We all want to live our best lives, but so often appointments, responsibilities and aches and pains get in the way of that mission. Creating a set of daily rituals, however, can help keep you on track toward having a good day, no matter what's thrown at you.
From exercise to meditation to quality time with family, self-care rituals have a big effect on your physical and emotional health. Far too often, though, these important parts of life are viewed as just more tiring items being piled on your to-do list instead of being recognized as the sacred tasks that can help you thrive day in and day out. Luckily, a simple shift in mindset and re-prioritizing your own self care can make all the difference. Here are 9 simple morning routine ideas to help you make the most of — and truly enjoy — each and every day.
1. Design Your Day
Some mornings it can be difficult to find the motivation and willpower to even get out of bed. And at some point during the day, it might feel easier to simply sit down for a TV binge-watching session and not get back up until the sun sets.
But by creating a habit of designing your day, such as creating a to-do list or blocking out time in your planner for specific tasks, you remove the difficulty of remembering what needs to be done later when your energy level has plummeted. So take out your calendar or journal and jot down what you want to accomplish that day, ranked from most important and urgent to least important and urgent. Even if you don't get all the way through the list in one day, you'll have accomplished what's important, which feels great!
2. Eat the Frog
Don't worry, "eating the frog" has nothing to do with amphibians for breakfast and everything to do with developing a ritual that'll make your day seem more manageable. Even on your best days, there's often an ugly, unpleasant task you don't feel like doing, right? Meet your frog!
The trick — popularized by author and motivator Brian Tracy — is to focus on that "frog" first thing in the morning, rather than spending the whole day dreading it. So if you struggle through your workouts, do them first thing (see the next point). Or if you have phone calls you usually find yourself avoiding, get them out of the way bright and early. That way they're off your mind and you can carry that sense of accomplishment with you throughout the day.
3. Boost Your Energy With Exercise
It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you feel exhausted, a little bit of exercise can help you keep going. Don't worry: We're not talking about HIIT or CrossFit here. Low-intensity, low-impact workouts like walking, swimming, biking or yoga are all excellent options.
A 2008 study from the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation found that a morning sweat session can help you feel more awake and ready for the day. And a 2017 review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that regular exercise had the biggest effect of all lifestyle changes on cancer patients, most likely due to its positive effect on endogenous hormone levels, inflammation and insulin resistance.
4. Write in a Journal
Writing down your thoughts each day can help you sort through how you feel about your life while also helping to manage your anxiety, reduce your stress and cope with negative thoughts, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Some people like to keep an online journal that friends and family can read so they don't have to keep answering the same questions over and over again. Others prefer to have a private, handwritten journal that allows them to truly get their thoughts out without the risk of other people seeing them. Choose the format that feels best for you and get writing! And if filling multiple pages each day sounds overwhelming, simplify it to fit your needs: Even writing down a single sentence about how you feel each morning is a significant first step toward developing this wholesome habit.
5. Take a Moment to Be Mindful
The freeing thing is that there's no "right" way to meditate. This is your ritual, so make of it what you will. The most important thing is to set aside a few minutes every day and establish a routine. Then, you can simply sit or lie down and spend whatever time you have focusing on your breath and your body. If your mind wanders, gently guide it back to the sensations you're currently feeling.
6. Connect With a Support Network
The importance of having social support can't be understated, so take a little bit of time in the morning to connect with someone every day. This could be a family member or friend, a spiritual advisor or mental health provider.
It might mean hopping on a phone call or exchanging a few text messages, meeting a loved one for coffee or jotting out a few messages on an online message board. According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, benefits of both formal and informal social support include reducing anxiety, stress, fatigue and pain, as well as improving self-image, feelings of control and your mood.
7. Practice Creativity
Set aside time in the morning for creative endeavors that make you feel alive, such as that novel you're writing or the piano skills you're set on improving. Finding the motivation to practice your craft after a long workday is a challenge when all you want to do is relax, so why not get it done while the day is new?
When you're tempted to hold off until you get home in the evening, repeat this mantra: If it has to happen, it has to happen first. Plus, practicing something you love right off the bat helps take your mind off daily stressors and sets a positive tone for the day.
8. Put a Focus on Food
Although there's no one-size-fits-all diet, it's important to pay attention to what you're putting in your body. When you create a morning ritual of preparing meals and snacks with purpose and focusing on the nutrients that your body needs, you're also ensuring that you get the right kind of fuel to help you get through the rest of the day.
Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends that breast cancer patients eat a diet that includes a bevy of phytochemical-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while also decreasing saturated fat and avoiding cured, pickled or smoked foods, as well as alcohol. (But those are great healthy eating guidelines for anyone and everyone to follow!)
9. Unwind Before Bedtime
There's no way around it: The key to a good day, a good mood and good health is a good night's sleep. That means part of your morning ritual actually starts the night before.
Just as you set an alarm to wake up in the morning, it's imperative to set a bedtime alarm, as well. When it goes off, it's time to unwind so you can get a good night's sleep. Then leave your phone outside of your bedroom or put it on silent or in airplane mode to ensure you have an undisturbed, restful night.
- WebMD: How to Live Your Best With Breast Cancer
- Psychology Today: 4 Morning Success Rituals to Start Your Day Off Right
- Cleveland Clinic: How You Can Stay Strong After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Healio: Exercise has ‘astounding’ effect on breast cancer recurrence, mortality
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Nutrition for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Journaling for Mental Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tips for Better Sleep
- Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: The value of mindfulness meditation in the treatment of insomnia
- Educational Research Review: Mindfulness-based meditation to decrease stress and anxiety in college students: A narrative synthesis of the research
- JAMA Internal Medicine: Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- New York Times: How to Meditate
- Susan G. Komen: Social Support