First things first. I want to take this minute to explain why I keep up with this blog. I think it started as one thing and has morphed a bit, and now I am just kind of going with it. What you are about to read (or have read from me in the past) may seem idealistic or ridiculous or sometimes downright impossible…and I understand that. At different times in my life, many things seemed unfeasible for me and there are lots of things now that I want to do that feel impossible. Everyone should absolutely do what works for them and their priorities and their life. I never intend to write from a place of judgment (except when it comes to people who don’t like watermelon…those people are just idiots). Instead, I try to write from a place of positivity and growth. If through my experiences, I can give one person something that benefits their life, then I am happy. Finally, my posts are in no way intended to be “look at my perfect life, I have it all figured out”…because my life is not perfect and I very rarely have anything figured out, but when I do stumble upon something that works for me I want to share. I am on a daily quest for growth and if I can help someone on their journey then that is a good day.

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about my morning routine, and how I could refocus this routine to start each day feeling a little better. I thrive on personal growth and my morning just didn’t feel like a reflection of me and my priorities. I would often feel very frazzled and exhausted by the time I dropped my son off at daycare at 7:00am, and this frazzled state would follow me throughout the day.

I firmly believe in the power and benefits of a good morning routine and taking control of your day using each morning as an opportunity to set the pace. If you feel successful in your morning, your confidence, motivation and discipline will be with you the rest of your day. The morning is also when I feel like I have the most motivation and willpower. After several weeks of researching the morning routines of successful individuals or individuals who I admire, I decided to take action and give some new things a try.

Thinking about it now, my former morning routine was such a time waster. It included checking my many forms of social media to see what I missed and just generally wasting time trying to get my mind and body to wake up. I was often left feeling like I lost valuable time, and aside from feeling like I wasted time each morning, I wanted to feel better…to feel happier walking out the door each day. I reflected on how happy I was each morning while on vacation and wanted to replicate some of those activities. I would run on the beach at sunrise and then sit down with coffee and my journal and enjoy the silence before everyone else woke up. This was my time. I loved this time, and that feeling of peace.

During those weeks of routine evaluation, I started to map out what I wanted my morning to look like incorporating activities that are important to me. I knew I wanted to include some form of physical activity to get my body moving and wake myself up. I also wanted to include something to get my brain going for the day; something to learn from and to also set my priorities.

Starting with the physical activity, I decided that walking my dogs would fit perfectly in this new routine. I would get some extra steps each day, my dogs would get a walk in before it got too hot and I could also listen to a podcast to get my brain activated. It was perfect. To accommodate the addition of my morning walk meant that I would need to wake up 15 minutes earlier each day which sounded so. terribly. painful. On that first day, I adjusted my alarm to get up a bit earlier and forced myself out of bed. The action of getting out of bed earlier than I really needed to (or wanted to for that matter) was so powerful. I was starting my day with discipline. Forcing myself out of the warm comfy bed to do something that in that minute felt super undesirable. This small action of my feet hitting the floor was my first win of the day.

After returning from our walk, I knew that I wanted to include meditation. Meditation was one of those activities that seemed impossible to me, but I still really wanted to give it a shot. I had been trying to meditate on my own for a few months, but it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t find the right time in the day and it was frustrating.  I decided to start using the app Headspace and it has made this practice so much more achievable for me. It removed the barriers and made the practice of meditation seem so simple. I can’t say enough about how much meditation helps me throughout my day. I am able to handle the “noise” of my day so much more effectively. My decision-making abilities seem clearer and I just feel a bit more at peace.

After I meditate (which typically takes less than 10 minutes), I start to organize my day which includes my “To Do” list. I prioritize the personal and work related items that I want to accomplish that day. Once my list is complete, I grab my journal and very simply write three things that I am grateful for. I believe that starting your day from a grateful place allows gratitude to build and expand throughout your day. It shifts my mood and cultivates more awareness. It helps me be more mindful in my decisions.

From my alarm until finishing my gratitude journal entries is 35 minutes.  The rest of my normal morning of getting myself and the kids ready and out the door by 6:45a picks up from here. By 7:00a, I feel like I have already accomplished so much, and on most days that frazzled feeling is gone. My brain and soul are ready to go and I’ve already logged a few active minutes. I carry this energy throughout my day.

For me, routines and habits are the foundation of a successful day. Small changes to my morning routine helped me become more present by rethinking my daily activities. I challenge you to think about your morning routine. What small changes can you make to get yourself out the door in a happier place? I challenge you to jot down a few items over the next few weeks. What would you include in your ideal morning? Incorporate a few of these changes for yourself.  If the changes don’t feel right, make adjustments. The final point I will make is that it is so important to understand that there is no one size fits all approach here. What I do works for me, but you need to do what works for you which is why I encourage you to think about what makes you feel good and determine your priorities.

Finally, here are a few tricks that I use on myself to establish new habits and routines:

Establish a plan in advance of when you expect to start the new activity. By establishing a plan, you are making a commitment to yourself and no one wants to start the day disappointing themselves.

-Now that your plan is set, prepare for the plan. Make it super easy on yourself and set out anything that you might need so that all you have to do is grab and go. For me this is setting out clothes and the dogs’ leashes for the walk. The less I have to do, the more likely I am to follow through.

Establish and build discipline. Knowing that you can sleep 15 minutes longer, but you get your butt out of bed instead…that right there is discipline. I feel like discipline isn’t discussed enough, but discipline breads success. Establish this discipline within the first five minutes of your day and that small insignificant action of getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button feels like a huge win.

Anchoring new habits with familiar habits. When starting a new habit, build it into an existing habit or routine. Combine activities that feel familiar with activities that are new.

-Finally, reward yourself. I love coffee….I mean really love it, but I don’t allow myself to have coffee until after I’ve completed the most important parts of my morning routine. It is my reward after finishing my gratitude journal entries.

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My obsessions this week help make this new morning routine possible.

Headspace App: The Headspace App provides guided mediation in the form of short three to ten minute sessions. The initial sessions are free, but it requires a subscription the further you get. I love this app. I have tried meditating on my own, but often felt like I was wasting time sitting quietly with my eyes closed. This guided meditation ensures that I have a successful session.

Gratitude Journals: I don’t have a special gratitude journal, but instead I make entries in my normal journal. Every morning I write very short entries describing what I am grateful for that day. It starts my day in a grateful place that changes my state of mind for the day. My journal of choice comes from a store in Australia called Typo. When I was there for work earlier this year, I stocked-up (and thankfully so because shipping to the States is $40).

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Small Buffalo Journal (lined) from Typo. Its glittery and perfect. I love it.

Ink Cards App: Unrelated to my morning routine, but worth the obsession. I have used this app on and off for several years. Little known fact….I am adamantly against traditional greeting cards such as Hallmark cards or really any card you can find in a store. I often refuse to buy cards unless the card is the vessel to hold the gift. If I must buy a card, I’ll try to find something clever on Etsy…OR I will use Ink Cards. Ink Cards allows you to pick a card template, add a photo, enter the address and off it goes. The typical card including postage is $1.99. I will  use this app to send cards to grandparents or other out-of-town family members just to let them know that we are thinking of them. From start to finish, it takes no more than three minutes to prepare the card and complete the transaction, and hopefully put a smile on someone’s face.