Morning habits

How the Powerful Start Their Days

I know your bad morning habits. You grope for the snooze button once, then twice, then again until you finally jump out of bed already running late. No matter how sincerely you promised yourself you’d go to that early morning yoga class, your desperate need for extra sleep always wins. Since coffee is the only thing that gets you out of bed, you drink it right away, even though you feel a bit dehydrated. You check your work email before your eyes can focus and then wonder why you feel so anxious all of a sudden. I know your habits because they were mine too. Two years ago, my mornings began groggy after not enough sleep and then turned anxious with too much coffee and running late. I was stuck in a cycle of bad habits but was pretty good at justifying it to myself. I had a gone to bed too late so needed to sleep in. I would exercise later in the day (even though I rarely did). And my favorite: coffee is mostly water...right?

As a yoga teacher, I knew the answers to these questions. I could tell you why ancient yogis meditated in the still morning hours and how important it is to move our spine on a daily basis, preferably first thing in the day. But the problem with knowing something is that it doesn’t equate practice. It’s lovely to talk about a dynamic morning routine but practicing it is the only way to receive the benefit.

Two years ago, after a life-changing break-up, I made the decision to get more out of my life. I knew that in order to do this, I had to practice what I preached. I dove deeper into my study of yoga and Ayurveda and followed it’s ancient wisdom on how to cash into those early morning hours. What I discovered upgraded my energy throughout the entire day and helped me to launch a new business teaching others to do the same with wonderful results. Here are five important lessons that guided the way:

1. To have a great morning, you first need a great night...

It’s almost impossible to create a solid morning routine without discussing what happens the night before. Waking up with intention is so much easier when you have seven to nine hours of solid sleep in you system. We know this, but why doesn’t this happen? Probably because you aren’t going to bed by 10 p.m.  10 p.m.? Yup.  I know it may seem incredible early to you, because it really did for me. It made me feel unsexy and like I was missing out on everything that was ever fun. However, once I learned the many physical and energetic reasons to be asleep by 10 p.m. I know I had no choice if I wanted to take care of my body. This compelling argument is one of them:

“Typically, if you miss the 10 p.m. bedtime, it will take much longer to fall asleep. The quality of sleep will also be less refreshing and there will still be a sense of fatigue in the morning. Even adjusting your bedtime from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. will make an enormous difference in the quality of your sleep and enhance your feeling of wakefulness the following day. The reason for this is that you are taking advantage of the natural wave of neurochemistry that is already well on its way before 10 p.m. and you get the added support of the metabolic changes that occur at the 10 p.m. mark.” --Kulreet Chaudhary, MD in this awesome article on sleep and longevity

2. Soon you’ll get into a schedule...

It turns out that when I go to sleep at 10 p.m., my body loves waking up by 6 a.m. But this only works when I keep the same schedule most days. A morning person is defined as someone who wakes up at roughly the same time on the weekends as the weekdays. This means that your body knows the schedule and will cooperate by giving you healing, delicious sleep. This means no more “catching up” on sleep on the weekends (which is a myth anyway), but rather giving it to yourself every single night. Ayurveda teaches that our bodies are happiest when they are in touch with the daily and seasonal rhythms around us, like the rising and the setting of the sun. Learning that I wasn’t separate from these cycles has given me a beautiful feeling of connection to the world around me and reduced feelings of angst and overwhelm. Plus I love taking my dog jogging in my neighborhood by 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday. The normally-crowded streets are empty and I feel like a superhero, my furry sidekick at my heels, our hair flying as we breath in all that fresh morning air like it was created just for us.

 3. Which gives you higher quality “me” time...

It’s really easy to convince yourself that a nightly glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a Netflix binge is your self care. Again, I’ve been there. We all have busy days and when we are tired, zoning out seems like the best way to reset. But it doesn’t work that way. I’ve learned that true self care has to feel like self care the next day too. As delicious as they were in the moment, wine and “Orange is the New Black” made me feel fuzzy the next morning. Through some experimentation, I found that my real-deal self care is time to meditate, exercise, and cook nourishing food, in that order. The combination makes me feel great in the moment and for the rest of the day. Bingo--self care! Once I discovered real self care, the other stuff didn’t feel as good. It’s like the difference between eating the sticky margarine substitute and creamy grass fed butter. Plus practicing this routine over and over has made it a choice less habit. I don’t have to waste any mental energy deciding if I will meditate or feeling guilty because I didn’t exercise. It’s just what I do every morning--simple, consistent, effective.

4. Then you get more done, but not in a stressful way...

Remember how I said my life came into focus when I began getting up early? I went from starting the day with my to-do list breathing down my neck to a much more relaxed attitude about time. I use my daily meditation practice to center myself in self love. I tell myself that no matter what gets done, I will still be kind to myself and enjoy my time. It’s not a perfect process but it helps me to relax and this frees up an amazing amount of mental energy. The result is that I tend to get much more done with a lot less effort. My to-do list has shrunk because I am actually able to check off those boxes.

I’m not alone in this. Many powerful women, the kind that do it all and make it look easy, have figured out that the first hours of the day are when they can tap into their own power in. Laura Vanderkam, author of the e-book, “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” found that the most successful people were those who devoted chunks of time in the morning to things (or people) that they loved. Vogue editor Anna Wintour starts each day at 5:45 a.m. with an hour-long tennis match and designer Stacy Bendet wakes up before 5 a.m. to do ashtanga yoga. Others read newspapers or cuddle with their kids. Regardless of what they do, successful people have a morning routine that ensures their self care before heading out the door to inspire the rest of us.

5.  Which helps you enjoy your life more...

Does reading this inspire you but are you afraid you won’t actually do it? If so, you are probably thinking you need to change everything tomorrow. That would be great but my guess is that isn’t going to work very well. What has actually worked for me is the practice of Kaizen, a Japanese word that means “good change.” It teaches that if we keep looking for little, continual ways to improve and shift, then eventually we will reach and then surpass our goals. Slow and steady progress saves our energy to create real change without burning ourselves out and reverting to bad habits. So think about the little steps you could take. Could you trade one round of snooze for five minutes of yoga? Could you get the greens for your smoothie ready the night before? I began shifting my morning routine by meditating for 10 minutes while my then-partner walked the dog. It was a tiny investment of time but when I did it for just a few weeks I felt like I was making progress. It inspired me enough to cut back on my coffee and eventually add in 20 minutes of exercise. Each month I notice more ways to shift in the right direction. It's a life-long process that I enjoy because I see the benefits and feel fully invested in the process of my personal evolution.

So are you ready to upgrade your morning routine and see what is possible for your days? If so, I’d love to listen to you and help you brainstorm the next small step to greater energy. Schedule a free 30 minute phone chat with me and learn to experience authentic, sustainable self care that feeds you every day of your beautiful life, from start to finish.