A morning mindfulness routine helps to create space for a new day by guiding us to let go of what happened yesterday, reign in thoughts of what might happen today, and be receptive of what is happening right now – the present moment. My morning routine doesn’t look the same everyday because I wake up at different times for work, which allows for more or less time depending on the day (on days I have to be up at 5:30am my routine gets a lot shorter), but I always make time for gentle observation after waking to notice my breath, how I’m feeling, and what thoughts are stirring around in my mind.
When we begin the day with mindful intention it’s easier to continue making mindful choices throughout the day, whether that means making a healthier food choice for breakfast, pausing before reacting to a situation, or going to sleep earlier so you can take a yoga class the next morning – all of which can have a positive affect on your stress levels and well-being. With a consistent morning mindfulness routine we are also able to build tapas, a Sanskrit word translated as heat, fiery discipline and internal fire; an aspect of our inner wisdom that encourages us to get up and do our practice for the love of it – ‘burning’ away negative thought patterns and habits to build healthier ones.
By training ourselves to create this space in our practice, we learn to let go of expectations, and we learn flexibility. Once we get used to being open and having room to allow anything to happen, we start to welcome the unknown.
Here are a few parts of my routine that I find the most centering:
Get adequate sleep
Everyone’s definition of ‘enough sleep’ is different but I like to get around 8 hours sleep a night. Just like eating, drinking, and breathing, adequate sleep serves a vital role to our health and emotional well-being. Being well rested is an important part of self-care as it helps us feel as if we’re ready to take on the world while inadequate sleep can cause difficulty making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change.
Waking after a good night of rest also makes it easier to cultivate feelings of gratitude, rather than misery and aggravation, when you wake up. Feelings of gratitude increase mental strength and empathy so when I wake up I let my first thoughts be centered in gratitude, just being thankful for the day and every unknown moment that it will bring. This definitely didn’t come naturally at first, but after a while tapas and adequate sleep made it a reflex for me to feel thankful first thing.
No phone for the first 20 minutes of waking
My cell phone is a huge causer of stress in the morning since I do a lot of work from it, so other than setting a timer for my meditation I give any energy to my phone for at least 20 minutes after waking. At first 20 minutes seemed like a long time since I used to instinctively wake up and roll towards my phone, but now I easily go longer to extend my quiet time and spend less of my day immersed in emails, social media, texts, or work. Sometimes I’ll turn my phone off overnight or have it on silent and face down just to avoid lights or sudden pings catching my attention.
Hydrating is something I constantly have to remind myself to do so getting a few cups of water in before the day gets busy is vital for me. Drinking warm water as soon as I wake up ensures I get a big glass in as soon as possible and warm water is great for your digestive system – so two birds, one stone!
This doesn’t mean yoga as much as it means intuitive movement, like the reflexive way you might reach your arms up and point your toes after waking. I like to make a little time for movement and let my body naturally open into any feel good stretches, gentle cat-cow arches, downward facing dogs, or reclined pigeons. Physical yoga postures are all about creating space, so I keep this in mind as I create space for the day. In a pose we create space physically by stretching our bodies while the next parts of my routine work on creating space in the mind.
Depending on my mood and time my meditation can be a 10 minute check-in while in bed or seated on a bolster, to a 30 minute walking meditation listening to a guiding audio. I like to keep my morning meditations simple with no active or intense breath work, just passive observation of my breath and gentle awareness of my body. When thoughts inevitably stir up or I drift into planning what I have to do later I simply acknowledge the thoughts popping up in my mind, let them dissipate, then bring my focus back to the movement, quality, and richness of my breath. If simple passive observation isn’t enough to bring me into the space I remembering the saying, “we inhale to take in what we need, and exhale to let go of something that once served us but does not anymore” and that serves well for seeing other thoughts as irrelevant in this moment.
Most times after meditating and stretching I write down thoughts about whatever is swimming around in my mind. Oftentimes I’ll just take note on what arose during my mindfulness practice, my goals or struggles, intentions for the day, or just noticing which movements or meditation methods felt the best. Journaling is a meditative practice in itself because it can be a time to connect with and reflect on yourself through non-judgemental writing, getting thoughts down on paper to clear some of the mental clutter.
I mentioned this last, but cannabis consumption is typically sprinkled throughout my morning mindfulness routine (and life!), but of course feel free to omit this if you’re not a regular consumer. A lot of people feel as if smoking makes them feel lazy or unproductive, but that is all to do with the strain, how much you smoke, and the set and setting of the situation as well as your intention. As with every part of my practice I let my body tell me if and when it wants to feel elevated, and sometimes that may mean packing a bowl before stretching or just lighting up as I’m journaling. If you’re present for the experience grinding the flower, packing or rolling it, smoking, and instantly noticing how your body and mind react when they’re both freshly awake can be a time for mindful observation, and cannabis can act as a way to slow down thoughts, fully awaken, and center your mind for your day.
This list may seem like a lot (especially when you’re used to running around in the morning), but for me can range anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on if I have an early work day, whether I feel called to do everything, and how long I choose to spend on each activity. If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do this in the morning, you are exactly who needs to be doing this – waking up 20 minutes earlier (which means sleeping earlier) for self care will make you feel better equipped to deal with the day without feeling drained by the end of it.
I think a genuine desire to build a mindfulness routine while remaining flexible about what that practice looks like is what determines “success” in this. Creating space with a mindfulness routine includes allowing space for that routine to change accordingly with how your mind and body are feeling, while encouraging you to remain an observer of yourself rather than a critic. There’s no timer or person watching over your shoulder so just listen to your body, carry on as it feels good, and eventually your inner teacher will tell you what parts of your routine it resonates with the most and tapas will keep you coming back.