Earlier this month I was asked by GoodHousekeeping.com to share some top tips for a successful morning routine. It got me thinking about routines in general. Why we set them? How many do we need each day? And what happens when a routine we’ve put carefully into place falls to the side? As we approach year-end, I thought I’d offer a reflection on my three favorite daily routines. What routines help you to power through your day? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear!
How I Power Up My Morning: Making My Bed
My bed over time.
Finding a way to power up in the morning can be a big deal for many of us. I’m not a natural morning person, so I need an outside motivator. For years, I used my alarm clock as a motivator. I’d set it to the news, or if I needed a stronger kick-start, to a loud music station. But in time, this began to feel abrupt.
I wanted a natural way to power up. I adjusted my bedtime routine (including getting to sleep an hour earlier) and before long, began to wake on my own, almost always beating my alarm clock by a minute or two.
I began to seek a new morning power routine. I wanted something healthy, so I experimented with solutions, from meditation to a quick morning run. But the only routine to stand the test of time in my life turned out to be the simplest one of all, which is making my bed.
For me, making my bed is the best of both worlds. It’s a meditative practice, as I must be mindful to do it (for it’s way too tempting to look the other way). It’s also exercise, as I raise my arms to straighten bedding, and stretch my torso to put pillows into place.
I feel that anchoring the morning with routine, from a cup of coffee or tea to walking the dog, helps to set the tone for the day. It’s a moment to ground in our bodies, to clear our minds, and to get ourselves physically and mentally ready for whatever lies ahead. Whatever you choose, keep it simple, and remember, it’s ok to backslide. If your routine is simple enough, don’t worry, it will call you back. I’ve gone for stretches where I’ve let the bed hang loose, but too many days in a row facing a crumpled bed at night gets old, and I happily put my practice back into place.
How I Power Through My Afternoon: Eating 5 Cashews
When I was young I could never seem to eat enough. I needed to snack every few hours. Carbohydrates were my power-snack of choice, but you can’t keep that diet up for long in life.
One day I read an article about a man who lived well into his 90’s. His secret to success was eating 5 pistachio nuts every day. At the time, I was studying mindfulness meditation. It struck me how powerful it was that this one simple routine helped him in two ways: the discipline of 5 nuts kept his mind focused, while the protein in the nut gave him an a energy-packed punch.
I decided right then to take on this routine, and I did so with my nut of choice, which is the cashew. It was tempting to eat a handful, but I stuck to the discipline of 5 nuts, and to my surprise, 5 nuts is all it has ever taken to power me through an afternoon energy slump.
Peer into my bag on any given day and you’ll find a tiny tupperware filled with cashews. Without fail, at least once a day during mid-afternoon, I reach in and remove five cashews. And even if I’m on session with a client, if we work through the afternoon, out come the cashews.
Somedays I am unprepared. I’ve run out the door forgetting my snack tub, or am simply out of stock at home. When I do forget, I’ll reach for something else to power my afternoon. But the thing is, I’ve come to love this little routine so much that on the days I do forget, I miss my cashews so much, it’s as if they were little friends. And sure enough, within a few days, my routine is firmly back in place.
If you hit an afternoon energy slump, try keeping a power snack handy. Protein is great, but fruit works as well. And while the small quantity might seem crazy, give that a whirl too. Find a “just right” quantity that works for you. You’d be surprised how little fuel is really needed to pick our bodies up from a mid-afternoon energy slump.
How I Power Down My Night: Getting Down On My Floor
I have a personality that some might call Type A. But the truth is, I’m also an intuitive being. I love a good deadline, a busy life, and a hectic day. But if I don’t unwind at night and let my mind and body release from the energy of the day, I have a hard time falling asleep, or having fuel to manage the following day.
For me, my preferred routine for powering down is to get on the floor. Years back I read Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He speaks about the importance of connecting to the floor once a day. It made an impact on me, and I’ve done my best to maintain this practice throughout my life.
Getting on the floor is humbling, as in doing so we are forced to give up our logical brain which says, “that’s weird!” But the simple act of doing so takes us out of that mind control, and straight into our bodies. It’s also a way to connect with the earth. Even if you live in an apartment building (like I do), getting down to the floor is akin to laying down on the grass or land outside. It’s connecting you to something other than your life, your phone, your computer or your work.
Some nights I use a yoga mat, while other nights I just lay down on my hardwood floor. The goal is simple, to let my body melt into the floor. 5 or 10 minutes lets the weight and stress of the day roll off, and helps me to prepare for sleep. Most nights I include a small stretching routine as well, like bringing my knees to my chest, or turning my ankles in circles, whatever feels good that day, as this helps me to further relax.
If you are looking for a natural way to wind down at night, give getting down on your floor a try. If you have a family, finding the time or location to do so may seem out of reach. But don’t take no for an answer. Carve out some space for yourself, or try the floor of your bathroom. Trust me, this works.
What routines help you to power through your day? Let me know in the comments below!
Photo Credits: Maeve Richmond