What is a morning practice?
Any set of activities that you do consistently every morning to invest in and care for yourself before giving your day away to others.
What mornings without a practice usually look like:
Do any of these concepts sound familiar? Reactivity, procrastination, hitting Snooze, stress, grouchiness, feeling frazzled, rushing, resentment, lethargy, aimlessness, lack of focus, lack of purpose, victimhood?
If so, you’re not alone. So many of us arrive into mornings kicking and screaming, desperate to avoid starting the day. But if we think about it, that’s not a great attitude with which to approach the day ahead! What if there was another way, a way to START the day on such an incredible footing that not only would we OWN the day but we’d actually look forward to waking up? Read on!
The value of a morning practiceThe 2 books that have influenced my morning practice the most have been The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma. I practice a mixture of both every morning. Here are the most compelling reasons to develop a morning practice:
- As Elrod points out, we live the same life the vast majority of the time and yet many of us have big dreams. It’s hard to see how to get from A to B. By carving out an hour for ourselves we free up the critical time to devote to our growth
- Sharma makes the argument that we start the day with ‘the 5 assets of genius’: mental focus, physical energy, personal willpower, original talent and daily time. These deplete as the day goes on. it makes sense to take the best of these for ourselves, before we give these precious resources to anyone else!
- The way that we start our day dictates how we feel through the rest of the day. Overslept? I feel on the back foot all day when this happens. By giving ourselves the gift of a morning practice, we feel energised, purposeful (we’ve put our goals front and centre, first thing), grateful, proactive, centred and we have a sense of ownership. Oh – and I don’t think there’s any harm in feeling slightly smug too!!
- A morning practice gives you the incredible feeling of having gained an hour, or whatever amount of time you dedicate to it. It creates the illusion of space and indulgence in our days while also raising productivity
- Don’t be fooled by the micro nature of the practice. Small changes, done consistently over time, can have massive effects. Giving yourself the privilege of a few minutes a day to think about where you want to be in 10 years time or to build your new CV or to try out new meditation techniques has a very significant compound effect.
Ok, so what does a morning practice look like?
Having a morning practice is such a critical part of many, many successful and influential people and it can take many forms. The general consensus is that it should comprise activities that are an investment in your physical, mental and or spiritual self, as well as your future self. My morning practice is based on the following:
The Miracle Morning – I do about 1hr 15mins. Elrod’s blueprint is the SAVERS acronym: S = Silence (meditation etc)
A = Affirmations
V = Visualisations
E = Exercise
R = Reading
S = Scribing (read: Journaling)
I was struggling with finding the right order for these and so I’ve integrated these 6 practices with:
The 5am Club – Sharma advocates the 20-20-20 rule
20mins – MOVE your body. Work up a sweat; change your chemistry
20mins – REFLECT
20mins – GROW
MOVE I now do 20-30mins power vinyasa yoga which wakes me up without being too manic, or 20mins HIIT – so Elrod’s E
REFLECT – I do 10-15mins meditation (S) immediately followed by 5mins visualisation (V) and then 5-10mins journaling (S). The journaling is a mix of problem-solving, goal-setting (which could also fit with GROW below) and gratitude as well as vomiting out whatever is in my chimp-brain onto paper
GROW – I then read for 15mins (R) and finish with saying my Affirmations (A) out loud. I mix these up regularly to keep them in line with what i want to achieve as well as some much-needed reminders (eg to surrender more!)
Morning practices can be as simple as making your bed first thing (then you know you’ve started the day by achieving one good thing) or doing a few sun salutations. You can read about Tony Robbins’ morning rituals here.
You can make up your own practice depending on what you think serves you best first thing? Do you need to wake up? Chill out? Get centred? Feel more gratitude? Reduce your mental chatter? A great morning practice is simply to avoid social media and email (or your phone in general) for the first hour. If you think about it, why on earth do we let ourselves become reactive as soon as our eyelids open; why do we let WhatsApp or a news feed dictate our emotions and mood first thing?
Variations – making it work for you
I’m aware a full hour or more may not work for everyone. I no longer have to be in an office by 6.30am; my kids sleep through the night. But if you can’t spare an hour there are lots of ways to tweak a morning routine for you:
Hal Elrod suggests starting with a 6 minute SAVERS. This could include a minute of HIIT, a minute of silence, reading one poem or a favourite book of quotes and repeating a couple of affirmations.
I also think the 5am Club 20-20-20 formula could easily become 5-5-5 if need be. I still think that 15 minutes of structured time for yourself is a mood-changer.
If you have a commute, perhaps you could power-walk to the tube or bus and then do your other SAVERS on public transport. If you drive to work, podcasts are a great substitute for reading.
Getting around the issue of sleep
The latest research shows that we need better quality sleep, not more sleep. We ideally should have 5 full 90 minute sleep cycles, so 7.5 hours, but we can reduce this by improving our sleep.
For more guidance on how to sleep smarter I recommend Super Human by Dave Asprey. I am getting an Oura ring for Christmas so that I can see exactly how much REM and deep sleep I’ve had the night before.
Hal Elrod talks a lot about sleep in The Miracle Morning. One point he makes is that if we tell ourselves we’ll be knackered in the morning, we will be. If we tell ourselves how excited we’ll be to wake up and practice the MM in the morning, we will be. I have tried this and it definitely helps.
My findings on my own morning practice
I’ve been doing my Miracle Morning for 3 months. This is what I’ve found:
- Firstly, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it. The difference I feel straight afterwards, and throughout the day, is completely transformative. I feel much more focused, purposeful and clear on my objectives. I’m nicer to my kids, I’m more grateful, more optimistic and I feel both refreshed and invigorated.
- Doing 20mins of exercise every morning has been a total game-changer for my body. Also, I’ve realised how much I now need exercise to wake myself up and super-charge myself.
- On the mornings that I don’t do it, I feel sluggish, reactive, lost and generally crap
- I started getting up at 6am (my old wake-up time was 6.45am) and I now get up at 5.30am as I enjoy the Miracle Morning time so much and I find it so valuable
- I’ve essentially swapped evenings for mornings, as has my husband. We’d rather have more time in the morning when we’re refreshed and at our best, rather than an box-set episode at night.
- I drink a lot less in the evenings now, as I resent the extent to which it robs me of the energy I rely on in the morning to optimise my practice
- In short, I’m sold, and I see myself continuing this habit forever!
- I don’t do it on the weekends (this may change, as I feel the effects of missing it) and I don’t do it when I’m ill or I’ve had a bad night with the kids. I believe in the restorative power of sleep too much
Like anything, this practice has to work for you and your circumstances. My husband leaves the house extremely early in the morning (before I’m up at 5.30am) and so it works for us as a couple. If you decide to build a morning practice, go easy on yourself and experiment with what works for you!!
- My blog post on journaling, which is a summary of Chip Franks’ podcast on journaling (he is a colleague of Hal Elrod)
- My book review of The Miracle Morning
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