NATALIE BURTON OLY
Amongst all of this change and uncertainty, I have been finding small pockets of joy in such seemingly simple things. Like the joy of having left over birthday cake to eat for a week (does 3 days count as a week?), or the freedom I feel when I escape from the house down to the beach for a quick dip. And most of all, the happiness, calmness, and fulfilment I get from my daily morning ritual.
A couple of years ago, when I was first exposed to the idea of morning rituals, I had a picture in my head of a top-level CEO business guru who gets up at 4am, does a yoga session followed by a 12km run, then sits down with their bulletproof coffee and writes the next best-selling novel, invents a new gadget, starts a new business, conducts all their board meetings, and writes their memoir, all followed by reading a couple of self-help books.
Anyone could be forgiven for not attempting to implement their own morning routine with this picture in mind.
But a morning ritual is not about accomplishing all of your tasks or getting all your jobs done before the sun rises. Rather, it’s about giving yourself this time in your day to look after your own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing first. This devoted time sets you up to be able to handle the days’ ups and downs with resilience, and maintain your focus to help you complete your various work, tasks, and goals.
My current morning ritual is as follows:
Let’s go over the most important areas of a morning ritual:
1. Incorporating some form of mental stillness practice such as meditation, mindfulness, or even journaling.
With the current upheaval to life as we know it, the temptation to binge on social media and fall down the deep dark spiral of fear inducing doomsday scenarios is all too easy. And you will do it, I did it yesterday myself, and I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of the darkness. I was full of anxiety and I did not achieve the end results I had set for my day.
It took my team sport psychologist to give me a dose of my own medicine and remind me of the importance of staying in the present moment rather than running away into a future full of ‘what ifs’.
Which is exactly the premise behind mindfulness; when we practice mindfulness, we become aware of our thoughts in the present moment rather than replaying the past or imagining and stressing about the future.
Whether you practice your mental stillness in the morning through a guided mindfulness session or by going for a walk to clear your thoughts, not only will your mind get a reprieve from any anxiety you’re experiencing, but it will help you maintain your focus in each present moment throughout your day, instead of being distracted by your emotions and stresses.
2. Another piece of gold I have in my morning ritual is reminding myself of my chosen end results and vision, and setting my desired outcomes for the day. This helps give me a clear guide as to what actions I can take today to get me closer to achieving them.
Some people will have a clear vision, and some won’t. If you would like some help finding yours, please send me a message and I can take you through some exercises and worksheets. The direction this exercise gives you is incredibly powerful and meaningful.
3. I use my morning ritual to start moving early and get a workout in first thing in the morning. It really gives me a buzz when it’s completed, and knowing that my exercise is (mostly) done for the day feels amazing. I say mostly because I used to play this game called basketball and we would have team trainings in the evenings and games on the weekends…except isolation equals no more basketball, or team sport, or just sport in general. Sad face.
4. If you’re really into your food, like me, then take great delight in eating something nutritious and delicious as part of your morning ritual.
When I think about my morning ritual and the breakfast that accompanies that, I get excited for it the night before. But then again I get excited about most things when food is involved. I won’t go into the details of the importance of a nutritious breakfast, I’m not a nutritionist. This routine is about looking after yourself and using the time to do things that bring you joy. If you’re a person who doesn’t care much about what they eat for breakfast, then don’t give it too much thought, and devote your time and decisions to another area of your morning instead. Research suggests our brains are really bad at making decisions in the mornings, so don’t use them all up on something that doesn’t serve you!
A few things to remember:
What not to do:
So much is changing in the world, and it will continue to do so for many months to come. Use this opportunity to try out new things, like a morning ritual, or mindfulness, or journaling. Our lives before were so busy and full of distractions that we used as excuses for not doing the things that we knew would probably help us.
Make the most of this down time, practice self-care, implement some changes, and if they help you then carry them through when things start to pick back up, which they will. This is how you can look after yourself and create the changes that will serve you, and therefore others and our communities in the long run.