A Case for Getting Control of Your Mornings – Mindfulness: Part 2

how to productive mornings

I’ve had multiple phases of my life and they all went better when I had a routine for good mornings; I think I learned this from my mom’s example. In fact, I was with her last weekend and asked her about her mornings, and she (who spends a good deal of time with my dad who is mostly bed-ridden) significantly said, “Well, I have a morning routine. I just have to do that.”

She’s 83, so I pay attention.

Whether you’re getting kids up and ready, responsible for meal prep, focused on exercise, or caring for pets, all of it can be disruptive, chaotic, and utterly challenging; and then by the time you start your workday, you’re just glad to be sitting down.  Productivity may be mid-morning or worse.

How can you juggle the above and arrive at your desk with mental clarity? I’ve been heading to an office for nearly 25 years, watched, learned and kept coming back to these simple tips that won’t make you crazy and will give you the best shot at a clear mind:

Embrace routine

It doesn’t matter so much what works for you, but it does matter that you have a routine. Doing nearly the same thing each morning brings peace, stability, and predictability. I hear some people resist a morning plan because they associate it with changing the way they do things. Think of it more as accepting what you do and making sure you have the time to do it.

A great way to start is by documenting how your morning goes for a few days. Write down when the alarm goes off, when you get out of bed, what you do and at what the times. You’ll see what things are important and what you can adjust to bring more peace and mindfulness to your morning, and to your day.

Once you realize what good things you have that work for you, make sure you have the time to do them.

If you love cold brew, then make sure you have it ready. I buy mine now, so there’s always plenty with the soy milk I love and just knowing it’s there makes my mornings better.

The point is, include the things you like in your morning routine. The mind is powerful and fighting what works for you is never going to give you good mornings over time.

Build in time

Once you know what you really like to do in the mornings, build in the time to allow it to happen. If you love a 20-minute soaking shower, rushing through for the extra snooze isn’t worth it. Getting out of bed early enough thinking about the reward of the shower you love is great motivation.

This element alone can be game-changing for many who cling to a few minutes of extra time in bed at the cost of a happy morning.

Add 5-15 minutes of mindfulness

Some people are truly naturals at this. They long for it. But many of us aren’t. This is the key and the one thing not to leave out. It’s about slowing down and allowing your mind to clear for just a few minutes. 

My morning yoga routine (I get it on Gaia.com for $10/month) includes something like this at the end: “What is it that I want to offer the world today? How is it that I want to live today? It’s okay to ask for help with something that you’re dealing with – from God, your inner consciousness or the divine.”

The point is, just taking time in the morning to consider what you want to bring to the day can shape the whole thing. I wake up thinking of what I want to DO but giving a few minutes to what I want to BE has become invaluable. 

Here are some ideas for how to add a few minutes of mindfulness if it doesn’t come naturally:

  • Sip. A cup of coffee, tea or anything you love but can drink slowly. Find a spot that is yours and quiet; then sip, and enjoy. No news, computer, cell phone or television – just you and the cup.
  • Soak. Take a mindful shower or bath. Sometimes with kids this is all you get. Lock the bathroom door and take the time to think. Music can help if it’s something that allows your mind to be free.
  • Sit. Meditation – this can be just a few minutes of quiet, focusing your mind for who you want to be. There are plenty of guided meditations available online, through podcasts or websites, but many find that just a few moments of quiet works just fine.
  • Stretch. Yoga – I do the same yoga routine every morning. I leave my mat out and it’s ready. I can be in my sweats, jammies or exercise gear and hit the mat. While I love some of the poses in my routine because they get me moving physically, it’s 90% about centering my mind and focusing my intention for the day.
  • Sweat. Walking – for some, a good walk can be meditative. Listening to music that frees your mind or a meditation while walking works well for those who fidget through sitting or don’t like yoga.

The key is turning off the outside influences, cell phones, TV’s – all the noise that will be right there when you return – and consider what you want to bring to your day. The days that are most difficult for me are the ones where I have a busy schedule and my brain has already kicked in to active mode. Sometimes I must take the time first to write down the ideas that are coming or take care of a task, and then I can return to a mindful place and slow down if just for 15 minutes.

Mind the body

We’re only as good as we feel. Take stock of what your body needs to allow you to be your best. Enough rest, movement or exercise, fresh air, water, and good food, we all know this; but we still hurry out the door without eating, throwing something ridiculous in our bag to munch on while we drive. This one may take a little more planning but is key to everything else and above all – you feel so much better!

Do something you enjoy

Love a podcast? Listen while you drive or walk. Eat your favorite breakfast food, buy good coffee, take a bath, hug someone, open a window and take in the sounds of morning; a simple pleasure can make your morning.

I’m so sad when I hear how many people hate mornings. They get up at the last possible minute thinking that an extra bit in bed is the best reward they can think of. The result is often stress, frustration and anything but a clear mind. Somehow, too many of us have embraced that the worst thing to do is get up even a few minutes before you absolutely have to – when the truth is often the opposite. Those extra minutes to enjoy a mindful morning will give back to you all day long.

Lastly, after all the efforts, give yourself a break when needed. On occasion when I have a really early morning, I either get up incredibly early or modify my morning to make it work. While I miss some of the usual things, I know they will be there tomorrow. And I make sure to keep at least one thing so I’m not just getting up, showering, and out the door. Those days make me love my normal routines even more.

This is not fist-pumping, get it done, rise and shine advice. There’s plenty of that out there and many will just shrug and say, that’s not going to happen. Give even one of these tips a try – you’ll find that while it takes some practice, it’s pure joy to be in control of, and not ruled by, your mornings!

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