How to Design a Morning Ritual and Improve your Life
Morning Rituals have become a huge thing in the past years! Mainly, because they can impact the way we experience our mornings.
But designing a morning ritual can be challenging because of all the information and recommendations out there.
I'll be covering the most common practices that you can include in your morning ritual and how they can benefit you. I’ve tried all and I reassure you all of them are very useful in helping you to prepare for the day ahead!
You shouldn't start by putting in practice all of them, at the same time! I highly recommend you to pick 5 activities to start with! If you can’t really do 5, then do 3. Feel free to add more if you feel like it, but don’t make your morning ritual a rush! Remember, there’s no right or wrong because we need different routines at different times. I’ve switched from different activities a lot of times and I will keep switching in order to meet my needs!
Pick the activities that might bring you the most joy, because a morning ritual is supposed to be something you’re excited about, and not “one more thing in your to-do list.”
I hope at the end, you'll start to craft your plan of how your morning ritual will be, so you can start it tomorrow!
- Read a Book
- Write 10 different ideas
- Cold water shower
- Practice Gratitude
- Set intentions for the day
- Drink your coffee or tea!
The Night Before:
A well-prepared ritual starts the night before. This is because you should have a good night of sleep in order to be productive the next day. I’m not going to suggest the number of hours you should sleep, because some people need more, others need less. I need seven to seven and a half hours to feel great!
In the previous night, I also make sure to choose the clothes I want to wear the next day. So I can save my willpower for more meaningful activities and decisions.
The most successful people on Earth, do some type of exercise in the morning. I’m not saying that exercising is a requirement to have a successful career or life. But it sure helps.
I’ve been struggling with this for years! But currently, I’m exercising after waking up, every single morning.
I do it for 30 minutes but if you can start with just 5 minutes, it’s already a great achievement!
I exercise because it just makes me happier and in a better mood.
"Not exercising is like taking a depressant."— Tal Ben-Shabar
The amount of time you put into exercising depends on your own personal goals. In your case, it might be because you just want to get in shape or even become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Exercise comes first on my list because I truly think it is the most impactful activity in your day, even though, I struggle with it sometimes.
If exercise came in drugs, it would be the pill of the century! And guess what? You can get the “exercise pill” today!
In the book Spark written by John Ratey, it is shown how exercise improves your brain, memory, reduces anxiety and stress, increases your focus and helps you to combat depression!
"To keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard."— John Ratey
And it’s very easy to neglect our physical performance because we usually prioritize activities that only require our brain capacity.
"Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function…exercise has a profound impact on cognitive abilities and mental health.”— John Ratey
Read a Book:
It’s impossible to measure the importance that a single book might have in your own life. Some books, bring insights that can impact your business, personal relationships or career.
I’m obsessed with books. In fact, I’ve always been. When I was 5 years old, instead of sleeping with my dolls, I slept with my favorite book, called: “A Fada Oriana.” My mum read me that book more than 5 times.
When I finally learned how to read, I read it multiple times. Reading is my favorite activity in the world. So I’ve never struggled with including books in my own morning ritual. In fact, it’s the activity that I’m most consistent with, I can’t remember a day that I’ve failed to read.
I really enjoy sitting outside while reading and drinking my coffee! It’s almost like meditating! It immediately sets your day for success.
Nonetheless, I know some people who claim not having enough time to read. And that’s where audiobooks become very handy. You can listen to an audiobook while exercising, in traffic, cooking or doing the dishes.
You can listen to an audiobook or podcast while doing any activity that doesn’t require much focus. I use Audible to get all my audiobooks because you can find pretty much any book you feel like reading… or listening. You can find a book on any topic you are interested in! There are no excuses!
One simple trick is to set the audiobook speed to 1.5x or 2x. By doing this, you will be able to listen to anything in half of the time! If it takes you 30 minute to arrive at your workplace, you might be able to listen to 1 hour of the audiobook you were listening to.
I use Goodreads to track all the books I read. You can also find great book recommendations there, while also reading the reviews of other people.
Another way of finding new books to read is to find recommendations of people you trust and admire. I read a lot of books because of Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, Thomas Frank, Tony Robbins, and many other great personalities! Or you can also ask your friends, which might bring an interesting conversation to the table.
Meditation or mindfulness became very hot topics in the last decade. And the truth is that those activities are very important for well being, especially if you suffer from anxiety. By meditating in your morning ritual you set the tone for the day which will help to deal with undesired events.
Tim Ferriss says he gets 30 to 50 percent more done with less stress when he meditates.
If you have followed some successful entrepreneurs, you will already know that meditation is a part of their routines. And they find it one of the best ways to deal with stressful situations.
“Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”— Dan Harris, 10% Happier
There a thousand different ways to practice meditation. If you've never tried it before, try to focus on your breath for a few minutes. When you find your mind wandering, thinking about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow, acknowledge that fact, but then bring your attention back to your breathing. And this will happen a lot of times! Don’t be hard on yourself.
Don’t expect that you’re going to pretty good on meditating when you’re just starting.
I’ve tried to meditate with Headspace and 10% happier, which are apps that provide you with guided meditations. It might be a good start because they provide meditations for people who never tried it before.
Nonetheless, you can practice meditation in any place, at any time. Meditating is being aware of what’s around you by living the present moment. Can you do this every single second of your day? Probably not. But if at least, you can have a few minutes of your day, where you practice awareness, you’re already ahead of the game.
During the day, focus your attention on your breathe for a few minutes. Set an alarm on your phone so you won’t forget. You can do this while driving or taking the bus, at the beginning of a meeting or while cooking. And this is an extraordinary way of practicing meditation and becoming better at it!
“For example, instead of fidgeting or tapping your fingers while your computer boots up, try to watch your breath for a few minutes. When driving, turn off the radio and feel your hands on the wheel. Or when walking between meetings, leave your phone in your pocket and just notice the sensations of your legs moving."— Dan Harris - 10% Happier
You can and should include any practices of meditation in your morning ritual because it surely will impact your own life in the long run.
Write 10 different ideas every day
James Altucher is an author, blogger, podcaster and many other things, and he talks about this concept of becoming an “idea machine”. Which means that you can generate ideas for anything that you want, like a business you want to start, blog posts you want to create or simply ideas on how to stop being angry. But becoming an idea machine requires practice and daily commitment.
James recommends writing 10 different ideas, on any topic that you want, every day. Some of the ideas will be crappy and useless, that’s fine. The more crappy ideas you generate, the more good ones will also emerge. When you include this practice in your morning ritual, you’re firing up and training your creativity! Because if you don’t use your creativity, you will lose it!
And remember that you can use your creativity in your job, career, relationships, projects, no matter what they are about. I might actually risk saying that my life became better when I started using my creativity more.
“I had ideas first, wealth second. It only worked in that order.”— James Altucher
I’m not currently doing this practice in my morning ritual, but I’ve done it in the past, for 3 months straight. And I remember coming up with awesome ideas. I also generated ideas for other people! Like ideas for a project that my best friend was starting.
In fact, generating ideas for other people can create a relationship with someone that you want to connect with, like your favorite author or blogger.
Let’s say you’re a web developer and the blog of a company that you want to partner up with, is not very good. You can send them a bunch of ideas of how they can improve their blog and how you would do it. And that might get you a new project or a new relationship with the CEO of that company. The possibilities are limitless!
I listened to Jim Rohn’s seminar on youtube and he talks about the power of coming up with new ideas. As he said:
"Your problem is not having money. Your problem is the lack of an idea to make more money. If you don’t have the money, come up with ideas to generate money. If you are not happy, come with ideas to generate happiness!
Ideas can be life-changing, so make sure you come up with more every day, in your own morning ritual.
Cold water shower
I took this from Tony Robbins Morning Ritual and well… it’s the best way to feel awaken instantly!
After waking up, if you immediately take a 1 minute cold shower, I would bet the rest of the day would be easy to go through! Exposing yourself to cold temperatures first thing in the morning makes us more energetic! I would say that from a psychological point of view it is also very beneficial. If you survive a cold shower, you can survive anything!
According to research, some of the advantages of exposing yourself to cold temperatures are (I only included the ones I experienced) :
-It increases Alertness;-It wakes you up;-Less Stress;-You will get more Will Power;-It improves emotional Resilience;-A better night of Sleep.
Wim Hof is the master of cold temperatures! He owns 2 Guinness world recorders! He holds the longest time record for being submerged in an ice bath of 1 hour and 52 minutes.
He has an online course where he teaches a powerful breathing technique that will ease the process of exposing yourself to cold.
I’ve not completed his program but I’ve tried it for a few weeks. And the breathing technique is very powerful… because I went from 35 seconds of holding my breath to more than 1 minute, in the first try! After filling my lungs and brain with oxygen, I did take a cold shower for a few minutes.
Best therapy ever. I really advise you to try it for a month because it’s worth it. You can learn the breathing technique on youtube, and if you enjoy the method, you might consider taking his online course.
Journaling is an activity that is very impactful and should be a part of your morning ritual or evening routine. I use my journal to write my thoughts, ideas and answers to some questions I find meaningful. Some books provide some questions the reader should answer in order to clarify the mind on a certain topic and so, I use my journal to answer those.
Tim Ferriss journals to relieve anxiety and feel more positive about his life, and he does it every morning by writing 3 pages with his thoughts.
Because I struggle with anxiety too, I use my journal to write the things I'm struggling with, to see there’s nothing to worry about! I deconstruct some of my fears in order to understand why do I really feel that way and how can I get through that. Sometimes, I write 10 ideas on “how to survive the fear of …”
You can use a blank journal or a notebook to start, or you can buy some journals that have a structure to follow, which might be easier in the beginning. You can try the “Five Minute Journal”, the “Morning Pages Journal” or “The Daily Stoic Journal”.
There’s something magical about writing your thoughts, problems or ideas in a journal. It makes everything more clear! And when you include this in your morning ritual, you go through the day with more ease.
Sometimes, I find myself writing about a very complicated problem. But when I actually read it, again and again, after a few hours or days, from a distant perspective, I understand that I can handle it! And that’s when I write ideas on what I can do to overcome it.
While journaling, you might also spot some of your weaknesses, such as blaming others for your own problems or expecting them to change! But as Jim Rohn said,
“Things get better when you get better”.
Sometimes, I struggle with writing in my journal every day, because it seems that there’s nothing to write in there. So I have some short entries that simply say: “new day, new opportunity to be great”. But it’s ok. Because I also have written 3 or 4 pages in other days, because of the need to empty my mind.
It’s very important to review your journal once a week or once a month. Put that on your calendar and don’t skip it. By reviewing your journal, you will find your strengths and weaknesses and you can come up with a plan on how to improve some aspects of your own life! I think we forget that we can change what’s not going very well. We forget that we are the authors of our own lives! And so, we have the power, the opportunity, and the choice to change whatever we want to! So we should come up with new plans, new routines, new habits in order to improve ourselves, every day. And a journal comes handily on this task!
You can also use your journal to record ideas, things you found interesting or book notes. But it’s very important that you actually write them! If not, you will probably forget.
“The simple act of writing an idea makes it more firm in the conscious mind”— Jim Rohn
Keep an index of your ideas like: “financial ideas on page 20 and 32.
But don’t forget to implement some of those ideas! Start something and commit yourself to it!
“I’ve got an idea, and I’m going to start working on it tomorrow. It won’t take a lot of time and it won’t cost a lot of money, and I think it’s going to work.”— Seth Godin
We forget how lucky we are. We take the vital things for granted. And that’s why we must practice gratitude every day. If I don’t practice it, I just forget the incredible things I already have in my life! And I only focus on what’s missing.
Including a gratitude practice in my morning ritual was a clever decision because it changes my mindset from scarcity to abundance, which means that instead of seeing what I still need to have, I also feel grateful for everything that I’ve already accomplished.
It doesn’t mean that you should forget your life goals, dreams, and ambitions. It’s not about that. It’s about conquering new things while being extremely happy with what you already have.
As Tony Robbins says:
“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly”.
This is not easy… it requires constant practice.
You can do it by thinking of 3 or 5 things that you really feel grateful for! Or you can write those in your journal. Be specific! By detailing the experience it feels like you're living them again, which will leave you in a better mood!
So instead of saying: “I’m grateful because I’ve got my mum with me", say: “I’m grateful because my mum took the time to cook my favorite cake last time I visited her.”
Or instead of “I’m grateful because I’ve got amazing friends” say: “I’m grateful because of the nice and meaningful conversation I had with my best friend yesterday.”
When you include a gratitude practice in your morning ritual, you instantly became aware of everything amazing that you already have around you and instead of facing the day like “one more day”, you see it as an opportunity to get more meaningful experiences that you will be grateful for!
A group of people took part in an experiment of thinking about 3 good things that happened that day. In just a couple of weeks, they saw improvements in depression and overall happiness!
Let gratitude fill your soul every morning!
Set intentions for the day
When we don’t seek clarity everything gets in our way, and we finish the day without really accomplishing nothing. Or, we do complete every task on our to-do list, but none of those tasks are meaningful.
That is why setting 3 goals, intentions or priorities for the day is so important. Those 3 goals should make you excited! They also should contribute to making you progress in a work or personal project you’ve been working on and are really passionate about.
One of those goals could be related to learning something new, through books, online courses, seminars, etc. We should not forget to work in ourselves too! As Jim Rohn said, and very well:
"Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job."
You can write your 3 goals the night before or make it a part of your morning ritual. It will take you 1 minute to do it, and it will definitely impact the way you approach your day. You will make time for your top 3 priorities because you made them your priorities.
Sometimes we neglect our own personal goals to be prompt to help others achieve theirs. We’re constantly checking our emails to see if someone needs us. We are always online, ready to answer one more message or to accept another request. But does that really make us progress and success? Probably not. This is not to say that you shouldn’t help others. But remember: your top 3 priorities are more important than anyone else’s priorities! Focus first on achieving your own goals, and only then, you can help others achieve theirs!
I like to wake up early so I can have time to execute my morning ritual, but also to accomplish one of the goals I set. This will give me the momentum I need to continue progressing and working on the other things throughout the day! And I can guarantee you that I also have time to help my friends, colleagues, and family every day! So, having priorities will not make you insensible or an egocentric person. It will make you focus on what really matters to you, in order to feel inspired and motivated to help others on their missions too!
Even if you don’t consider implementing a morning ritual in your life, even though you should, set 3 goals for each day, and you will be already ahead of the game.
The days I don’t set any priorities, are the days where I accomplish nothing! Because it is much easier to accept your brains excuses when you don’t have a plan. So everything seems fine to skip. But when you’ve actually written the goal of writing 500 words and you don’t do it, you feel unworthy. And that feeling will be a good motivator to keep you on track.
Don’t leave your days to randomness!
Setting 3 intentions will also make you question your to-do list. Do I really need to do this? Can’t I automate it? Can’t I outsource it? Is this really necessary? Or is it a way of making myself busy?
Busy is trendy now. If you’re not always busy, it seems like you’re not working enough. But that should not be a way of measuring success. What matter is: are you keeping yourself busy with things that really matter? Things that will make you move forward? That will make you progress? Things that you’re passionate about?
A powerful technique that you can do after setting your goals, is to visualize yourself finishing them. Tony Robbins does this every day. I must admit that I don’t usually do it, but it must be powerful if Tony Robbins does it…
Implementing a morning ritual is the best way to start your day on a high.
If it’s 8 a.m. and you’ve already exercised, read, journaled and know exactly the things you should accomplish and be grateful for, your day is already a win. You already accomplished activities that make you healthy, wiser, aware and grateful, when most people only drunk their coffees and complained about how late and tired they are.
Maintaining a morning ritual requires discipline and commitment, but it soon becomes an unfair advantage that you have against 98% of the population. When you arrive at work or college, you will be in a great mood because all the activities in your ritual are meaningful and powerful!
I used to hate mornings because I was always in a rush. Once I heard about the benefits of having a morning ritual with the Brazilian Gabriel Goffi, I decided to try it myself. And I’ve never gone back to my old routine.
I encourage you to design and implement a morning ritual tomorrow! Do it for just one day and you will feel the benefits already. Then extend that period for one week of experimentation, and see the progress you’ve made, not only in terms of your goals but also in your overall happiness, physical and mental health!