Which of these scenarios sounds like a happier way to start the day?
- Your alarm rings, you hit snooze because you’re so tired. It rings again and you realize you forgot that you have stop to gas up your car on the way to work, so now you’re already running late. You jump out of bed, into the shower, grab a cup of coffee and rush out the door while your hair is still damp.
- Your alarm rings and since you’re eager to start the day and you feel great, you get up right away. After grabbing a cup of coffee, you sit on your front porch for 10 minutes, listening to the birds wake up. After that, you spend a few minutes reviewing what’s on for the day, eat breakfast, shower, and dress.
By creating a couple of routines filled with simple pleasures, your mornings can look more like scenario #2. This post will cover two specific times of day when creating those routines can have a huge impact: when you wake up and before you go to bed.
Let’s start with a morning routine. Even if you’re not a morning person, before hitting work, start your day with something that makes you feel good. It’s as simple as that. You might read something uplifting, educational, or funny, or sit quietly to meditate. Or maybe you’d prefer to start the day with some exercise, a stroll through your garden, or by listening to music, a book, or a podcast. What you don’t want to do is start with something that stresses you or annoys you, such as checking email or reading the news. What you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for your day.
When creating your routine, take into account your personal energy rhythms. Do you enjoy leaping into the day, or do you need to ease into it? Your morning routine is just for you, so make sure it’s centered around what will feed your soul and start your day off in a joyous manner.
During your morning routine is a good time to determine your priorities for the day. What must you do to feel the day is a success?
Your morning routine can be as short or long as you need it to be. Mine (below) takes about an hour. Click here to read about one that takes just 15 minutes.
I actually love waking up in the morning, and part of the reason is my morning routine. I start my day by doing things I love. When I wake up, I grab a cup of coffee (already brewed using my coffeepot with a timer), and usually a homemade mini scone, sit in the rocking chair in my office and spend a half hour or so reading something inspirational or educational.
After that, I set my kitchen timer for 30 minutes and write. My rule is I don’t have to write, but I can’t do anything else. This is about developing the habit of writing first thing. I want it to become second nature, not something I have to think about or force myself to do. I want to learn that when I reach for the words, they’ll be there. What comes next depends on the day, but the first few things are almost always the same: coffee, inspirational reading, writing. I feel like my day is off to a good start when I begin it this way.
Since I work for myself and have to have the discipline to work without supervision, I find that starting my day with a specific routine also gives it needed structure. If you do go to work outside your home, it’s even more important for you to create routines that will ground and feed you. Starting the day in the way you choose, and ending it in a way that soothes and replenishes. If you’re a parent, having some time to yourself before and after the demands of family is also crucial. My morning routine when my son was small was pretty much the same as it is now, only it took place earlier in the morning. On days I didn’t manage to practice my morning routine, I felt off balance and tense all day long.
In order to feel good about waking up in the morning, you need to get enough quality sleep. A pre-bedtime routine can help you get that sleep. At night, the key to creating a nourishing routine is signaling your body and mind that it is time to rest, and let go of the day that’s done. This is another good time to avoid TV, news, and the internet. You might also want to put down your smart phone or other electronic device, since research has indicated that the blue light emitted by these devices can affect production of melatonin, and your cirdadian rhythms. If you still want to use your device, there are various ways you can try to lessen the effects, such as dimming it, or using a program that filters out blue light in the evening.
Some other practices you might want to make part of your evening routine include reading a poem, writing about what went well, or writing about three things you’re grateful for.
At night my routine is quite simple: feed the cat her “second dinner” and put her to bed in my office, check that the doors are locked, brush my teeth, and get in bed and read. Several nights a week, I take a lavender-scented bubble bath and do some stretching and roll on a foam roller.
Our lives are full to the brim of activity and giving to others. Don’t forget to give to yourself by creating routines that support and nourish you. Starting and ending your day with simple pleasures, in a manner you choose, can contribute to your happiness in surprising ways.
If you want to know more, entire books have been written about creating morning routines. I wrote about one of them here.
What are your morning and pre-bedtime routines?