by Kim Childs
While I’ve always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I rarely wake up with an appetite. What I do hunger for each morning is connection to what’s personally meaningful before I dive into my to do list.
I wasn’t always this intentional. Twenty years ago I started my day with resentment, a pot of coffee and National Public Radio before running out to catch the train to work. I was informed and caffeinated, but not exactly enlightened.
Then a little book called The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity found its way to me in 1997 and everything changed, starting with mornings.
Julia Cameron, the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, recommends that we begin our days with something called Morning Pages. They are three handwritten pages of stream of consciousness writing to help us meet and greet ourselves on paper before the day’s demands tug and pull. Cameron likens the practice to calling ourselves first thing in the morning to see how we’re doing. We should allow about 20 minutes, be radically honest and keep the pen moving with no censoring, she says, for three pages.
I gave it a try, even though it meant getting up a bit earlier, and pretty soon I was hooked, adding candles and soothing music to the practice of writing these pages. Eventually, green tea replaced coffee as I found that it made me, and my writing, less jittery. Within a few months, mornings had become my new favorite thing and I was firmly on the path to a more authentic life.
Over the years, I’ve added other rituals to my mornings, such as yoga, meditation, walking, prayer and gratitude lists. Not that I do them all at once or all the time. The routines changed along with me as I left my radio career in the late 90s, spent two years living at a yoga center and eventually landed in the Boston area to teach and coach the transformational practices that had changed my life, including The Artist’s Way.
Cameron, recently interviewed in the Huffington Post, says this about her latest morning rituals, “I get up and I make myself oatmeal and coffee. Then I start my morning pages,” she reports. “After that, I write out a series of prayers, basically asking God to guard and guide me and my beloveds.”
I do something similar these days, minus the oatmeal, offering my prayers and gratitude at a homemade altar. At the end, I often rub my hands in glee and assume a so-called power pose (arms overhead in victory) as I shout, “Yes!” and recite my affirmation du jour.
Yes, it’s kinda corny. And it feels so good.
The thing is, we can create any morning ritual that’s meaningful to us. Some people start with exercise or even a little dancing to get the juices and the positivity flowing. Mama Gena, the self-proclaimed Queen of Pleasure, says that’s a great way to flood our bodies with nitric oxide, an antidote to the stress hormone cortisol. “When you dance, when you move, even for 30 seconds, you take the opportunity to shift your body chemistry just enough to point your day in a better direction,” she says.
I recently added reggae dancing to my preparation of brunch on the weekends. It’s fun, and it revs up my metabolism for the calories ahead.
A few minutes of deliberate silence each morning can also boost our well-being, especially if the rest of our day is noisy. One of my coaching clients has fallen in love with sipping tea on her porch for 15 minutes before the kids and household chores consume her. When she skips this ritual, her temperament suffers. Lately, my mom reports that she loves sitting quietly in her favorite chair with a cup of coffee and a book of inspirational passages before my dad wakes up. “It’s so peaceful,” she says, claiming this special time for herself.
A former student of mine, unable to find satisfying chunks of time on weekdays before work, created a Sunday morning ritual. “I go to a place where I can get a cup of coffee, sit down at a table and write morning pages,” he says. “While this falls short of Julia Cameron’s ideal of writing every morning, it’s a ritual I keep.”
That’s the thing about rituals – if we keep them, they begin to keep us.
And so, while mornings can be hectic, they can also improve our days if we devote some of our precious time to what we value. Even five minutes of meditation or conscious breathing is enough to shift things.
Just find something that feeds your soul, each morning, and do it. Then see if you find yourself enjoying better days.
Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life and Career Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation.