The first week of the COVID-19 quarantine was W E I R D. I had to write that like a cool Instagram influencer's bio just to emphasize how strange that week truly was. Overnight everyone's schedules and normal way of life shifted. Most of you no longer went to work, to a coffee shop, to your gym, or anywhere else for that matter. You sat in your house all day every day. I know for me, that created a real shock to my system. However, what about this time can be made into a positive? What can you do right now with your additional time at home that perhaps you couldn't have done before?
One of the key things in my life I've been wanting to implement for a long time now is a morning routine. Everyone talks about the benefits of meditation, journaling, mobility, and reading - all components of many morning routines - and I've always wanted to make each a habit. What better time than now? The only issue is that I have a tendency to take on way too many things at once, and if this feels overwhelming I will never stick with it. So, as I sat back and evaluated all the options and all the suggestions of what a morning routine should entail, I landed on three buckets to organize a morning routine: stillness, movement, and thinking.
You'd expect that simply sitting still and doing nothing would be easy, right? Wrong. Meditation, or as famed investor Naval Ravikant calls it, "the art of doing nothing," is incredibly challenging. Your mind wanders. You think about how much time you have left to not be thinking. You run through your to do list 14 times - then remind yourself again to stop thinking. It is hard! But it is helpful.
The benefits of meditation range from decreased stress and anxiety to increased attention span, plus more ethereal but equally important benefits such as self-awareness. In short it will make you a better person and you should spend some time working on the art of doing nothing.
For many people, beginning a meditation practice is really challenging. It certainly has been for me. Choose the absolute minimum amount of time you can make commit to doing each day. If you start with just 60 seconds of meditation and make that happen for 30 days straight, you'll be well on your way to much longer and more impactful lengths. Think the extreme long game here, and don't try to go from zero meditation to 30 minutes right off the bat.
Finally, not all stillness and meditation needs to look like you sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Sure, that is one way, but if your first month of meditation is 60 seconds of you staring at the wall while your coffee brews in the morning, that's still a step in the right direction. Begin where you can, and work from there.
Going in the complete opposite direction, another component of your morning routine should be some form of movement. A few ideas for this bucket:
For many people, this bucket has normally been filled by a morning workout - and the good news is with tons of online options that can still be the case. If you're going to make your movement bucket an online workout class, try and end your morning routine with the workout. It's going to be tough to wind back down and do meditation after you've jacked your heart rate sky high and your adrenaline is at its peak for the day.
However, if you begin with something slower such as a stretch or a morning walk, it can done anywhere inside of your morning routine. Do it right away so you can settle into a deep meditative state after, or finish with some slow movement as a way to ease into the work day. Either way, doesn't matter. Just get up and get that blood moving a bit.
Very few times throughout the day is nothing demanding your attention. You have meetings with work. Your kids need lunch and you're also now their teacher. At some point you'd like to workout. The list of demands goes on and on throughout the day, and it gives you very little time to just think and to export those thoughts.
Stillness is the time for no thought - thinking is when you get whatever is racing through your mind out onto paper or into a verbal recording. The most common way to do this is through journaling, which is an entire topic in and of itself, but if you're someone who does better with speaking, try doing a voice recording on your phone. It is really helpful to go back and review these thoughts from time to time - you may have had your best ideas during this morning time and you won't want to miss out on those!
One thing to keep as a part of this whether you're writing or speaking is to include a section on gratitude. Your entire journal could just be two or three things you are grateful for that day. As you continue searching for these to write down, you will subconsciously begin to actively look for things to be thankful for. That has a serious impact on your mental health and can truly lead you to a happier life.
One of my favorite people to follow in the fitness industry is Michael Cazayoux, the current President of Working Against Gravity. He is an extremely interesting guy - CrossFit Games team champion, co-founder of Brute Strength, and now President of an extremely successful nutrition company - and he talks about morning routines a lot. One thing he tries to stress has really stayed with me - your morning routine doesn't need to EXCITE you. It needs to make an impact on you. That's how you can judge if you're creating this correctly. Are you feeling alive after? Is your stress better? Do you feel capable of taking on your day, and excited about what you have to accomplish? These are the determining questions which will help you know if you're on the right path.