The morning ritual– we all have one. We get up, brush our teeth, make coffee, shower, etc.– day in, day out, same thing. It becomes a habit, our routine, with little forethought. But is your morning ritual causing you to start your day off the wrong way? What if you changed it? Could it make a difference? Well I did. And the answer was a resounding yes.
For me it started with a popular book called The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron (more on that in a future blog). In it, she suggests the benefit of writing morning pages. It’s geared for artists, but I believe it could help anyone. The idea is to write three pages in a journal, the moment you first wake up, every day.
It doesn’t matter what you say, what is important is the routine of doing it. The point is to free your mind and get in touch with your inner self. The moment you first wake up, you are closest to your subconscious. This can help artists capitalize on their creativity, but I argue it’s so much more than that.
The morning pages can be about anything- something that’s weighing on you, what you have to do that day, a dream you had, it doesn’t matter. The pages are for you and you alone. You are not supposed to show them to anyone. You’re not even supposed to go back and read them. Their purpose is to liberate you. I think that simple act can be hugely beneficial.
When was the last time you spent 20 minutes alone with your thoughts? In this day and age we are bombarded with one thing or another from the moment we wake. I used to roll over and check my email and social media, then the news. I never spent even 5 minutes thinking about myself or my feelings. It was always get up and go– what’s on the agenda, what do I have to do today? I have to tell you that email, social media, and the news will still be waiting for you. There’s no rush. It was a self imposed routine, and not the most beneficial one for me.
We all feel there are never enough hours in the day. How could I possibly make the time to sit down and write three pages each morning? I’m a writer, so that prospect didn’t scare me, but to some people it may be terrifying. It’s not the amount you write that matters, maybe you only do two pages, or maybe you set a timer and just write for 15 minutes. It’s not what you generate that counts, it’s the process of doing it that can be so powerful.
I try to write morning pages every day, even on weekends. Sometimes I miss a day or two. However, what started out six months ago as one more thing to do, became something I really look forward to and now hate to miss. Through my morning pages, I have done everything from vent, make a breakthrough with my script, come up with a new philosophy about life, and fire myself up about some cause or dream. I’ve motivated myself, formulated strategies, came up with inspiring ideas, and once in a while, discovered I was more bothered by something than I even realized. For me, it’s me time. And in today’s hectic world, that’s one valuable commodity.
Writing morning pages was the first change to my morning ritual, but I also made another change recently. Meditation. This one is a little more challenging for me. My mind races a mile a minute. Quieting it down and finding that inner stillness is still a work in progress, but I am already beginning to see tangible benefits.
I started with just five minutes each morning. I searched for short meditations on iTunes and created a playlist for my iPhone. I’ve progressed now to 10-15 minutes. This is a good length for me. There are a lot of different styles of meditations, so look around for the kind that speak to you. I like variety, so I change mine up all the time. I also light a scented candle and lower the lights to help put me in the zone.
In addition to the morning pages and meditation, I also added a daily intention. For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, an intention is one sentence that articulates something you want to bring into your life. It could be something general, like love or money, or more specific, like finish my screenplay. You can search the Internet for examples, or write them yourself. Sometimes I use the same intention for several days.
Intentions are based upon the law of attraction. What you think about, you attract from the universe. The idea may be a little out there for some of you, but if you think about it, if you focus on something, you have a better chance of willing it into being, whether subconsciously, through the universe, or deliberately manifesting it yourself. A little focus on your wants, goals, and dreams is a good thing.
So I changed my morning ritual. I found an extra 45 minutes to start my day with a different routine, incorporating morning pages, meditation, and a daily intention. Has this changed my life for the better? Absolutely. For starters, it’s 7am and I’ve already written a blog article. The idea came to me during my morning meditation. And I am giving myself brownie points because my goal was to write one a month, and I now have two completed and the month is only halfway over.
If you do any research on the world’s most brilliant minds, you’ll find that many of them did their best, most creative work first thing in the morning. I had to learn to go to bed earlier, which is still challenging for me, but now I write for several hours before I even check my email or social media. And I have to admit, while I never considered myself a morning person, I’m now doing my best writing before noon.
Another surprising realization, the 45 minutes I added on to my morning routine has actually saved me time with regard to my overall productivity. I am getting more done each day, and the quality of what I am generating is so much better. Not only that, I’m actually happier. I’m less stressed and more focused, motivated, and inspired. It took some time to find the right morning routine for me, and some practice fine-tuning it. I tried getting up at different times, writing morning pages before the coffee, during the coffee, etc. And I’ll probably continue to refine it.
But I can promise you one thing, if you make a concerted effort to stick with it, the changes you make to your morning ritual will eventually become as automatic as brushing your teeth. And these changes can become incredibly powerful, even transformative.
So think about your morning routine. What do you do when your alarm goes off? Consider whether a change might benefit you. Don’t just settle for the same old, same old. Try making some me time for yourself each morning, in whatever style or form that appeals to you. It could change more than your morning ritual; it could change your life.