Even on our best days in the happy seasons of our lives, mornings can sometimes be challenging, no matter how well-rested we are or what wonderful things we have to look forward to that day.
At least they are for me. I don’t want to say I’m not a morning person, but….. I’m really not, try as I might. (It's only taken me 40something years to admit that.) Even when I’m well rested and “meh”-fully positive, mornings can be emotionally and sometimes physically rough for me. How I handle the first part of my day, especially during seasons when life isn’t rosy, often sets the tone for the rest of my day.
Much like staying out of a rut, a proactive mindset and a few simple steps can help get mornings off to the right start, which as a result, can lead to a cheerier and more productive day, even if (especially?) when you’re just not feeling it.
Here's what's worked wonders for me:
Rather than grabbing your phone, start your morning by talking to God. What you feed your brain first thing in the morning is spiritually and mentally important. It can set the tone for the entire day. Total transparency: I struggle with this one on and off quite a bit but I'm working on it. Right there, while still in bed in disheveled hair and all groggy and grumpy, I make a conscious effort to turn my thoughts heavenward and say, “Good morning, Lord.” (Don't look at your phone). When I'm a wee more conscious, I talk to God some more. (Not yet...) It’s up to you how you approach your actual devotion and prayer time once you’re awake, but minimally, giving God the first part of your conscious mind instead scrolling through other people's drama, work emails, catastrophic disasters, and a political freak shows, is an infinitely better start than filling your mind with... well, all that other stuff. (Not yet...) From there, formal devotional times will vary but at least 15 phone-distraction-interruption-free minutes of meaningful prayer and God’s Word is good.
(Now we can grab the phone and see what we "missed out" on during the last 8 hours. Probably not much....)
Drink a big glass of water. Our brains get dehydrated during the night, even if we don’t “feel” it in the morning. According to this article on how dehydration affects the brain, mild dehydration sets in after 4 to 8 hours without water (How long have you been asleep?) There are many things we don’t necessarily “feel” wrong but it doesn’t mean that they’re not affecting us. Hydrating first thing in the morning does wonders for circulation and gets our system going, including mentally. I always have a bottle of water, if not a gallon, in my room so I have no excuse for not chugging some H2O first thing. I’ve personally experienced the difference hydration makes in overall mindset and productivity. I’m not a coffee drinker, but if you are, I respectfully challenge you to start with the glass of water first, before the coffee. I dare ya. BONUS: Add 5 to 10 minutes of some kind of brisk movement. Rebounder? Up/down stairs briskly a few times? Treadmill? 5 minutes, ya'll. That's it. (And if you're one of those people who runs 5 miles every morning before 7 a.m., I'm SUPER jelly. I will never give up the dream of being one of you.)
Take a relaxing shower. Even if it means getting up earlier, non-rushed showers first thing in the morning can be like magic pills of positivity and sanity. I always shower in the morning, even if I showered the night before. I just feel cleaner and it and perks me up. Shower time is also a time to regroup, get your thoughts and ideas for the day in order, and talk to God a bit more. Your shower doesn’t have to be long, per se. Just not rushed. Be deliberate about using this time as part of an overall approach to wellness and productivity, not just smelling nice. BONUS: Finish off with a quick spray of at least cool, if not cold water. Wowzers!
Make your bed and tidy up. There is empowerment, dignity and some real mojo in something as simple and old school as making the bed. You don’t have to do hospital corners or anything elaborate. Minimally, I smooth the sheets, shake off my comforter and toss it over the bed, and fluff pillows and place them on top of the comforter. Having said that, I’m all for actually making the bed the way it’s supposed to be made, that’s even better. I also tidy up by scanning the room to see what needs to be picked up, tossed, put away etc. Done in less than 10 minutes and, whether you believe in all that mumbo jumbo or not, you are in fact in a much better state of mind. Something wonderfully healing also happens in your brain (and heart) when, at the end of a long day, your tired eyes feast upon a nicely made bed that will shortly be welcoming you with a turned down comforter.
Don't skip breakfast. I am not too cool to admit that I can't go without breakfast. Eating a good breakfast is part of the legacy my maternal grandmother left us, and that continues through my mom. I can skip doing my skin or making my bed, but if I don’t have breakfast, I feel it the rest of the day, no matter how healthy or how much I may eat later. Breakfast truly is so important for more than physical well being. It doesn’t have be fancy or time consuming. Toast with PB and a glass of oj. Scrambled egg or two whipped up on the microwave with a piece of fruit and toast. What matters is getting some glucose to the noggin and your metabolism going. And whether you have a full brekkie, which is what I prefer and make the effort to do, or a quick one, there’s always room for a green smoothie. My favorite: banana/spinach/berries/flax in a bottled smoothie base. It’s like drinking liquid “Heck yeah!” (And for those who are way, way too cool or grown up for breakfast and can only do $25 drive-thru caffeine because anything else makes you nauseous and you feel just great without food so it doesn't matter... knock yourself out)
Do your skin. This one is more for women, but guys, if you have some personal grooming stuff you like, go for it; what matters here is the principle, not the actual stuff. I will do a whole other post on skincare because it’s something I’ve become very passionate about, but for the purpose of starting my morning off right, I have found that taking the time to do my skin is a great mood and mindset enhancer. The super quick version of my morning skin routine after cleansing is: toner, a few pats of essence, serum, moisturizer if needed, and a few spritzes of beauty water. Sounds like lots of steps but the after cleansing steps are done in less than 5 minutes. And then, if I want to simply enhance but not do full make up: dab dab light under eye concealer, bronzer and low-key blush, mascara and lips, be it gloss or lipstick. Done. It helps me feel put together and like I can literally, put my best face forward to face the day, because “Skin is the outfit you wear every day.”
Like everything else, I don't always do everything and sometimes I fail miserably. I just know that the more proactive I am and the more of these steps I take consistently, the better my days go.
The goal is to become aware and proactive in taking life and time by the horns instead of being blissfully enslaved by our emotions or (sometimes silly) notions of time and stuff labeled important and urgent.
The Bible is full of passages that begin with phrases to the effect of "Early the next morning..." or concepts centered around "early". I started looking up some of these passages recently as this blog post began to develop in my brain and it became clear to me that God truly does value "early" and a spirit of proactivity, productivity and getting on move on, over complacency.
Rather than dreading mornings or no matter what icky things may lie ahead that day (and it's ok to admit that you're not looking forward to them) take a position of empowerment and control over the things you can change starting by taking mornings by the horns and having your way with them, rather than mornings having their way with you.
Do you have any morning rituals and practices that help you get your day started on the right note? I'd love to hear them! Comment below.