.

A former student of mine, unable to find satisfying chunks of time on weekdays before work, created a Sunday morning ritual. “I go to a place where I can get a cup of coffee, sit down at a table, and write morning pages,” he says. “While this falls short of Julia Cameron's ideal of writing every morning, it’s a ritual I keep.”

That’s the thing about rituals—if we keep them, they begin to keep us.

And so, while mornings can be hectic, they can also improve our days if we devote some of our precious time to what we value. Even five minutes of meditation and conscious breathing is enough to shift things. You have five minutes to spare, don’t you? Place a hand on your heart, breathe in and out of that place, and ask yourself what quality you most need or desire to feel in this moment.

Find something that feeds your soul, do it each morning, and then notice whether you find yourself enjoying better days.

Kim Childs is a certified life and career coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, and sacred living.

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