The Simple 40 Minute Morning Routine That Completely Changed My Life
A few simple practices were all it took to set me on a trajectory for success.
Almost one year ago, my life changed. It wasn’t a big, dramatic event that was the catalyst, nor a realization that my life was on the wrong path. To be honest, I didn’t even know that the path I was on was heading in a direction I didn’t want to go.
No, what changed my life was far more simple. I started a morning routine.
It’s true when they say small, micro efforts daily add up to huge results. I hardly changed anything — I was simply spending the first 40 minutes of my day in a different way. Little did I know this would set me on a completely different trajectory.
While I always knew meditation was good for me, I never practiced it. However, I figured if I was starting a morning routine I should probably add some meditation into it. So what better way to start this routine than with meditation? I started listening to guided meditations as soon as I woke up.
This practice allowed me to have a few minutes of purposeful silence before the chaos of the day took all silence away. It gave me a few minutes alone with my thoughts, the feelings in my body, and any emotions.
This stillness has now become an anchor in my day I can return to whenever I need to. So often we wake up with racing hearts, cortisol pumping through our veins, and no awareness of our bodies nor our minds.
This practice will help you mitigate this chaos and remain more present, calm, and aware.
I’m surprised it took me 25 years to figure out this practice is the most important thing I could be doing in the morning. For as long as I can remember, I would wake up, have 1–3 cups of black tea, and then get on with my day. No water. I don’t even remember when I would have my first sip of water. No wonder I found myself feeling anxious every morning. I was living my day in a dehydrated state.
It is so important to drink water in the morning. Dehydration is not good for us, and is definitely not a productive way to start the day. During the night you sweat and breathe, and lose a surprisingly large amount of fluid. Drinking water as soon as you wake up will rehydrate the body and start to flush toxins out.
To hack your water and make it even more beneficial, you can add a pinch of pink Himalayan salt to replete the minerals you have lost overnight, and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice to give the water an alkaline effect in your body, which can counteract a state of acidity that our bodies are often in.
I think this may have been the most influential aspect of my morning routine. Journaling gave me an awareness of all the things bouncing around my head that I had never been aware of previously. It gave me insight into who I was and who I wanted to be, as well as where I wanted to go in my life.
Before taking up this practice, I was floating along in the general direction of where I wanted to go. I always had big goals, but they weren’t overly specific and looking back, they didn’t represent who I was. They are the things I thought I wanted, but had never taken the time to actually reflect on and realize it wasn’t quite the direction I wanted to go.
But journaling, one session in the morning and one in the evening, brought me so much clarity. It gave me a chance to get to know myself better and, in turn, redirect my life onto a slightly different course. I don’t think I’d be where I am today had I not started journaling.
What would a morning routine be without movement? Again, seeing as I was introducing this new routine I figured I should add some exercise into it. So I began going for a walk down to the beach each morning. It was the middle of winter when this started (although I live in New Zealand and our coldest days rarely get below 0 degrees Celsius) so the air was brisk and invigorating.
Sometimes I would listen to a walking meditation while I walked, which was a great way to incorporate more mindfulness into my morning. Sometimes I did an unguided meditation. Sometimes I listened to a podcast.
But this practice coupled with the journaling massively enhanced the value of both. Walking in nature in the early morning provides so much clarity. I don’t know if there is any other practice that makes me feel as much joy within myself as a morning walk before anyone else is awake.
You’re alone with your body, your thoughts, and nature. You realize who you are and who you want to be. You discover the huge ambitions you have for yourself that you didn’t know were there.
After reading myriad articles about not looking at my phone in the morning, I realized the value of having positive input in my day before any social media, email, etc. Filling the mind with positivity before the stress of the news, the incredible social media lives I’m missing out on, or the chaos of email is so important for our mental health.
We think it won’t matter. A quick look at email, or a quick scroll while we lie in bed won’t hurt. And yeah, you probably won’t notice any difference. The effect is small, but it’s there. You’ll release stress hormones. You’ll wire your brain for passivity. You’ll experience more negative thoughts.
Filling the mind with positivity starts you off on a positive note and leaves you feeling more positive for the rest of the day. It’s really important to pay attention to your input in the morning.
So find something positive to engage with. Listen to a guided meditation, a positive podcast, read a gentle and uplifting book. There are so many options.
My absolute favorite part of the morning. Since I was a teenager, I was always a tea person. I loved it. But since learning more about coffee — the brewing methods, the roasts, the origin of the beans — I’ve come to appreciate it, and my morning coffee is a ritual that brings me so much joy.
During our lockdown, coffee became my biggest anchor. It grounded me, kept me sane, kept me happy, gave me something to look forward to. So of course it became part of my morning routine.
Coffee is me time — time to sit in stillness, to read, to just be. Having these sacred spaces of time always helps me to stay mindful throughout the day. They bring me back to the present moment and help keep me on track for the rest of the day. Taking the time to regularly slow down and just be, is incredibly powerful.
I highly recommend listening to some coffee and tea meditations. You won’t have to listen to these every time you have a cup of coffee, but the foundations they will teach you can be implemented every time you have a cup.
They will teach you to start with some intentional breaths, to feel your feet on the floor, to notice the sounds around you. Then you will start paying attention to the coffee — the warmth of the cup, the shape of the bubbles on top, the steam rising, the smell, and finally, the taste. This process can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but it’s so powerful.
My morning routine is always changing, and it ebbs and flows depending on what I need at the time and what season of my life I’m in. But the essential practices always stay the same: stillness and movement. Everything I do centers around these two things.
How you start the day is how you live the day, and therefore, your life. It’s important to start the day well, whatever that looks like for you. Experiment, try different practices, and never feel like you need to stick to the same exact routine for your whole life. Mine changes monthly. Find what resonates with you in the moment.
But the point is to have some anchoring practices that ground you and create space to be with your body and your mind. To sit in stillness for the wellbeing of your mind and to engage in movement for the wellbeing of your body. Find such practices and see how your life changes.
Want to improve your health, one habit at a time?
Sign up for my free weekly newsletter, Momentum. Each week you’ll receive one new habit to try. I’ll explain why it’s important and how to make it easy. This newsletter will help you to create the momentum you need to move towards a healthier and happier future.