What is your morning routine?
I usually wake up between 6:30-7:00am. If my body is feeling up for it, I’ll take an early morning Pilates Reformer class, or run on the treadmill or work out on the elliptical in my apartment building’s gym.
Once I’ve showered, dressed, and gotten everything ready for work, I’ll sit down and eat breakfast, which is usually a bowl of quinoa porridge (Martha Stewart has a great recipe!).
After eating I’ll spend about five minutes reading, meditating, and praying, usually guided by words from the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn in his book Peace is Every Breath. The subtitle for this book is “A Practice for Our Busy Lives” and it is exactly that. Thich Nhat Hahn guides you through meditations that you say out loud and reflect on while you eat breakfast, brush your teeth, shower, and get dressed. They are practical and helpful and I especially appreciate the guidance to be mindful in the things that I am doing in the morning, and not just on sitting and breathing. Depending on how I’m feeling, I will also alternate reading out loud from Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book of quotations, Brave Enough—I treat the book as a kind of Magic 8 Ball; I open it up to a random page and see what Cheryl has to inspire me with that day, and I take time to reflect on her wisdom—and Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, a book of prayers by the amazing poet Pádraig Ó Tuama. The prayers in his book are healing and comforting and always create a space of internal reflection and contemplation for me as I read them out loud. Reading words out loud to myself in the morning from these books gives me direction for the day, or whatever I am feeling or needing to hear at the time, and are essential in making sure I feel present and centered to face the day ahead. These five minutes are incredibly helpful in making sure I feel present and centered to face the day ahead.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
On and off for about a year.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
What I’ve eaten and what exercise I’ve done has varied but they’ve always been a steady part of my routine. The five minutes of reading, meditation, and prayer is something that I’ve been trying in the past year.
What time do you go to sleep?
I’m in bed by 10:30pm, and usually asleep by 11:00.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
If I’m planning on working out in the morning, I lay out my workout clothes the night before so I am ready to go. I also make sure that my breakfast is prepared so all I have to do is heat it up in the morning.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
Yes, on my phone. I never hit snooze because once I’m up I find it very hard to go back to sleep.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
About an hour after waking up I’ll eat quinoa porridge with oat milk, almonds, raspberries, and blackberries.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
No, I wait until I’m either on the bus and I answer anything urgent on my phone, or when I’m at the office. I find it important to have these boundaries between my work and personal life.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I listen to short-form podcasts while I am getting dressed in the morning. Interesting People Reading Poetry, Making Gay History, Dear Sugars, and Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations are especially energizing and inspiring which is what I need to get going in the morning.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Not until I’m on the bus, so about an hour and a half after I wake up.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I equate working out with the work week, so I rarely work out on weekends, and I do sleep in as much as possible, although the older I get the harder that seems to be as my body clock is set by my weekly routine.
I look forward to my weekends being a time where I don’t set an alarm. On weekends I eat breakfast and plan my day at my own pace, always with a cup of strong dark coffee in hand. Most weekend mornings I am rushing off to meet friends for breakfast or brunch in the Twin Cities, or occasionally cooking for them over at my place for breakfast/brunch. And if I’m not meeting anyone, I will make my favorite breakfast at home: poached eggs on arepas, with a side of veggies, avocado, and a bowl of berries. I will then read in my favorite red chair, next to the largest window of my apartment, where I can see the sun shine and watch as my neighborhood begins its day.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I try to be kind to myself and not foster too much guilt on days where I don’t exercise or don’t have those five minutes of centering time, but my day is definitely affected when I don’t do either one. Both of these activities are about taking care of myself and when I don’t do them I notice that I have far less energy and patience to take care of and work with others.
Photo of Lily by Bethany Birnie.