Here’s how to stick to a morning ritual.
A morning ritual is a gift you give yourself of time and attention. Starting the day mindfully puts you in control and allows you to choose positive actions that nourish you. But like any good habit, it can be difficult to make your morning ritual stick. The secret? Learn how to customize your practice to your life. Here’s how.
Tip No. 1: Move your morning ritual to later in the day if it’s just not working for you.
If your mornings are crazy, you may not be able to fit anything else in. That’s OK. You can create a ritual to practice any time of day that works for you and still enjoy its benefits. The point is to carve out some space every day to put yourself first, prioritize your needs over anyone else’s, and do something that’s just for you. It doesn’t matter exactly what time you choose to tune in to yourself and what makes you happy, as long as you make the time.
Tip No. 2: Consider moving your morning ritual off the meditation cushion.
Sticking to your ritual will be easier to do if you respect the way you’re made. Read: Don’t choose a practice because it’s “good for you” or because someone you admire does it. Your ritual should nourish your soul and lift you up, not weigh you down. Make it something fun—ideally, something you can’t wait to do each day.
Yoga instructor and creativity coach Lezlie Laws has a client who has a gorgeous garden, and every morning she walks barefoot down one side and up the other. “She does this three hundred and sixty-five days a year, regardless of the weather,” says Laws. “It connects her to nature, which is very important to her, and her day goes better when she does that.”
Tip No. 3: Try doing something creative.
Starting the day by “playing” may seem like slacking off, but it can actually boost your productivity. Ideas include meditative drawing, painting, knitting, writing, or singing. Or, have a short dance party—it’s more fun than exercising, easy to fit in to a busy morning, and will rev up your energy while putting you in a good mood.
“Painting is a form of meditation for me,” says creativity coach Tracy Verdugo. “The state we go into when we’re meditating is the same as being in flow when we’re making art, so those activities do have a similar effect on your brain. Painting helps me let go of distractions and ‘busy-ness,’ and provides the space I need to let go of what’s worrying me and to drop the chatter for a while.”
Tip No. 4: Include someone who makes you happy in your morning ritual.
Sometimes what we need is connection with our inner self; sometimes what we need is connection with others. For life coach Christie Federico, talking on the phone to a friend in the mornings has become a morning ritual. “It’s very important to me to feel connected, and since I live alone, this is an excellent way to do that,” she says. “Talking with my friend gives me a happy and fulfilled feeling, whether it’s through casual conversation, deep discussion, or just laughing together. Starting my day this way puts me in a good mood, which lasts all day long.”
Another idea: Steal a few moments alone with your partner, perhaps by sharing your coffee or tea together in a quiet spot or hugging for several minutes. (For maximum effect, try not to use this time to go over the day’s list! Just enjoy each other’s presence.)
Tip No. 5: Ditch your morning ritual altogether.
If you can cultivate mindfulness as you go about your usual activities, it can have the same restorative effect as a morning ritual. Breathing deeply when you wake up; pause to feel your feet on the floor before you get out of bed; pay attention to the sensation of warm water flowing over your skin in the shower; watch the clouds while sipping your coffee. These practices can all calm and center you, and they don’t require any extra time carved out of your day.
You can also try replacing an activity you already do that doesn’t serve you with one that lifts you up: Try listening to an inspiring podcast or music you love instead of checking social media or reading the paper, for example. After all, the entire point of creating a morning ritual is to treat yourself well. It’s not meant to be work. So, play with a variety of ideas and see what makes you feel best.