Over the last few years I've been struggling to find my rhythm. Juggling cooking lessons, workshops, yoga retreats, private clients, meetings, tons of travel, and several huge life events has been a challenge for me. Don't get me wrong, I love self-employment and I'm very, very grateful for every opportunity that has come my way, but I know I can achieve more and ultimately give more to my clients, friends and family by giving more to myself.
In the last year or so, I’ve started to rearrange my life in a way to create a more peaceful start to my day. I’ve gradually started adding a bit of meditation here and there, sometimes yoga or stretching, but the mainstay has been my morning walks. Each day, without fail, I head out for a good 45 minutes to an hour to walk with my husband and the dog. This daily routine has essentially become second nature. It’s on par with brushing my teeth to the point where my daily morning walk is almost a necessity. This year I hope to actually expand upon this routine and gradually incorporate daily and consistent meditation and/or yoga upon rising, goal setting, and no social media until I’ve had my tea or breakfast.
Health, wellness, and performance gurus have been singing the praises of “morning practices” or “morning routines” for ages. As a person who was historically rush-rush-rush go-go-go and super frantic in the mornings, the idea of a routine with order, structure and with minimal stress use to seem very foreign, but those days are are getting further and further behind me. I'd say the gurus are really onto something!
To learn more about the importance of morning routines, I spoke with my friend Manal Nemr. She's a Life Coach and also one of my #HappinessHabits613 co-founders. She’s a big advocate of this practice and she’s also done a lot of reading and research on the topic. Below she shares some of her knowledge, insights, and also a glimpse into how she starts her day. Read on for the full interview!
Amy: I know the concept has been around for ages, but lately morning routines or morning practices have been front and center among health and wellness experts. Can you explain why it's important to have a morning routine?
Manal: We have a specific amount of energy and willpower when we wake up in the morning. We have to consciously decide where and how we're going to use that energy and willpower. Essentially, we have the power to decide how we want to feel going into our day and we can carve that through a consistent morning practice.
Do we want to leave the house frantically, unorganized and stressed out? Or, do we want to create space that makes us calm and at ease so that we can go about our day with a clearer, more creative mind?
Cultivating an intentional routine each morning nourishes, motivates and energizes us to start our day with an optimistic mindset. It sets the tone for the day and reminds us of what’s important.
Amy: This makes perfect sense to me. But to give the readers some perspective, can you tell us what a typical morning would be like for you?
Manal: Sure, but before I begin, just remember this a "practice" so it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s better to be flexible. Maybe one day I feel like writing before reading my book, maybe the next day I need to meditate first. It really depends. But, start with a general plan that includes the things you want to incorporate into your morning, and be clear about WHY they are important to you, and go from there. Here's how I started my day today...
Make my bed
Fill up my water bottle & have a drink
Approximately 10 minutes of journalling
Approximately 30 minutes /or 20 pages reading my book and have my morning coffee
Approximately 10 minutes of meditation
One hour of exercise or some sort of movement
Gratitude journal and top three priorities for the day
Start my work!
Amy: Your morning sounds fantastic, but I'm sure some people are reading this and feeling like it would be quite difficult for them incorporate a practice like yours. Do you have any tips for people looking to dip their toes into a morning practice?
Manal: Start small. If you can’t do everything or if you get overwhelmed, just start with one thing in the morning. Maybe that’s only doing a 10 minute meditation and do that everyday until you’re able to incorporate something else. To make any behaviour a habit, we must do it consistently.
Amy: I often talk to my clients about the importance of being well rested and setting a regular bedtime. I know you’re a big advocate of this too.
Manal: Yes, definitely. Sleep is very important! It helps with stress and anxiety. I recommend shutting down all your technology at least an hour before bedtime. Maybe journal or read before going to bed. Also, make the small decisions in the evening to make your morning routine easier. Like setting up the coffee maker, or laying out your clothes for the next day. Eliminating small decisions leaves more energy and willpower for bigger decisions.
Amy: I love it! Any final words on the importance of these types of routines?
Manal: Research tell us that 40 to 45% of what we do everyday is habitual. Essentially we’ve performed a habit so many times that it’s become automatic. They’re the building blocks of our lives; so, if you want to change your life, take a closer look at what you DO want, and then cultivate the good and healthy habits that will create that life.
Once we’ve decided what we want our morning to look like and why, we can do these things consistently every day. This consistency makes it a habit. When something is automatic, it frees up space for other things. This increases our efficiency. We no longer need to think about it, we just do it. No reminders, and less need for willpower (which is limited) and motivation (which comes and goes).
If you’d like to learn more about Manal and her company Beautiful Happy Reasons, check out her website, her Facebook page, or her Instagram account.