I have been following a morning routine for seventeen years now.
I get up, brush my teeth, splash water on my face, drink water, meditate, read, write one appreciation, and journal about difficult emotions.
Since starting my morning routine, my thinking has been more precise, and I feel more grounded in my body, more intentional with my time, more peaceful and courageous in my heart, and more accepting of myself and others.
In short, I feel wiser and more contented, fulfilled, and loving.
You may be wondering…
How is this possible? Can a few daily activities really be that helpful?
I’ll try almost anything for personal growth and spiritual transformation, and while not everything works, this does. It’s easy to integrate into your lifestyle, and there are countless benefits, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In this post, I will break down morning routines and everything that goes into them.
Often it can feel like we’re running on a hamster wheel going round and round without end. Or that we’re taking care of everyone else’s needs except our own. When we lose connection with our true Selves, we forget who we are and what our authentic wants and needs are. Life can feel meaningless.
A morning routine popularized by Hal Elrod in The Miracle Morning is what you do in the quiet time after you wake up and before you start your day.
When we reconnect with our deeper self, our intuitive inner knowing, we feel joyful, fulfilled, and purposeful. When we allow ourselves to be inspired by beauty, awe, and wonder, we become reacquainted with the divine. When we allow for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, our spirit is nourished and our wounds have an opportunity to heal.
Though having daily rituals helps structure your day, it’s more about being than doing, internal enjoyment than external reward. “The essential is invisible to the eyes,” wrote the Little Prince. It’s attending to the neglected part of you that longs for a deeper and more satisfying human experience than replying to emails, filling a gas tank, and standing in line to buy groceries.
After all, you’re a human being, not a “human doing.”
“Because to effect change, you will need to create a routine that you stick to, a small daily promise to yourself that you can practice keeping for yourself during your healing journey.” — Dr. Nicole LePera
A Morning Routine is not about “running a half-marathon, writing a chapter in a novel, and eating kale by 5 a.m.,” as one online commenter wrote. And there’s no pressure “to meet impossibly high Inner Critic Morning Routine Police expectations,” as another online commenter wrote.
Giving yourself “me time” without guilt lets you plant seeds of well-being and cultivate qualities of body, mind, and heart that bear fruit today and tomorrow. It’s doing what you want, not what you must do. When you slow down, self-reflect, and nurture yourself, not only are you taking care of your own needs, but you’re better able to support others too.
If you think a morning routine is only for those people with high salaries living in places like New York City or Silicon Valley, it’s not true. A daily routine is rated “E” for everyone.
Starting your day on the right foot is lovely, but it’s not the only benefit.
Most of our time, we spend on the practical aspects of life, such as work, shuttling kids, and laundry, or what Shakespeare scholar Marilyn Simon refers to as the “tedium of self-denying responsibilities.”
If we have one, our spiritual life gets lost amidst the busyness or forgotten altogether, leaving us unbalanced and dissatisfied. Allowing for personal and spiritual growth helps us rediscover what is important to us so we can experience the work-life balance we all seek but so few seem to realize.
“Over time, through each small daily promise I made to myself, I build a new foundation for healing. This foundation helped my body and all of its systems return to the balance it so desperately longed for.” - Nicole LePera
During the workday, it's easy to get lost in emails, messages, meetings, drive-bys, and ad-hoc conversations. With so many tasks, people, and projects vying for our attention, often our physical body is here while our mind is elsewhere.
A daily touchstone for connecting to the sacred grounds us so that no matter what happens the rest of the day, a part of you remains calm and centered while everyone around you is losing their heads; as Kipling wrote—being embodied means being here in body and mind.
How often are we required to put out fires and work on urgent yet unimportant tasks? Hurried work can feel exciting but it's mentally and emotionally draining and ultimately less productive. Most importantly, it doesn’t leave room for our projects and agenda.
Setting intentions early in the day can help focus your efforts so you can direct your time, energy, and attention to what matters while saying no to what doesn’t. Making better decisions and concentrating on essential tasks leaves energy for movement, hobbies, and family at the end of the day.
"What you do first thing in the morning affects your whole day. What you do every day affects your whole life.” — Anonymous
Many people start their day as if they’re training for the Olympics. When the gun goes off, they jump out of bed, hop into the shower, and sprint out the door with a to-go cup in hand. For those who prefer a more humane pace, a morning routine lets you savor the solitude before the city comes alive with pinging phones, honking horns, and raging bosses.
Perhaps most importantly, a morning routine is one of the most straightforward strategies for developing good well-being habits that build momentum early in the day. This is excellent news because it means a daily routine is simple enough to sustain yet meaningful enough to make a difference.
My morning routine came about organically. In the early aughts, I’d get up at 6 am and go for a run, followed by drinking a glass of water. I eventually added meditation, and thus my morning routine began.
Some practices have come and gone, and others have stuck. If you’re interested in building a morning routine into your lifestyle, here’s what mine looks like today, which takes about seventy minutes.
I got my first alarm clock in fourth grade. I loved the radio, but I hated the alarm. When I got my first job, I would turn the alarm off in my sleep and show up late to work. So I started using two alarms. Then, I bought an alarm with a lovely chime but, in the end, gave that up too. Now I naturally wake up at 5 am.
I get dressed, go to the bathroom, scrape my tongue, brush my teeth, splash water on my face, and blow my nose. I feel more awake.
Next, I drink 16 ounces of water. Before drinking, I wait for the turbidity (those tiny bubbles) to dissipate. My body and mind feel more energized, but sometimes that much water upsets my stomach. I continue drinking water during the day and stop at 3 pm to avoid waking up at night. If you feel tired, try drinking a glass of water before reaching for the coffee.
Then I meditate for thirty minutes (15 minutes of sitting followed by 15 minutes of walking). I’ve experimented with different types of meditation but generally stick with Vipassana or insight meditation. Vipassana helps us cultivate insights that liberate the mind from the suffering of greed, hatred, and delusion.
Daily meditation creates space, grounds me, and helps me see more clearly. It has also helped me develop such invaluable skills as concentration, nonjudgmental awareness, and letting go. Though I still feel like a beginner, I know it’s working, even on days when it feels like it isn’t.
Next, I read fifteen pages from a book while lying on my back with my legs up the wall and my hips supported by a folded blanket, which I learned from one of my first yoga teachers. Having the legs up the wall calms the mind and improves circulation in the legs, while the blanket relieves pressure on the spine. After work, I read another twenty pages while cycling on a stationary bike.
Next, I write one thing I appreciate about my partner in a “Thanksgiving Journal,” which I discovered in The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. Here’s how a Thanksgiving Journal works: Each day for a year, you write down one thing you appreciate about your spouse, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, you share your journal and watch them cry (kidding, crying is optional).
After nine months, I’m more aware of and grateful for my partner’s good qualities and feel closer to her. If you run out of appreciations, stick with it, and it will begin to flow again.
I then practice copywork for ten minutes. Copywork is a way of improving one’s writing by hand-copying other people’s writing. I’ve been practicing copywork for about six months, and while it may not be showing up yet in my writing, I’m enjoying the process.
I learned about copywork from Sam Parr, founder of The Hustle, and Eddie Schleyner at VeryGoodCopy. While Copywork falls under professional development, it’s included in my daily practices because my career impacts my well-being.
“The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen to twenty minutes a day for three or four days,” writes James Pennebaker in his book Writing to Heal, “can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health. Expressive writing can also affect people’s sleep habits, work efficiency, and how they connect with others.”
I write about my appearance because looks continue to cause sorrow. In daily life, I feel fine. But when I look at a photo, I see everything I dislike.
My parents, innocently enough, worship beauty. I do too. This makes me wonder if being beautiful is less about beauty and more about being seen and loved. Of course, all the professional hot people from movies, advertisements, and social media add to my neurosis.
But guess what? After less than one hour of expressive writing, I feel lighter and more relaxed about my looks. Take that Ralph Lauren.
When I’m done, I wake up my partner and stepkids and brew coffee—caffeinated for her and decaf for me. (I love coffee, but caffeine tends to leave me unsettled, so I’m experimenting.)
A morning routine is a practice, and practice is effort, so the miracle, if there is one, is that we practice at all. When you make and keep small daily promises to yourself, you develop internal reliability and resilience and communicate to your Self that you are worth showing up for.
Stick with your rituals; over time, you will experience a shift from feeling stuck and desperate to hopeful and empowered. Transformation is possible, just not overnight.
“It’s just a question of self-discipline,” said the Little Prince. “First thing in the morning you look after yourself, you brush your teeth and wash your face, don’t you?”
Many believe (emotionally, at least) finding the proper job, diet, or yoga routine would solve their problems. But, like all of life, there are no shortcuts. Personal growth and spiritual development require consistent, dedicated effort. If you keep showing up and doing the work, one day, you will experience life so radically different that you’ll wonder how you lived any other way.
Most new habits fail due to an all-or-nothing approach that leaves little room for experimentation and tinkering. Trying to do everything the “right way” sets you up for mental exhaustion and quitting before you’ve given yourself a chance to succeed.
A better way is doing one thing every day, regardless of how small or insignificant. It’s doing something good for yourself, no matter what, that leads to steady, compounding growth. Growth = effort (and non-effort) x time.
If you’re driven, skipping a day here and there may be more beneficial than gritting your way through practice. After all, self-compassion is a practice too. If you are easygoing, doing something daily can help you form a new habit. As we all know, one day off can turn into one month, which can turn into a permanent sabbatical.
Practices develop over time and change with the seasons of our lives and where we are on our spiritual path. Sticking with the same rituals indefinitely may not be sustainable or desirable. Finding the proper routine requires trial and error and lots of tinkering. Of course, if you find a helpful practice you like, stick with it. In my experience, the more difficult the practice (looking at you, meditation), the more beneficial it is.
Too many people spend too much time worrying about the details instead of doing what needs to be done. Ninety percent of a morning routine’s success (or anything for that matter) is repeatedly showing up and doing something. Doing anything, regardless of how small, is infinitely more helpful than what you do, how you do it, or how long you do it (each time).
Every routine is different because each person is singular and has their own unique needs, wants, dreams, and desires. So there are no rules—you choose how you tap into your inner voice with the rituals that speak to your lifestyle. And feel free to borrow other people’s ideas without comparing yourself to what they’re doing. You are on your spiritual journey, and they are on theirs.
No. Night owls are unfairly judged as lazy or weak-willed in a culture that puts mornings and productivity on a pedestal. The truth is, night owls are as productive, just on a different schedule. Choose a time that works for your nature, whether an afternoon routine, evening routine, or middle-of-the-night routine. That said, some find starting their morning grounded and focused helps set the tone for the rest of the day.
Practicing is more important than how long you practice. Start with a minimal routine you can do daily, whether one second or one hour.
When I started meditating, I began with one minute a day. That’s all I could do. I knew if I tried to do more, I’d get frustrated and quit. Practicing daily, regardless of how I felt, allowed me to develop a lifetime habit. Building momentum leads to lasting habits and enduring changes that compound over a lifetime.
If you’re a parent like me, keeping a daily routine requires more diligence. Some parents find it easier to practice in the evening after their kids go to bed, while others find it easier to practice in the morning before their kids get up. Enrolling the support of your family and communicating your intention can be helpful.
My night routine starts with going to sleep around 10 pm. Before going to bed, I organize the next day’s tasks in Things 3, the app I use for capturing and completing to-dos. This allows me to immediately start on the most critical task the following morning without prioritizing first.
No, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; it’s self-loving. Meeting your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is vital to your well-being and provides a steady, grounded presence benefitting everyone. When you’re at ease, your partner will be at ease. When you don’t freak out, your kids won’t freak out. When you share how you’re feeling, your dog will share how she’s feeling.
If you’re starting out, any practice will do. Many begin with a gratitude journal because it’s easy to get started. Each day, write down one thing you are grateful for and why. For example, “I’m grateful for the toothbrush because it prevents cavities and keeps me from losing my teeth.” Most people skip the why, but I find it helps deepen the appreciation. A gratitude journal helps inclines the mind toward positivity.
Here are some additional ideas for getting started. While some people are drawn to physical movement, others are drawn to more contemplative or creative practices. Find what works for you.
That's morning routine in a nutshell. It's not the routine itself that's transformative but what you do in your routine that is.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Meg Jay: “The future isn’t written in the stars. There are no guarantees. So claim your adulthood. Be intentional. Get to work. Pick your family. Do the math. Make your certainty. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You are deciding your life right now.”