There is huge energetic symbolism in taking ownership over the first part of your day. It can feel very empowering to say, no, I’m not going to gallop around the house this morning, sweating and clenching my jaw just moments after standing up from out of bed. Taking control of your morning is a statement that gives you ownership and agency over what happens to you, and then you’re less likely to allow yourself to be tossed about to and fro during the rest of your day. You’ll feel more empowered to say yes and no to how you use your own time and how you allow others to use your time. Moreover, a mindfulness practice poises you to be of better service to others. That idea of filling your own cup before you can serve others, well, it’s a widespread idea, because it works.

Here are my tried and true Morning Mindfulness Strategies to set the tone for an empowered, balanced, and productive day full of contentment for yourself and service to others.

1. Make your bed

Really, start here. I promise this is the most important one. OK, enough on that.

2. Enjoy your favorite beverage

For me it’s Earl Grey or English Breakfast. For my husband it’s super strong, dark, black coffee. For others it’s hot water with lemon. In the summer when I don’t drink warm morning beverages, it’s Pink Dragonfruit Smoothie, pictured at the top of this post. When I feel a cold coming on, it’s my Turmeric Almond Mylk Latte, recipe pictured below. It’s not so much the beverage itself, it’s how you enjoy it. If you drink it carelessly, it’s kind of as if it never happened. Sit, don’t stand. Look out the window or close your eyes and enjoy the aromas.

I stir the above ingredients with a small wire whisk.

3. Journal time

I begin to journal while I’m still finishing my tea. I love having pen in one hand, and then pausing to reach for my tea with the other. I find that I often wake up with some residues in my mind, either from my dreams or conversations from the day before. I write these down on the page to “get them out of the way.” Below are three journal prompts to begin a regular journaling practice to get you started. Then I’m ready to meditate, if time permits.

  • Today I am grateful for… (You MUST write down at least three things, especially on the days you are feeling most grouchy and most ungrateful.) Ungrateful kids / spouse / partner? I’m envisioning some kind of laminated chart you keep on your fridge. And you know those sets of word-magnets they sell? Have your kids make clusters on the chart of things they’re grateful for before heading off to school. Remember it goes both ways. Include a column on your fridge chart for the things your family members do that you’re grateful for.
  • I am… (Insert a single NOUN. It’s an essence you would like to cultivate in your life. I am Peace. I am Wisdom. I am Equanimity.) Our words are so powerful. They’re even more powerful when given life and form via your handwriting. Repeat these affirmations. Watch what happens!
  • Make a list of things you do everyday that you love. Make a list of things you do everyday that you don’t love. Repeat this listing once a week for a long time…and notice how the length of the “love” column gets longer, while the “don’t love” column gets shorter. You’ll see! Yeah, I guffawed at first, too.

4. Meditation and asana

Not sure how to get started with a basic meditation and asana practice? Come work with me in a public studio class or private setting. I also enjoy chanting with you. The vibration in the chest is very soothing and invigorating at the same time. I’m also a fan of japa meditation (with your mala or rosary beads). After working with a client for some time, I enjoy getting into some of these nuanced practices together.

The first Sanskrit chant I ever learned years ago in yoga class at Yoga Tree:

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, actions, and words of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.

5. Leave it open ended

What do you want to do? Many turn to inspirational reading as a form of mindfulness. This is generally not your typical novel you read for your book club. It can be a sacred text or poetry. Something that raises your soul’s vibration in connection with the divine. A quiet bubble bath you schedule once every month? Mindful coloring—that’s another good one!

The bottom line is this—looking at your phone cannot be the first thing you do every day. Checking email cannot be the first thing you do each day. Scrolling Insta cannot be the first action your hands and eyes perform (this one is the worst). I can make these recommendations, because I did all of these for years, and I was very sad. So sad, that I didn’t even care about having a morning mindfulness ritual, but tiny shifts lead to big changes over time. There’s something about drinking a cup of tea and gazing out the window, or closing your eyes and breathing for a moment, or writing your dreams in a journal, that can make you feel less sad…repeated over and over again over time, it leads to contentment, a sense of balance, and even hope and direction. I’m not promising that journaling one time will make you feel better. Like all good things in life, it doesn’t work like that, because it takes time and repetition, so that your good habits can take root. Just like we learn from the Yoga Sutras, practice becomes firmly established when attended to with enthusiasm, over and over again, over a long period of time. See, they talked about how to build healthy mindfulness habits way back when!

So what do you think? Would it be doable to choose one approach to morning mindfulness given your current obligations early in the day, or does it feel impossible right now? If the morning is too hectic, would one of these habits be something you could try after your kids go to sleep at night? Or maybe schedule some me-time in the evening instead of Netflix time? Do you have a favorite piece of literature- spiritual or non-spiritual, that is uplifting that you can share with everyone in the comments below? What else would you add to this list? I’m sending you some vibes in the hopes for some relaxing mornings in the New Year!