“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
This wise reflection by the American author Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life is perhaps my most favourite (and most eloquently expressed) advice on life, motivation, being present in one’s own life and on success, that I have come across during my self-enhancement journey.
It is true—how we choreograph our days says a lot about the people we are and strive to become.
We can take this thought a bit further too:
How we spend our mornings is how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
Agreed— life plays out differently for everyone and we all follow our own trajectories, have our own interests, preferences, personalities and circumstances. But there is barely anyone out there—from scientists to celebrities to personal coaches—who will ever tell you that what you do every morning is unrelated to the things you aspire as success, fulfilment, health and wellbeing.
It all matters, of course. So much, indeed, that to be able to get better at our lives, we have to first get better at how we spend the precious personal time we have at the start of each day, before we submerge ourselves in our hectic, often frustrating and highly- demanding everydays.
Here are some 30 practical ideas about how to charge your mornings with more positivity and excitement about what lies ahead in the day.
1. Do Not Wake up Earlier
In a wonderful post for Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington talks about the recent obsession of the self-help industry with morning routines and how it’s gone a bit too far.
She makes an excellent point regarding giving our minds and bodies a chance to rest and recoup.
“Getting up at 4:30 or 5:30 or 6:30 a.m., without getting enough sleep, simply means that your body will automatically crave carbs and sugars during the day — and that you’ll be less productive and experience less joy throughout your day.”
2. Take Few Deep Breaths
Diaphragmic or belly breathing is a widely recognized relaxation and meditation technique. It also strengthens the brain and improves attention span, according to science.
So, go ahead, breathe stress away.
3. Say Your Thanks
Gratitude hardly needs further introduction. It’s been a well-established fact that it helps our mental and physical health.
The most important thing it does is to help you focus on and appreciate what you have, on abundance, not on scarcity.
In fact, there’re a lot you can be thankful for: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life
4. Reflect on the Day Ahead
Think about what you need to do today and plan how you are going to approach your to-do-list.
Reflection is important for other reasons too—it improves self-awareness provides perspective, allows you to respond, not react.
Regular practice will make you happier and more successful, we are told.
Linked to the above, this is another helpful tool for thriving and prosperity—the practice has been popular among many accomplished individuals, from celebrities to entrepreneurs.
It’s simple enough—see yourself as the person you want to become and, over time, your behavior will adjust to bring you closer to this image.
6. Impression Management
Spend a minute in the morning looking at the mirror. Do you see someone confident, happy, content?
Practice different posture, face expressions, gestures. What we say with our body language is more important than our words. Make it count.
7. Smile at Yourself in the Mirror
According to Darwin’s facial feedback hypothesis,
“the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.”
What this simply means is that smiling can make you happy. Do it more often.
8. Do the Power Pose
Amy Cuddy’s ground-breaking idea has been favored by many as a way to boost courage, confidence and well-being.
Two minutes a day is all we need, she advises. Easy enough.
It’s a great way to wake up your body and mind, to feel more refreshed and ready to face the day. Here are some helpful ideas for your morning exercise.
10. Drink Some Warm Water With Lemon
Lemon water will not only give you a boost of Vitamin C. It’s much more than that.
It helps regulate weight, cleanse your body and improve digestion. It energizes you, especially if you are a morning-challenged individual.
11. Do or Think of Something That Makes You Happy
It may be as simple as having a good cup of coffee or tea. Or more advanced as purposely bringing to mind a funny or joyful memory. It’s an instant mood-changer.
12. Make a Healthy Breakfast
I don’t need to convince you in the advantages of having a balanced diet—and this starts from the mornings.
Respect your body, care for it, and it will be good to you too.
Check out these 31 Healthy Breakfast Recipes That Will Super Boost Your Energy.
13. Prime Yourself With Some Good Music
Research tells us that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
Choose something energetic in the morning that will lift you up and put you in a The-World-is-Mine mode. Some ideas for you: 30 Inspirational Songs that Keep You Motivated for Life
14. On the Way to Work, Listen to a Podcast
This is another priming technique to help you motivate yourself.
My favourite ones are The Tim Ferris Show, Happier by Gretchen Ruben and The Savvy Psychologist by Ellen Hendriksen.
Check out these 15 Really Good Podcasts to Keep You Motivated and Reach Your Goals.
15. Finish Your Morning Shower on the Cold Side
Nothing like a cold shower to become immediately awake and alert. But it gets better — it also boost s your mood, improves your immune system, enhances emotional resilience.
It’s worth the pain, for sure.
16. No Emails Screening Until You Get to Work
The morning belongs to you and your wellness. Don’t overload your mind right away, give yourself some Me-time.
Your emails are not going anywhere, trust me. They will be patiently waiting for you at the office.
And if we are to believe the media, many successful leaders embrace the ‘no-email’ rule in the mornings, so seems to be the right move.
17. Take a Minute to Marvel at Something
It may be the sunrise, blooming flowers or birds chirping, the light reflecting in a window, or the colours of the season. Whatever it is, use the power of Awe –it’s one of the greatest mood and motivational boosters.
18. Think of 3 Things That You Will Do Today, and Make Sure You Do Them
Following through and successfully completing tasks creates a success track record, which in turn lifts your self-assurance and general wellbeing.
19. Give Your Loved Ones a Hug
Hugging, research tells us, is a great way to boost your immune system, heart health, can make you happier, fearless and boost your self-esteem. The simple act can serve as a powerful morning uplift.
Take a look at the 7 Ways Hugging Makes You Healthier and Happier.
20. Think of a One-Word Description
It’s a lovely idea:
“In only one word, think about or write down how you feel about the day ahead, where you are in your life right now, or what you need to hear. Put that word somewhere where it’ll be visible during the day.”
21. Fire up Your Brain
Do a crossword to alleviate your anticipatory anxiety of what lies in the day ahead. It will also help sharpen the brain cells and get you into a thinking state of mind.
22. Make Your Bed
This simple enough task can serve as a powerful spark of your energy and productivity.
It’s not the chore itself that will make you get more done at work, but creating the habit, which can lead to more good habits, leading to a better overall efficiency.
23. Think of One Thing You Could Do Today If You Were Not Afraid (And Do It)
To paraphrase the famous moto, which is favoured by Sheryl Sandberg, fear often stops us from going after what we want.
Challenging yourself daily can help you build up the courage to become who you want to be.
24. Eat a Live Frog
First thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
The famed technique developed by the author and speaker Brian Tracy simply means “Do your biggest tasks first.” When you start with a big item (a project/frog), the rest of your day looks pretty great by comparison.
25. Dress Simply
Many famous leaders have spoken in favor of wearing the same or similar variations of clothes every day. Remember Steve Job’s famous black turtlenecks? Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg are fans too.
Simplifying your wardrobe saves time and can free up some mental energy.
So, choose elegant and clean lines for your clothes. There are better ways to get noticed than wearing ten blingy bracelets on one hand. Really!
26. Think about Failure
At first thought, this may not be the best way to charge with energy and positivity in the morning. But again, it’s about facing your fears, accepting that not every endeavour has a happy ending, and that is perfectly okay: 6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail
Imagining failing is a great way to come up with a remedial plan too and strengthen your mind.
27. Walk Your Dog or Just Go for a Walk
Walking in nature changes your brains, says research. A wonderful piece in the New York Times explains that a visit to a green space helps quiet your mind, quells anxiety and promotes mental health. We certainly have a winner here.
It may be on your commute to work or by dedicating some time before your leave your house but, reading the news or a self-enhancement book will help you build knowledge and expand your horizons.
Take it from the Greats. Warren Buffet, for instance, spends 80% of his time during the day reading.
While not everyone has this luxury of time, even 10-15 minutes in the morning can still be beneficial.
Meditation has so many benefits, so it is truly a no-brainer that it should be part of our morning routines.
I know, it’s lack of time again that often gets in the way of best intentions. But here is the thing—you don’t need to do it at home, in a separate room, listening to the sounds-of-the-sea music. I usually do it on the bus to work.
With practice, you can learn to shut out the world around you.
Take a look at this guide for meditation: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime
30. Think of One Good Deed That You Can Do Today
Give some money to a homeless person, help a co-worker, volunteer. Whatever it is, it’s important that we are not only grateful for what we have going in our own lives, but give back too, help others.
Every little thing counts.
Summing It All Up
Often, our days are busy and hectic and may turn out completely different than the paths we’ve mapped out.
But nevertheless, it’s important that we do have a plan on how we want to spend our waking hours, and our lives respectively. After all, no one wants to live in a hamster wheel, endlessly spinning without direction, am I right?
Building a purpose starts with a quiet mind and a healthy body. And a good discipline starts from our morning routines.
To be able to thrive in our intense world and to face each day with the best we’ve got, we must first learn to properly care for ourselves.
Arianna Huffington’s favourite quote sums it up beautifully:
“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
More About Morning Routines
Featured photo credit: Julia Caesar via unsplash.com
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