Setting Up Your Day
I was somewhat popular in China. As we traveled around that impressive country, I attracted attention at every turn. It felt like being a celebrity… unless I spent time thinking about the reason for it.
It wasn’t because I looked like a rock star.
It wasn’t because I was famous. Though I suspect that somewhere in a theater in Shanghai there is still a photo of me strapped to a giant deck of cards for people to gawk at.
It was because I weighed at least 438 pounds–see the photo above–and most of the people there had never seen anyone like me.
People weren’t shy about it. Over the weeks we were there, hundreds of people approached me to take photos with me. At a couple of points, they actually lined up to do it. No one was being mean-spirited, and at the time I presented a face of willingness and appreciation for their attention.
What choice did I have? If there was ever a better time in my life for self-evaluation and consideration of what I was doing to myself, I had found it. I definitely wasn’t into Healthful Living.
I have a tool that I use in my Healthful Living Practice that I think could benefit you, so I’m going to share it with you. It is just one of many, but this tool is a pretty important one. Whether your goals for Healthful Living are weight loss, becoming physically active and strong, living peacefully, or something else, a morning ritual or routine can support the way you choose to live. It can help you to Become Greater.
I am talking about a morning routine. A ritual. A way of starting your day, every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to set the stage for the rest of your day. Barring unforeseen circumstances–and I know those do happen–you know how your day is going to start when you get up. You don’t have to think hard about it. But setting it up and making it a habit can take a little effort. For people living with children, or even with other adults, your morning routine can be part of your personal, alone time, especially if your family comes to know that you are protecting that time for yourself.
Routine is a great comfort of life, especially if your world is otherwise a wild disarray of unpredictable activity.
Having a morning routine can sound a little idyllic, like one of those things wealthy, childless people who live in a giant, glass-fronted house on the ocean can work into their schedule. But the truth is that we all have things we do or must do each and every morning, and we are already taking the time to do those things. We can approach these things frenetically, or we can approach them in a reasonable, controlled, and healthful manner. And some of you already have a morning routine without even realizing it. Does it need to be adjusted?
Here is what my morning routine looks like. Yours will look like you want it to look.
- Get up at the same time, every day (more about that in a separate post on sleep hygiene, which is coming soon, I promise). For now: it really does help to get up at the same time every day. Adjust the amount of sleep you get by adjusting your bedtime. I get up at 6:00.
- Take our dog downstairs and let her out (2 minutes).
- While the doggo is out, use the toilet, get the coffee going, make sure the dog has water, and put food out for her. Let her in (5 minutes).
- While waiting for the coffee to finish, or with my first cup, do my morning metta practice (5 minutes). Metta is a practice of extending good will and compassion to yourself and to others; for freedom from suffering and enmity, and for good health and peace.
- Morning Zen meditation practice (20 minutes). This is the end of my strictly regulated routine; the items below are more flexible but always included.
- Move. For me, this can be a yoga workout, a long walk with the dog, a run or bike ride, or heading for the gym. Some of this depends on how much time I have available, which means that I need to plan ahead. This is important; you can’t just wing this. Make a plan. If I know I am going to the gym, I get my bag ready the night before. If I know I am going for a run, I get my running clothes ready (30 to 120 minutes or longer for a long run).
- Shower and dress, including shoes. Even if you are not going anywhere, dressing fully will help you feel more ready for your day, more confident and more competent, and increase your productivity (20 minutes).
- Prepare and eat breakfast (15 minutes). After a morning routine like that, how could I want to eat anything that was not in keeping with my Healthful Living Practice?
- Open my planner and set up my task list for the day (10 minutes).
I want to encourage you to set up your own morning routine. I will warn you that it can take a while to figure it out. It is fine for you to try a routine and to realize it needs to change. It is fine for you to struggle for a time while you install it as a habit. It is fine for your morning routine to be a big mess while you sort it out. Your world is not going to hinge on this.
Exercise: Creating a Morning Routine
- Think of the things that are important or necessary to you, to include in your morning routine. Write them down, and be specific. You may include more things than you think you can reasonably do in the morning, and that is fine. This is a work in progress.
- In my morning routine, I want to address all four domains of Healthful Living Practice: my physical health, my mental health, my social health, and my spiritual health.
- At first, I was including far too many tasks to get done in a reasonable amount of time. If your morning routine takes until lunch, you may want to reevaluate. This is about starting your day.
- Ideas that may help: personal hygiene, gratitude, nutrition, exercise, planning, reflection, stretching.
- Organize the list, in an order that makes sense to you. Do not forget that you have things you must do in the morning, and include those.
- Set times alongside your list, for how long each item takes. I am not talking about how long you want them to take, but about how long they actually take. Your morning routine should not have you watching the clock.
- Tally up the amount of time you are looking at to get that morning routine done.
- Make a note of the earliest time that you must be otherwise available on a weekly basis. What I mean is that if you have to be at your office or workplace by 7:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, this will control (a) your daily wake-up time, and (b) how much time you have for your morning routine.
- Go to work on that routine like you would on a budget.
- Make it as simple as possible.
- Be realistic about what must be included, what is reasonable to include, and how much time these things will take.
- Be reasonable about your wake-up time. If you can’t possibly get to bed before 10:30 p.m. most nights, then accommodating a 2-hour morning routine by getting up at 3:00 a.m. is probably not reasonable.
- Try it. Spend a few days with your new morning routine. Adjust it. Move it around. Flexibility is a good thing. Perfection is unnecessary and burdensome. You are going to have lots and lots of days to get it right.
- Post in the comments here, or on the Become Greater Facebook page, about what you are trying in your morning routine, and how it is going for you. You can ask questions if you like, and your words can help others.
A morning routine is a strong support for Healthy Living Practice. It is one of the the things I suggest that my Healthful Living Coaching clients try in their own lives. It can help you to reach your goals and Become Greater.