Routines Can Heal Your Heart (and Body)
Routines are like mental butlers. Once you have a routine in place, then the mental processes that make the behavior happen take place automatically.
— Michael McCullough
I recently finished leading one of my six-week online courses. Happily, I achieved one of my personal health goals for the course — to become measurably less anxious. I also lost a few pounds and reduced the chronic pain in my right knee and hip. My secret weapon in accomplishing all that was a powerful morning routine. Whenever I find something that works, I like to share. So, here is my morning routine and some tips to create (and stick to) one that works for you.
MY MORNING ROUTINE
Special tip: I have an alarm set on my phone for 6am with the decorative emojis you see here – to remind me that these are fun things that I enjoy:
(Note – Lights out is 10pm for this to work. Sometimes I shift it all by an hour to get more sleep.)
6am Brush teeth, take supplements and drink water.
6:05 Listening partnership* by phone with good friend.
6:20 Shower and dress.
6:30 Yoga stretches.
6:40 Morning blessings/prayers.
6:45 Guided meditation (Using Kris Carr’s these days.)
6:55 Journal – finishing with appreciations & affirmations.
7:05 Have tea, play music & plan day by the hour with action list made night before.
7:30 Join family for breakfast, making lunches, juicing, laundry, catching up, etc
8:30 Drink green juice and start my work day.
HOW TO STICK TO IT?
Here are four tips to creating – and sticking to – your own morning routine:
- Make it something you look forward to. For years I followed conventional wisdom that the best way to ensure daily exercise is to do it first thing in the morning. I am not naturally a morning person, however; and envisioning a couple miles on the treadmill only motivated me to roll back under the covers. Now that a conversation with a dear friend, a hot shower, sweet guided meditations and a cup of tea are the first items on my morning routine, I’m much more likely to make it out of bed in the first place. What would you motivate you to get out of bed in the morning?
- Nurture your mind, body and soul. If you include activities that nurture your different parts, you will come out of your morning routine refreshed and energized, ready to take on the day – and with a chunk of your To Dos done already. Meditating and prayer opens my heart and soul. Doing a listening partnership and journaling clears my mind of emotional junk. A hot shower, supplements, water and yoga get my body oiled up and ready for a great day. What parts of you could use nurturing first thing in the morning?
- Create a path. It can be very hard to move from item to item in a morning routine; particularly if you struggle at all with ADHD or are just easily distracted like me. When I first started doing this, I would sometimes spend several minutes looking for my journal, prayer book or yoga strap; or wandering up and down the stairs to get my supplements, water bottle and phone. Suddenly my 90-minute routine was two hours and a non-starter. Now, before I’ve moved my supplements to the bathroom and take a few minutes every night to make sure that everything I need is where it needs to be for a smooth routine the next morning. What items do you need and where do you need them to follow a great routine?
- Find a buddy. We don’t all have someone who is willing to check in with us first thing in the morning. But, you just might and you don’t know it yet. Think about your friends and family – are any of them trying to improve their health or get exercise, journaling or meditation into their morning routine? Having someone to check in with (by phone or in person) at the beginning or middle of your routine is a great way to make sure that you actually do it. Who could you ask?
WHY A MORNING ROUTINE?
I have struggled with anxiety my whole life. Running my own business has cranked it up a notch or two in the last couple of years. Plus – although I am really healthy these days, I still have a tweaked immune system and some chronic hip and knee pain from scoliosis (a curved spine.) If I don’t take my supplements and do my stretches every morning, eventually I don’t feel so well.
So, starting each day off right with grounding practices that nurture my mind, body and soul goes a long way towards reducing anxiety and making sure that I am taking care of myself as well as possible in the midst of the roller coaster ride that we call being a working parent.
The morning routine above has helped me get more sleep, take care of my weak knee and hip and deal effectively with the tough emotions that sometimes leave me anxiety-ridden. I have been happier, healthier and more productive since I started this over a month ago and am incredibly grateful.
If you don’t already have a morning routine you love, I hope this gives you some ideas. It’s had a fantastic influence on me in the last few weeks and I’d love to hear how it works out for you.
To your good health!
*Listening Partnerships are a powerful form of peer counseling. You can learn more about them in Practice 5. Nurture Your Heart in my book Everyday Healing.