I am a morning person. It’s my favorite part of the day. But with all of life’s demands, the enjoyment of being an early bird can easily and, unfortunately, be lost or diluted, even for someone who enjoys getting up with the sun.
Earlier this week, I got a great reminder of why it’s worth rekindling my fondness for the best part of the day.
At the series finale of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s Tastemakers event, our founding editor, Pilar Gerasimo — alongside other female powerhouses including makeup artist turned supermodel, Cindy Joseph, the quick-witted Experience Life regular contributor (and award-winning food and wine writer) Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, and award winning chef and owner of Spoonriver, Brenda Langton — talked about ways to experience more of life’s pleasures and joys, especially in the midst the holiday season. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Yet so often we get caught up in obligations and expectations that prevent us from fully experiencing the simplest of joys, like looking someone in the eye when ordering our favorite coffee beverage, or even carving out those 15 minutes to go to the coffee shop in the first place.
During the Tastemakers discussion, the panelists were asked to offer one actionable to-do that could help audience members experience more joy and pleasure in their lives. Cindy chimed in by encouraging us to put our attention toward the good, because then it grows. She stressed the point of looking for the good in ourselves — because the more you find joy in yourself, the more joy you bring to the world. Chef Brenda focused on the important of simple rituals like going home after work and simply cooking a meal and relaxing. Pilar opened up about the importance of mornings in her own life, saying she carves out a minimum of three minutes to create a moment of beauty, peace, and pleasure in her day. That was my “ah-ha!” moment, when I realized it was totally and utterly worth rekindling my fondness for the best part of the day. I just needed a little nudge to get back on track.
Because let’s face it, mornings ask a lot of us. The alarm goes off, signaling an obligation to start giving of ourselves, our time, and our energy. And if we don’t start doing, texting, tweeting right away, many of us feel this sense that we’re already indebted to some life-ending sentence. How many of us feel guilty if you don’t check your email right away or turn on the news? Because you don’t want to “miss out,” right? But here’s the truth: nothing is really waiting on you. Mornings are a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning — so treat them that way. Give yourself a break and reclaim your mornings: You might just find it allows you to better control your entire day.
So, how do we regain control & live out a better, more enjoyable day? It only makes sense to me to start at the beginning, mornings.
Be good to yourself before you take on the responsibility of being good to others. How? Fill your mornings with things that offer beauty, pleasure, joy, and peace, because you’ll then be more likely to attract those things throughout your day. Ultimately, what you allow to control you first thing in the morning becomes your “master” for the day. So, if you reach for your smartphone first thing when you roll over, you’re attaching your physical and emotional being to that thing — yes, a THING — and thus allowing it to be what controls you throughout the day. And no one really wants that, so then why would we continue to do it?
Last night’s discussion was a reminder that a simple morning ritual gives you a benchmark to get back to a pleasant state of mind — much like setting an intention or dedication at the beginning of our yoga practice — so that no matter how challenging or uncomfortable a pose (or conversation, meeting, encounter), you have a go-to, stress-reducing place to escape, at least mentally, even for just a moment. In fact, “Our breathing is the only conscious intervention we have with our sympathetic nervous system,” as Pilar reminded the roomful of us last evening.
So what does a morning ritual look like? It’s totally up to you and what makes you feel ready to face your day. I can tell you this: The days that include my ritual (which I’m happily sharing below) look drastically differently than those don’t.
- Silence. TV and music-free, I allow myself to wake up and walk around my apartment in silence.
- Brew up something good. Lately, it’s hot lemon ginger tea. I know if I put something good into my body first thing, I’m more likely to treat it well throughout the day. I try not to go right for the caffeine because my body is already trying to wake up naturally, so I don’t force it to go more quickly than necessary. The tea, like the silence, helps me ease, versus rush, into the day.
- Pray. Tea in hand, I sit in a special chair in my living room, and take this time to express gratitude for that particular day, and pray for guidance and that only good, truth, and beauty is brought onto my path — and for these things to be what others see in me.
What does this ritual do for me? My job (and life, in general) require a lot of passwords so I like being digital-free for at least 10 to 15 minutes in the mornings and even longer on the weekends. I like to interact with tangible pleasures like touching a real book or feeling the warmth of my mug on my palms — before entering the digital world that makes up the majority of my day. This practice allows me to return to the “real world” of interactions and connections throughout the course of my digitally-driven day.
- First, find something that speaks to you. What brings you pleasure? Start there. It might be meditation, yoga, or prayer. Whichever you prefer, find a place to sit in silence, absent of TV or music, for just a few minutes. Maybe pick a neglected chair in your home or place on the floor to dedicate to this time. Maybe you just stay right in bed for a few minutes and not jump out first thing.
- Play with your pet for five to 10 minutes. It’ll get you moving and smiling — an instant mood booster.
- Play an instrument, write, or draw. Create something tangible that you can see or feel. Journaling about your fresh morning thoughts might be a good place to start.
- Make and savor breakfast. First smell, then savor each and every bite. And stop eating when it truly doesn’t taste good anymore. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast (as opposed to the kind containing sugary doughnuts) offers many health benefits, including:
- A more nutritionally complete diet, higher in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
- Improved concentration and performance in the classroom or the boardroom
- More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Look in the mirror and find something you really like about yourself. Maybe it’s the color of your eyes or your lower lip. Do this instead of trying to find something to “fix” or “solve.”
- Remember that your morning ritual can and should change. Update your routine from time to time so you’re more likely to stick with it and find it an enjoyment rather than a chore.
What’s your morning ritual? Share it with us in the comments below.