Ready or not, the morning usually comes too soon.
Few of us bounce out of bed ready to conquer the world like Jimmy Mackelroy from Blades of Glory, yelling: “If you dream it, you can DO it!”
We rarely throw open the curtains while singing gaily to the sun, catching little cartoon birdies on our fingers like Mary Poppins.
Most of us were up late burning the candle at the other end: checking email, fiendishly consuming news or social networking right up until we closed our eyes. The batshit crazy among us may have dozed off to the 11 o’clock news, convinced that we needed “a little background noise” to beat us into submission.
If we’re lucky, we get a restless night’s sleep before the kids storm in, usually before the alarm has a chance to do its job.
Neck-kinked, half-blind, with a seething rage bubbling just beneath the surface, we mutter to our partner or spouse: “Good mmmmorning. How did you sleeeep?”
They don’t answer, either hiding beneath the pillows, or already submerged in their iPhone.
And so begins another day in the digital age.
Like any other healthy habit, becoming a morning person needs to be continually and consciously practiced. There are the practical steps toward success like getting enough sleep, or allowing enough time to power-down before bed.
But, with our increasingly complex world of info-spewing devices, it can’t hurt to optimize our routine to protect us from ourselves.
The key ingredient to a painless, creative, and enjoyable morning is to remain conscious. As you open your eyes, it’s in your conscious awareness that you’ll make better choices of how to attack your day or the best way to pick up where you left off.
I’ve admittedly never truly been a morning person, but I’m not sure anyone has. There are simply those of us who recognize the opportunity and power that comes from a strong morning routine. For me, the necessity arose from a combination of little kid feet that can hit the floor any second and/or the likelihood of an early flight to catch.
Here are some conscious acts we can take to create some memorable mornings.
1. Begin the night before. No one likes to wake up to a sink packed with dishes and the dishwasher still full. Start by introducing small tweaks to how you put yourself to bed. Grab a journal and empty your head out. Establish some no-screen parameters.
Most of us with kids know intuitively that it’s unhealthy to allow them to watch TV, play video games, or search the web up until the second they fall asleep. Why should we treat ourselves any differently?
Bouncing between email and websites, (or worse) news programming before attempting to rest is like eating 2 pounds of potato salad before swimming the individual medley. The information you’re consuming has a much better chance of actually serving you during working hours. You won’t sleep any better having checked your email for the latest ordeal.
Power-down means YOU, as well as all of your devices.
Leave all gadgets outside the bedroom if you can’t control yourself. Consciously power them down and remove them from your sleeping sanctuary, no less than 30 minutes prior to the Sleepy Train leaving the station.
2. Be intentional. In the evenings before sleep, take inventory of the great things that happened that day. Can you find five? How about ten? Set an intention for how you want to wake the next morning. Lay out your running clothes. Place a meditation cushion at the foot of your bed. If you have a flight, pack and place your stuff by the back door. Hang your clothes in the bathroom. Set yourself up.
In the morning, try to form a habit of setting healthy intentions as you open your eyes. Think healthy breakfast, or put on running clothes. Visualize an easy flow to your morning, from your shower through airport security. You’ve done this dozens, if not thousands of times.
Recently I was the victim of a string of disastrous mornings with our two girls yelling, crying, and tattling on one another. The best solution I could find was to be intentional with the vibe I was creating in the kitchen.
Before they slinked downstairs I would light a candle, dim the lights, and put on some ambient music. Over a couple days our interactions became quieter, and more respectful. The tattling decreased (slightly), and the fits started to disappear.
3. Be realistic. Try not to open your eyes with a to-do list looming. Allow yourself the luxury of a proactive awakening.
4. Incorporate either a mantra, or trigger phrase that reminds you that you deserve to have a good morning. When I started running I’d repeat Light as a feather. Light as a feather. It could be as simple as Happy to be here. Happy to be here. You know you’re on the right track if your groggy, bitchy brain judges it as corny.
5. Be easy on yourself. Release the myth of perfection. Settle for completion at each segment of your morning.
6. Be patient. We carry a short fuse when we’re tired. Give yourself time to find your center before barking any demands on the people you love. It sounds counter-intuitive, but taking the focus away from the clock restores calm and enjoyment to the present moment. Whenever you catch yourself measuring your kid’s reaction times against the clock, slow it down. How you react to the presence of a clock will determine how they do so later in life.
7. Form enjoyable rituals. Find the small things in the morning that make you happy. A good friend has a sacred one-on-one meeting with her husband over coffee. He brews, they talk. The simple ritual can anchor an otherwise chaotic day.
8. Laugh if possible. Even with a raging hangover, many of our most enjoyable mornings follow a rowdy late night party. Why is this? We immediately start reliving some hilarious conversations from the evening prior. We relish, we savor. We’re grateful for all the crazy people in our lives.
9. Gratitude Rampage. Our conscious awareness allows us to find gratitude in the smallest things. Every morning when I open our blinds, I look out at our porch. The flowers in the yard…. The sleepy faced kids entering the kitchen… The full calendar of travel to cool places… The 3 miles I already ran… This food… That coffee…
Anything I’m missing here? What works for you?