Lemons, Heart Rate, Stillness, and Writing - My Morning Ritual & Self-Care for a Better Planet
I want to write a bit more about the importance of mental health as it relates to environmental conservation. As most of us realize, or at least want to realize, our sense of wellbeing is directly tied to our ability to live a meaningful life to our fullest potential. For instance, when I take care of myself, I think more clearly and have more focus, and thus am better able to speak about and discuss conservation issues related to marine life. Therefore, I find this topic very relevant to living a sustainable life, and I hope you also find it intriguing and maybe inspirational.
A Little Routine is Good for the Soul
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of routines and rituals in our lives. Specifically, I’ve been contemplating how important they can be for our mental and emotional health, and how sometimes, even maintaining a semblance of ordinary or familiarity can help you adjust to challenging new situations that would otherwise be rather anxiety-inducing. I’ve started keeping a few different routines over the past several months. Looking back, I find this interesting, as my mantras used to be evolve or be left behind, adapt constantly, don’t get attached to actions that you attribute to your identity, you are in a constant state of metamorphosis… I never liked the idea of a routine. It didn’t fit with those mantras that I thought praised a lack of repetition. I thought keeping a routine would mean wasting opportunities to constantly try new things if I kept repeating old habits.
But maybe the real beauty lies in the fact that you can enjoy self-transformation while staying consistent and true to actions that are serving you - i.e. some sort of routine. It can help ground you and better equip you to go into your day with the openness and inner peace needed to adapt fluidly to changing circumstances.
What is a routine, anyway? A sequence of actions regularly followed, says Lady Google. Up until a couple of years ago, I thought of routines as unideal, boring, something to avoid like the rotten part of last week’s avocado. Routines, for many, signify the mundane, the ordinary, something to escape from. I never used to let myself have the luxury of routines, moving so frequently from job to job, suitcase to suitcase, house to house, country to country. My routine was basically the unpredictable, the constant change, and eventually, this started to manifest itself as a somewhat unhealthy feeling of uprootedness and an inner sense of loneliness. I lacked a community, or so I thought.
Things changed as I started to look inwards.
Seeking Strength from Within
As I’ve grown into a stronger practice of mindfulness and self-care, I’ve found that routines are more attainable and way more beneficial than I thought, even with a transient lifestyle. I’ve also learned that they can provide a favorable structure and support system for my day. In particular, a morning routine shines out as one of my favorite ways to keep my thoughts positive, to keep myself present, and to start the day with the right songs in my head, the right sparkle in my eye, and a blissfully calm and aware state of mind. Maintaining this semblance of repetition, especially with actions that are related to my wellbeing, has grounded me in times where my bed seems to change every other night because of travel.
With my morning routine, travel feels like more of an extension of my life and less like a break from reality. The little bit of consistency gives me energy and focus. Each day, no matter if it begins in a new place than the one before, becomes another day in my life, another chance to grow and learn. And because I try to start the day in a similar way each time my eyes crack open, I’ve become better at tapping into the Source Energy, my spirit, the flow of the Universe, God’s grace, whatever you want to call it. I don’t feel alone anymore, regardless of who might or might not be around me. My sense of community is starting to come from a channel within myself. I feel more connected to everyone, and beautifully, this happens without the pings and dings of social media and iPhones, without attending endless social events, without hours of phone conversations. It’s coming simply from my awareness.
Even if this all sounds like spiritual fluff to you, there’s been a gazillion TED talks, articles, and book chapters written about the benefits of morning routines. In First We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson discusses how beneficial her morning routine is in helping to curb her anxiety. She also mentions, “When I was interviewing all those successful life-bettering folk I would ask, at the end of the interview, for their favourite hack, the one they personally live by. In all but a few cases they’d reply, I have a morning routine.”
The best part is, you can tailor your morning routine to your specific needs and constraints. The important part is just having one. Simplify your choices in the morning. Set out a game plan. Choose actions that make you feel good (ideas below). Dedicate at least 30 days to solidifying your morning routine - this is the amount of time it usually takes to develop a habit.
So what works for me? I’ll show ya.
1. First thing after I pee, I’ll start with a big glass of water, whether or not I feel thirsty. If I’m really ambitious, I’ll drink two glasses or a full 32 oz. Hydroflask. I don’t usually hit snooze (unless I’m jet-lagged, I’m not that cruel to myself). I just hear the alarm, get up and go. I don’t overthink it. I’m lucky in that regard - I am definitely a morning person.
2. Detox. I’ll pop the kettle on so I can make a mug of warm water with lemon or lime in it. Sometimes I’ll add a splash of apple cider vinegar. I’ve heard from many sources about the benefits of lemon water for detoxing, especially when it’s one of the first things you put into your body. It’ll apparently make it easier to digest your breakfast and boost your metabolism, while clearing out any gunk in your body.
3. This has always been a part of my day in some form or the other, but now I’m trying to anchor it to my morning routine. Even if it’s not my “big” activity for the day, just getting my muscles stretched, my heart rate at least slightly elevated, and my body moving feels good first thing. This can mean something different everything morning. A 15 minute walk on the beach. 20 minutes of yoga practice. A 5k run. A 1k run. Or I might be feeling really pumped up and crank out my interval and strength training circuits first thing. Otherwise, I’ll try and just do something to start the day off right, and then if I want to do more exercise later on when I’m feeling stronger and more awake (I do run better in the late morning, and often like to work off any angst or anxiety brought on during the day with a solid work out in the afternoon), I can.
4. I’ve started to commit to a 15-20 minute morning meditation practice, and eventually hope to work up towards 30 minutes. Baby steps. I used to just try and squeeze it in wherever it worked, and found that this led to a bit of confusion and inconsistency. Now, I know that after I pee, drink my water, and move a bit, I’m good to find my cushion and a quiet spot and sit down to sweet silence. It’s nice to do after exercise, as I find it’s easier for my body to sit still and I feel a bit more awake. I still use the Headspace app and highly recommend it, especially for anyone who is anxious or nervous about starting a meditation practice. I’ve been using the semi-guided timer on the app - I find the gentle nudges and cues every few minutes helpful but not as distracting as the more constant guidance in most of the app’s meditations. At the beginning of the meditation, I’ll set an intention for the day and repeat a mantra if I become distracted (like “I am so loved” or “I am grateful for my life”, use whatever works for you). For me, this is my form of prayer, my time to connect and build that inner sense of community that I talked about earlier. It’s a beautiful thing to know that absolutely everything I need - confidence, strength, ideas, inspiration, clarity - can be found within. No more desperately searching for these things in the wild, ever-changing external world.
5. Or any other form of creative self-expression. I release my creativity mainly with words. I love journaling and have kept a diary since I was about 8, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon. I do try and handwrite as much as I can, but I have also fallen in love with the Day One app and have used that for over five years now to capture memories, moments, and attach photos to my journal entries on my computer and on my phone. In the morning, though, I try to limit my access to my devices, so grabbing a pen and my journal, sitting down with my tea or coffee, and letting my mind and thoughts flow over the paper is a powerful way for me to reflect on what I’m truly feeling without too much influence coming in from the day. Remember gratitude as well - I always write down three things that I’m grateful for somewhere in each journal entry. In You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, she gushes over the importance of gratitude for self-care. “…because it makes you feel good to be in such a state of gratitude, it puts you at a very high frequency and connects you to Source Energy, which puts you in a more powerful state to manifest more good feeling things and experiences into your life.” Basically, shower yourself and your world with thanks and focus on the beautiful things in your life, no matter your situation. By doing this, you open yourself to receive a whole lot more goodness and deliciousness into your life. Like attracts like.
From My Morning Routine to the Rest of My Day
After I’ve done those five things, I’m feeling pretty dang good and ready to jump into my day. I haven’t touched my social media feeds, my inbox, my messages yet…I feel connected to myself and nothing has influenced my train of thought but my own existence. The poet and author Janne Robinson once wrote a blog post about her own morning routine, and she mentioned how one of her surf coaches warned her against checking her e-mails and social media first thing in the morning. “Why would you do that? In the morning when you first wake up, you have this beautiful, gorgeous chi energy–the day is starting. Fucking savor that, be in it.”
Then, I’ll probably make myself a nice big breakfast, as I’m part wolf in the morning and love to start the day off with a large, nutritious bowl of something good. Usually that’s oats, sometimes a smoothie bowl. Always peanut butter in some form or another (sorry not sorry). I’ll make myself either a green tea or a coffee depending on what I’m feeling.
Ready for the World
AND NOW I’VE GOT MY HEAD IN THE GAME. Do you have a morning routine? What gets your gears turning in the a.m.? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments.
Remember, self-care is probably the most important way you can contribute to bettering this planet. When you’re feeling good, you’re in a better position to use your talents and passions to their fullest potential. Thus, the world becomes a more vibrant place.
You keep doing you, you radiant beam of light.