October 22, 2014

The Problem with Morning Rituals.

Steve Corey/Flickr

It was 6:20 a.m., and I woke up with a newfound sense of purpose.

This was going to be the first day of my brand new morning routine.

I had decided that having a solid morning ritual was the key to happiness, and so I was not going to delay any longer. Goodbye lethargy.

Today was going to be the first of many productive and joyful mornings.

I skipped to the living room, and unrolled my yoga mat to face the beautiful morning sky. I meditated to the smooth rhythms of an artificial rainforest for a full seven minutes. Check!

I rolled up my mat, slipped into my sneakers, popped in my earbuds, dropped my house keys into my sports bra and I was off. The sun was out, and I felt great. I ran around the Vancouver Seawall, did yoga on the beach, and even dipped my toes in the ocean.

Yes, it was a perfect morning.

The crazy thing was, I hadn’t just moved closer to the beach. I’d been living this close to the beach for nearly 24 months without ever taking advantage of the fact. After all, dipping your toes into the ocean at 7:40 a.m. on a weekday? Well, that was a luxury that should be reserved for the elite and the rich. Not for me.

As the day progressed, things just kept getting better and better. I smiled as I walked to work, got asked out on a date by a cute guy on the sky train, and actually passed on my regular morning coffee because I realized that I didn’t need it. I was already full of energy.

“Yes,” I thought to myself, “I have finally discovered happiness. Everything is perfect, and tomorrow is going to be just as amazing.”

The next day, my alarm went off once again at 6:20 a.m., only this time I felt a little less enthusiastic.

As my feet hit the floor I winced in pain. I’d been a little too eager in the previous day’s run, and the blister on the bottom of my big toe throbbed.

Okay, so there would be no running this morning, but I could still do some yoga.

Again I unrolled my yoga mat to meditate, but I didn’t enjoy it like I had the day before. I was annoyed that my second perfect morning was being disrupted by such an annoying inconvenience. That little blister impacted the rest of my day.

The next day, I slept in and missed my morning routine completely. I felt even worse, and getting back on track the next morning? Forget it. It would be an entire week before I felt motivated to try again.

I’ve rolled this experience around in my mind everyday for the last week. I felt as though I was faced with a series of conflicting lessons, none of which brought me any closer to deciphering what I needed to be happy. I knew that I felt happy when I followed through on a routine, but I also knew that I could become incredibly unhappy when I failed.

So then, what’s the lesson? Don’t even try, or always be perfect? Neither of these sounded right to me.

In his well known TED talk, Shawn Achor explains that only 10 percent of our long-term happiness is impacted by our external world. So, I turned to my internal world.

Why did I want to exercise, meditate and dip my toes in the ocean in the morning? Why were these habits valuable to me and my experience of happiness? I realized that exercise made me to feel powerful, meditation helped me to recognize and appreciate the opportunities the day might offer, and dipping my toes in the ocean made me feel abundant and rich.

Maybe, like so many things, happiness is simple…but not easy.

Starting your day in a way that makes you feel empowered, grateful and optimistic takes a lot more effort than starting your day with indifference. Most of us know what makes us feel good, but committing to going to bed at the right time so that we can actually follow through on the morning routine that will put you in the right frame of mind takes work. Especially when our external reality isn’t perfect (and we wake up with a blister).

The most significant realization I’ve walked away is this: the morning routine I’d do in my “ideal reality” is the same routine that I have access to now.

Reality might not always be perfect, but maybe if we can give ourselves the opportunity to start each day doing something that makes us feel great, we can change the trajectory of our lives.





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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Steve Corey/Flickr


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