Mornings are full of magic. The world is waking up, stretching very slowly, opening its big bright eyes.
The birds are rehearsing their happy songs for the day: first timidly and quietly, then - with each new sun-ray - their song is getting louder and louder until it's a cacophony of voices, accompanied by fluttering of wings.
They say mornings are the best time for writing, planning and meditating - it sounds counterintuitive - how could it be? We are still half asleep. But our bodies are fresh from their daily sleep and are bursting with energy and willpower. And quite often our families and neighbours are still snoozing - so morning are relatively quiet.
But the magic power of mornings is like a timid bird - if you are too forceful - trying to do it all at once, cram as many things as you can think of - you might scare it off and it will fly away. That is why you need to create gentle morning habits and rituals to make mornings your magical friend and helper.
To begin with, choose habits that come naturally to you. If you are a yogi - create an everyday soft practice routine. If you like writing and reading - make it an activity to savour with a cup of something nice and hot.
Add more habits in if and when you feel like it. Maybe mix it up and do something different from time to time: pilates instead of yoga. Remember - this is a special time - time to enjoy and appreciate, like a glass of a very good wine.
1. Look out of the window
Look at the morning sky - regardless of the weather - it's beautiful.
Pay attention to the colours. Listen to the sounds of the sleeping city/town/village. Spend a few minutes just watching and noticing nature - the wind, the birds, the sun.
And mornings are charming regardless of the season, wouldn’t you agree? There is always something to look out for - be it bright red sunrise or snow-covered roofs with tiny footprints on them.
Think about what each season means to you - what symbols, images, tastes or smells come to mind when you think of mornings in the winter/ spring/ autumn/ summer?
For me, in the winter - the morning air is fresh, crisp and sweet, smelling of ice with a hint of smoke from the wood-burning stoves.
In the spring you can sense the distinctive aroma of the earth waking up from its winter nap - still half-asleep, yawning and covering its nose with the warm duvet - but also so impatient and eager to be up and running with early birds and insects.
In the summer, oh, it’s a drunken smell of flowers, grass and trees - full of life, promises and vibrancy.
And the autumn brings its unmistakable smell of rain, burning leaves and newly picked harvest.
2. Breathe in the morning air
Now open the window and taste the rich aroma. You will notice that even busy cities have a fresh morning smell when the sun is rising.
Breathe it in slowly and deeply, then breathe out...repeat a few times until you feel refreshed and in tune with the morning air. This simple act of mindful breathing will set intentions for the day ahead - slow, balanced and gentle.
3. Wash your face and brush your teeth
It might sound pedantic, but everything else is so much better if you have a fresh minty breath.
Splash your face with cold water. According to Well and Good, cold water helps to shrink pores and de-puff. And who would not want that? Endure a few seconds of cold water, and you are the prettiest of them all!
Also, cold water helps to wash away the last bit of sleep and wake you up a bit quicker. That is for sure.
For mums with small kids:
I used to put my baby in the baby bath while washing my face and brushing my teeth. She was happy there for a few minutes that I needed to splash my face and quickly clean my teeth. When short on time, I would just use the mouth wash. As long as your breath smells fresh - nothing else matters.
With the toddler who's attention span is shorter than Dory from "Finding Nemo", I have a small basket with toys and a few toiletries that she can play with. She likes to throw everything she lands her hands on into the bathtub. Yet again - it's generally enough for a quick clean.
4. SPF cream
A simple action of putting some SPF lotion on after washing your face sets you up for the day.
5. Drink water
You might feel dehydrated after 7-8 hours of sleep. Water is a great way to rehydrate you and kick start your digestion and rid the body of toxins after a long rest. If you don't like the taste of water, try adding a piece of lemon into it. There are some anecdotal reports that water with lemon could help with indigestion.
6. Quick yoga or a simple stretch
Just a few simple postures, while coffee is getting to the right temperature, will do. Check out this article by Jessica Moy, Physical Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher, it has 5 yoga poses to practise first thing in the morning.
For those with small kids who wake up even before we do:
Dance with your kid
Dancing with your kid might burn even more calories than yoga (not that it's our aim first thing in the morning). Put the music on and have a little dance. Your kid will love it, and you will have a bit of an exercise. Win-win!
Dance for your kid
Having a silly little dance in front of your munchkins makes them giggle so much! Because what could be more fun than mommy moving in such an uncanny way! Seeing them laugh will increase your hormones of happiness, that's a bonus for your morning.
7. Take vitamins
If like me, you live in Northern Hemisphere the chances are you need to take a supplement of vitamin D. Because the sun is not very reliable, it might not show up at all. Or it might show up and disappear within seconds - which is not enough to produce enough vitamin to help the body absorb calcium.
Create a simple habit of taking your daily dose of vitamin D (or any other vitamins that you need to be taking) in the morning. But do check if they are ok to be taken on an empty stomach or not.
8. And now coffee (or tea/or smoothie)
Make yourself whatever drink you prefer and enjoy. Sit there in the quiet of your house, basking in the early morning light and sip your drink, as slowly as you can, savouring every bit.
For those with small kids:
Throw your mum guilt out of the window and put cartoons on. Then follow the steps above.
Writing first thing in the morning could be rewarding - you can concentrate a bit better and have more energy to put those thoughts on paper.
10. Quick planning session
Starting your day with some sort planning is a very good idea. By knowing what you need to do and accomplish you free up your mind allowing it to think about other more fun things (e.g. how to spend your weekend, what dessert to have for dinner, etc.).
Jot down a short to-do list and it will help you to bring a bit of clarity to your day.
11. Make the bed
Making your bed might seem like a silly and trivial habit, but it sets positive intention for the day.
It also keeps your bed tidy and for sleep only. If you have a bed cover - use it - so that you could sit or lie down on the bed but yet again, without disturbing the aura of sleep.
12. Have a healthy breakfast
Imagine - upon waking up - you've been 'fasting' for around 12 hours!
Give your body something light and healthy to begin the day with.
Healthy breakfast, such as oats, wholegrain cereal, natural yoghurt, etc. will help you resupply the energy lost during sleep, kickstart your metabolism and keep you full for longer.
Check out SkinnyTaste website for some scrumptious breakfast ideas! Gina always has a few new and exciting recipes up her sleeve.
For Vegan yummylicious recipes I would recommend Pick Up Limes. Sadia's food photos are absolutely gorgeous. They are so unbelievably bright and colourful - they make me want to drop everything and start cooking.
13. Set intentions for the day
Whether you choose a 20 min meditation, practice gratitude or simply ask yourself what you want - setting intentions for the day makes it more clear. Goodnet website has a lovely article about it if you need more inspiration.
14. Practice the Wonder Woman posture
Stand tall, keep your shoulders back and relaxed, and practise the Wonder Woman posture so that you are set and ready for the day. Whatever it brings.
According to an article in Harper Bazaar this posture helps boost confidence and become more powerful.
As Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy puts it: "Fake it till you become it."
15. No TV or social media for the first half an hour
Hold off watching TV or scrolling social media feed for the first 30 min at least. As we've just woken up, we are still fresh and productive - let's spend this time doing something more useful.
I'd recommend leaving TV and social media for the time of the day when that's all you have the energy for (for me it's anything after 4pm in the afternoon).
Read a few pages from your favourite book. Make your day start with that tingly butterfly-wings effect in the tummy when you experience something exciting, positive or uplifting. What a better way to start the day could there be?!...
17. Go to bed at the same time
Even though this point is not taking place in the morning, but it ultimately makes your mornings so much more enjoyable.
It also makes a massive difference for mums with small children because the kids tend to wake up at the same time regardless of the time they go to bed to (sigh, 5:30 am for me).
You need to follow this rule for weekends, so no binge-watching TV until the early hours of the morning.
If you sleep for longer on a weekend - your body clock will go a bit off and it might affect your mornings during the working week.
According to Very Well Health, waking up at the same time every day can also help sleep better at night.
Whether you follow all the steps outlined above or just one - it does not matter. As long as you manage to enjoy yourself - be it by looking at the sky, sipping your coffee or having a fantastic breakfast.
Be gentle and mindful towards your needs, listen to your body. Only do what feels right.
Try to establish a simple routine that works for you and your family. Try a few different things.
But remember to be true to yourself! It's not a competition.
What are your morning routine habits and rituals? Does having a routine make a difference to your day?