Have you ever met one of those people who always seems to be happiest just after they wake up? Perhaps it’s your partner, who goes out for a jog every morning and comes back smiling. Or that super cheerful colleague who greets everyone with enthusiasm before they start work.
If you’ve looked at these people and wondered, “What is wrong with you?”, I have some bad news: You’re missing out.
Whether you like it or not, mornings have the potential to set the tone for the rest of your day. Getting yourself into a positive mindset (rather than stumbling around like a grumpy zombie) will have positive knock-on effects until the moment you go to bed.
I am one of those self-proclaimed morning people, though that wasn’t always the case. As I entered adulthood (and stopped partying so hard after college), I discovered the magic of starting every day the right way, with an excellent ritual that brings me joy and prepares me for the day ahead.
Maybe you’re not a morning person, but you’re curious about what people love so much about mornings.
Or maybe you’re already an early riser, but you’re looking for ways to improve your mornings even more.
Either way, in this article I share some of my best morning routine ideas that will bring you more peace and happiness.
The most important morning ritual happens at night
Before we get into the morning routine ideas, let’s talk about the most important part of starting a healthy morning ritual: Getting enough sleep!
If you aren’t sleeping well or getting enough sleep, then it’s going to be virtually impossible to enjoy the morning. Certainly everyone will have a bad night of sleep here and there, but if it’s routine for you to only get a few hours of restless shut-eye, then you’ll need to make some changes before you can really dig into a good morning routine.
For example, if you frequently drink caffeine late in the day or alcohol before you go to bed, you’re setting yourself up for a bad night’s sleep. You may also be throwing off your sleep schedule if you take long naps during the day, or spend a lot of time looking at a phone, laptop, or television screen before bed.
There are also many apps, like Calm and Headspace, that can help you get better sleep. If you’re an iPhone user, I also highly recommend using the iPhone sleep schedule function, which will help you start forming good evening and morning habits.
If you find yourself lying awake at night due to stress or anxiety, then you may want to begin practicing some mindful meditation at night. Check out my article on mindfulness for some resources.
Morning routine ideas
Once you’ve found a way to make sure you’re getting good sleep more often than not, it’s time to start maximizing those early morning hours.
Think of a morning routine sort of like ordering off a menu—what you choose to do in the morning should be based on your own likes and dislikes. Of course, there are only so many hours in a morning, so you won’t be able to do everything on this list every day. But if you can find a way to take a few of these morning routine ideas and integrate them into the start of your day, you’ll likely find yourself feeling brighter, clearer, and happier over time.
By the way, if you’re looking for more information about how to make your mornings transformative, I highly recommend checking out Vector Alum Hal Elrod’s book and movie: The Miracle Morning.
1. Keep a sleep journal
As I mentioned, a big part of setting up a valuable morning ritual is by making sure you sleep well. One thing you can do in the morning to improve your sleep is keep a sleep journal.
Store a pad of paper and a pen in your nightstand. When you’ve woken up, write down a short entry about your sleep. Answer these questions:
Did you wake up at night?
Did you have any dreams?
What time did you go to bed and what time did you wake?
Do you feel well rested this morning?
This morning ritual will only take a few minutes to complete, but it can help you recognize patterns in your sleep habits (and remember those crazy dreams that seem to slip away as soon as you wake up).
2. Try deep breathing before you get out of bed
If you’ve ever practiced yoga or meditation, you know how valuable it can be to monitor your breathing. This is particularly true in the morning, as a way to reset your body before you get on your feet.
When you first wake up, before you reach for your phone or rise to your feet, take a few big, deep, slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about the air filling your lungs and diaphragm, and allow yourself to relax into the breathing as you continue.
Eventually, you’ll start to feel more centered, and this feeling should last the rest of the morning.
3. Drink a big glass of water
What is the easiest thing you can do to start your morning off the right way? Drink a big glass of water, first thing. Our bodies naturally dehydrate while we sleep, and though you may not be aware of it, you’re likely very thirsty when you wake up.
I find keeping a glass of water by my bed at night is the easiest way to turn this action into a morning ritual. You’ll see the glass right away and remember to drink it. When you do, you may find that any headaches or hunger pangs you experienced upon waking subside—it was just your body’s way of telling you it was thirsty!
4. Starting off with a stretch routine
You probably already know how good it feels to stretch in the morning. But maybe you’ve only ever done the classic hands-over-the-head-while-yawning kind of stretch, which only lasts about 10 seconds. If so, you’re missing out.
I started doing stretching routines nearly every morning during the start of the pandemic, and I know it will become something I do for the rest of my life. It’s by far my favorite way to wake up my body and prepare my mind for the morning ahead—any time you practice stretching, you can also practice mindful meditation.
If you’re looking for a good routine to start with, here are a couple YouTube videos I find to be both relaxing and refreshing for the morning:
5. Enjoy coffee and a healthy breakfast
You’ll meet some morning people who boast about not needing coffee in the morning to feel good. I’m not one of those people—I love a good cup of coffee to start my day. But because I practice morning rituals, I do my best to make sure I’m not just slurping down a shot of espresso or guzzling an ice coffee before going to work.
Taking the time to enjoy a cup of coffee, along with a balanced breakfast, is an excellent way to build a healthy morning routine. Too often we are rushing through breakfast or skip it altogether, which leaves us feeling sluggish or grumpy around 10am, when it’s too late for breakfast and too early for lunch.
You don’t need to whip up an elaborate breakfast every morning, but you can easily pull together a quick, healthy breakfast to go with that cup of coffee or tea. Things like yogurt and fruit with granola, avocado toast, overnight oats, scrambled eggs and toast, or a blended protein smoothie all can be made in less than 10 minutes and will fill you up with lots of nutrients to start your day right.
6. Take a walk to get some fresh air
There’s something magical about an early morning walk. The air usually feels fresher and cooler, and because most people are still sleeping or getting ready, it’s usually pretty quiet (even in big cities).
A quick walk in the morning is a great way to practice some meditation and reflect on your day ahead, while also getting your blood flowing. Don’t worry about how far you walk—even just a quick trip around the block can make a big difference in how you feel in the morning. (Bonus points if you have a dog to take with you!)
If you want to maximize your time in the morning, consider replacing part of your morning commute with a walk. For example, you could walk to a train station that is farther away, or have someone drop you off a little bit farther away from your workplace so you can get some steps in before you dive into a busy day.
7. Get some exercise (of any kind)
If you’re taking a daily walk in the morning, then you’re already getting some exercise. But if you kick it up a notch by doing a more intensive morning workout, then you’ll start reaping the benefits of an improved mood and an overall sense of wellbeing as you start your day.
The type and amount of exercise you do is up to you. It can be something as simple as a 20-minute light yoga session, or you can choose to run or cycle a few miles. You may even want to check out what early-morning workout classes are available in your area; often, signing up (and paying) for a fitness class is a great motivator to get up and seize the day, rather than spend another hour scrolling on your phone in bed.
8. Take time to plan out your day
It’s a terrible feeling when you come into work and realize you have no idea what’s on your agenda for the day. If you’re sick of feeling rushed and anxious when you get out of bed, then spending some of your morning time planning the day ahead is a good idea.
There are so many tools and apps out there to help you plan your day—from the classic pen-and-paper to more sophisticated tools like Trello, Notion, and OneNote.
If you’re already the kind of person who keeps a schedule, you can still make a morning ritual out of mentally preparing yourself for the day. Review your list of tasks, and take five or ten minutes to consider how you will approach them, what order you will do them in, and how you feel about what you need to do. This will bring you mental clarity that will make it much easier to tick things off your to-do list.
9. Catch up with a loved one (who is also a morning person)
Here’s something you’ll learn when you become a morning person—there’s a whole community of people who are also early risers, and they’re waiting to connect with you. In fact, you probably already have a few morning people in your network, and setting up time to call or meet with them in the early hours is a great way to build and stick with a morning routine.
You can include this person in almost any of the morning rituals on this list—maybe you meet up for a morning jog or yoga class together, or have a phone call over coffee once a week.
You can also use your morning time to correspond with people you don’t see as often. Consider using your morning ritual to write an email (or even an old-fashioned letter or postcard) to a dear friend or family member you miss. They will greatly appreciate the gesture, and it’s an excellent way to do something special with your morning routine.
How you choose to spend your mornings is up to you, but you can’t go wrong with anything on this list. If you try these out and build your own morning ritual, don’t be surprised if the early hours quickly become your favorite time of day.