What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? Do you have a consistent morning ritual like Oprah and Richard Branson?
According to NBC News if you want to have an, “optimal day of productivity and positivity” you need to participate in grounding activities such as meditation for at least 10 to 30 minutes every morning. It seems easy enough to do and who doesn’t want to have a productive and positive day? But the reality of making yourself stick to a morning routine, especially when you are a caretaker, can often lead to added stress and feelings of inadequacy. An active, connected lifestyle requires varying your morning routine depending on what needs to be accomplished that day. Shaking up your morning routine will give you the balance needed to sustain a calm, joyful, and productive day.
I launched Fiery Living during the pandemic because I had a lot of time on my hands. I am now fully vaccinated and back to producing films which means my blogging hours have been diminished. In April I decided to expand my toolkit by adding a morning routine designed to release stress and increase joy throughout the day. Following a morning ritual has only been moderately successful for me. Here’s what I’ve learned about myself and about routines.
The Difference Between “Ritual” and “Routine”
When I dove into the media vortex to find articles about morning routines to help establish mine, I found myself extremely attracted to headlines that included the phrase “morning ritual”. Ritual – this is what I was looking for because successful people all have morning rituals. It was reported that Oprah starts every day with meditation and then exercise. President Obama starts with exercise and then immerses himself in reading. Richard Branson swims around his private island and then meditates. Yes, I decided that I would have a morning ritual that I would do every single morning just like Oprah. Guess what happened? It didn’t work for me EVERY day.
I first decided my morning ritual would consist of meditation followed by a light walk with my dogs for exercise, and then journaling and inspirational reading for positive vibes. I forced myself to do this successfully for one week. And then one morning everyone in the house including the dogs needed something from me as soon as I woke up. I spent my first 30 minutes trying to find a missing comp book and then scrambled to get everyone fed, make lunches, and drive them to school. Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to wake up at 4 am so that I can successfully follow my morning ritual without interruption. But, this tired mama can’t afford to lose sleep especially when she’s been up working very late the night before. And let’s be clear, no one likes Didn’t Sleep Enough Mama, especially not me!
The next day I attempted to return to my morning ritual, but I felt a little defeated that I had broken my streak. No problem. I decided to start over. A few days later another “emergency” derailed my morning. Again, feeling defeated I tried again. Finally, after the third strike I realized that a ritual was just not my thing. I shifted my perspective from “ritual” to “routines” plural and now I’m finally experiencing higher positivity and productivity a month into this new mindset without feeling like I failed at being consistent. I have found that it is best to give yourself 30 minutes before your first commitment in the morning, but there are times that I take the kids to school first and then do my morning routine. I now go with the flow of my morning. If I wasn't able to get up early as planned, I don't stress I just roll with it and fit it in later.
I’m Not Oprah
I double arm embraced my new, varied approach to morning routines when I took the time to reflect on the lives of the successful people featured in the articles I read. Oprah, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook all have crazy MONEY and probably an army of staff to help. I am guessing, I could be wrong, that Oprah has a housekeeper and possibly a chef. In my world I am the housekeeper and the cook. Now I’m not using this as an excuse, but we must check our own reality first to truly see what is possible and what makes sense for us. I can’t beat myself up for not being able to meditate every single day like Oprah because my life is completely different than hers. And this is the key to creating your own, personalized, varied morning routine: Acknowledging what you really need given your specific lifestyle.
The Top Morning Activities Used by Successful People – Ranked
Here are the top things to do in the morning to set up your day for success ranked in order of how widely they are used. This information was acquired by compiling information from articles, media feeds by NBC, CBS, The Today Show, and research conducted by several universities including one conducted by researcher Steve Kay of USC.
1. Wake Up Early
4. Make a To Do List
5. Eat A Healthy, Fiber-Filled Breakfast
9. Make your bed
10. Have Breakfast with Family
11. Indulge in a Hobby
My 3 Morning Routines
I ultimately created three morning routines that I use depending on what my goals are for the day. Alternating between these has proven the best for my lifestyle, and I am completely open to shaking things up once I find that one or more of these is no longer working for me. This approach is what I call balanced flexibility. I am following a morning routine which does make me feel grounded and happy while allowing myself wiggle room to change it up as needed thereby avoiding feelings of defeat and inadequacy.
When I Need to Be Creative and Write
1. Positive Affirmations for the Day – As soon as I open my eyes, I take a few minutes to just lie still, and begin by affirming the following to myself: Today is going to be a great day. I am happy and successful. I will tune into my feelings and follow happiness. I will have fun and laugh. I will show love to my family and friends. I love my life.
2. Coffee – For me drinking my first cup of coffee is a spiritual experience. Joking aside, I make a cup of coffee (or tea) and sit outside and watch and listen to the birds in my backyard. I have a pair of mourning doves that I lovingly call Pepe and Fleur that usually visit during this time.
3. Journaling – When I have a lot of writing to do journaling gets the juices flowing. When I journal in the morning, I use a stream of consciousness style and just let whatever comes to my mind out on paper. This seems to release anything that may be causing me stress or anxiety and allows me to open myself and be vulnerable for my writing.
4. Breakfast – Then I make breakfast for the kids and I have a quick check in with them before they get going with school.
When I Need to Release Feelings/Emotions
1. Positive Affirmations for the Day
2. Exercise – Some days there are just too many thoughts going through my head and too many tasks to accomplish. On days when I am feeling any sort of stress or feelings of overwhelm, I walk at least 1 mile with my dogs or if I really need to release, I run 3 miles. I do both while listening to uplifting music. Just being outside and moving allows me to feel better and helps me put things into perspective. I am then able to move from a deficit mentality to one of confidence and hope.
When I Need Motivation and Inspiration
1. Positive Affirmations for the Day
3. Meditation – Oprah is right on the money when it comes to meditating. Meditation does change your life in extremely positive ways. This is one area where people have very different ideas of what it means to meditate and how to meditate. Some think meditation is woo woo and don’t understand that meditation can be as simple as focusing on gratitude. I do participate in different types of meditation practices, but in the morning I prefer what I call gratitude meditation. I sit by myself in a quiet place and I think about all the things that I am grateful for. I do this for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Read – On days when I am needing inspiration, I do spend at least 15 minutes reading. Currently I am going through the Tao Te Ching verses. Once I finish reading all 81 verses (I’m on 26 now) I will start another inspirational book. I always have something inspirational on hand to read.
I try and keep it simple and stick to a time frame like 30 minutes every morning. I decide which morning routine I'm going to follow when I go to bed. I think about how I’m feeling, how my day went, and decide what routine will work best the next day. On weekends I try to sleep in at least one day and I usually follow my motivation/inspiration routine and really take my time with it since I don’t have to rush anyone to school or get to work.
Trying to mimic someone else’s morning routine is a good start, but can lead to feelings of frustration and failure when things don’t go as planned. Just like with everything else in life, the goal is to be good enough not perfect. Ultimately, I have found that morning routines do set me up for a better, more productive day, and I encourage you to play with some of the ideas I have outlined above. Have fun and make it your own. You are the only one that truly knows exactly what you need. Shake things up, try new routines, and experience the increased success that will flow to you when you gift yourself balanced flexibility in your morning routine.