• Protecting some time in the morning for self-care can have immense benefits

  • Miranda Moore offers 8 simple morning ritual suggestions to help you start your day right

A daily habit of a few handpicked rituals truly is an art. By developing and practising morning rituals, you can be calmer, clearer, and more at ease with your life and your circumstances. Taking the time and making the commitment to do these rituals is an act of mindful self-care in a hectic world.

What are rituals?

Rituals are simple sequences of actions performed mindfully in a set pattern, with an attitude of respect and dignity. They only take a few minutes to perform and have a clear purpose or intention behind them. 

Choosing rituals that intuitively appeal to you or address some specific issue in your life will provide you with a strong mental base for tackling whatever crops up during your day. 

With long-term practice, these repetitive actions can help you to become better equipped to handle whatever life throws your way by building an underlying sense of calmness.

What are the benefits?

Specific benefits will vary, depending on what you are trying to achieve. You may notice improved wellbeing, lower stress levels or a more positive mindset. 

The familiarity of a repeated sequence allows you to pause and check in with yourself, and these actions can imbue you and your day with a sense of peace and purpose. 

For example, if you perform a ritual for gratitude, mental clarity or calm, your body and mind will recognise the actions and will be primed to respond accordingly – like a code or shortcut to a desired outcome.

Why make time for morning rituals?

If you sit on a street bench in the morning and observe your surroundings, you are likely to see people rushing all around you – our modern world is a relentlessly busy one. By ring-fencing a few minutes of precious time to commit to rituals, you can add energy, clarity and peace to your life. 

Engaging in an act of kindness to yourself also contributes to the world around you – because your sense of stability and calm will rub off on others, too. You can choose as many or as few as you like and tweak these rituals or create your own.

Immediately after waking is a great time to dive straight into your favourite rituals, thus beginning your day with familiarity and focus. Whether it’s breathing exercises, yoga, stretches, meditation, a gratitude ritual, a glass of water or a couple of minutes outdoors, the options are limitless. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Taking stock

When you first wake up, before you climb out of bed, take a few moments to take stock and bring awareness to your body. Notice your arms and legs, your torso, chest, back, neck and head. How are you feeling today? Observe sensations in your body and any mood or emotion that you perceive. 

If anything feels stifled, knotted or uncomfortable, send it a little love and compassion – visualise a small army of friendly helpers flooding the area with joyful energy. Allow your facial muscles to relax, your eyebrows to soften and a gentle smile to settle, and give thanks for this day.

2. Digital detox

It’s a good idea to have a period in the morning before you turn on any screens or gadgets, unless you have personal reasons why you need to check a device. If you can, make the first half-hour or hour of your morning tech-free. This means your mind has a chance to warm up to the day and enjoy a vital window of calm before switching on a device. 

For example, if you have a few messages coming in as soon as you switch on your phone, your mind is immediately drawn into a task-oriented mode of thinking, and you can feel obligated to reply. Your mental and physical stress is likely to be higher than if you give yourself a few moments of self-care before you choose to check your devices.

Turning off notifications is also a simple step you can take, so that your phone isn’t pinging throughout the morning with alerts, raising your stress and lowering your contentment.

3. Gratitude ritual

Taking a couple of minutes every morning to reflect on what you’re grateful for is an excellent way to cultivate positivity and notice all the good things in your life. In a journal, write down some things you’re thankful for each day. It could be specific, like a snowflake, a sunrise or a bird singing; it could be a child’s tiny hand in yours, a warm home or a particular friendship. It could be a wider concept, like peace, freedom or love. 

Reflect on each in turn, taking time to truly appreciate what they add to your life.

4. Observe your breath

Paying attention to your breath is a simple skill that can be extraordinarily effective in helping you to deal with anxiety and calm a racing mind. Often, our minds can speed past the here and now, speculating on some possible future scenario or ruminating on a regret, to the point where we’re missing the present moment of our lives. Coming back to your body and your breath means returning to the here and now. 

Simply observe your breath, as you inhale and exhale with focus. Notice it flowing in and out of your nostrils, replenishing you.

5. Morning salutation

A simple stretch to salute the sun simultaneously stretches your body and relaxes the mind. Stand outside, your feet hip-width apart and your hands facing forward by your sides. Inhaling through your nose, slowly raise your arms overhead, pulling them backwards and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Clasp your hands above your head, reaching up through your fingertips, and look up to the sky. Breathing out, bring your hands down to a prayer position in front of your chest. 

Repeat twice, with a spirit of gratitude to the life-giving power of the sun.

6. Quiet spot

Ten minutes outdoors can be enough to start your day from a calm, centred place. Dress for the weather, go outside and find a spot that feels appealing or draws your interest in some way. It doesn’t have to be conventionally beautiful; concrete paving with tiny weeds growing up through the cracks can be just as grounding as a patch of grass, a pond or a tree.

Sit, stand or lie down and allow yourself to slow down. Listen out for sounds – what can you hear? Reach out and touch the area around you – what can you feel? Focus your gaze on some detail you don’t normally take the time to note, and really observe it. Notice any sensations in your body, too. You are resetting your inner operating system and tapping into the wonder that young children exhibit as they experience their environment.

Feel gratitude for this wonderful world, and notice how your breathing has deepened, your mind feels calm and time seems to have stretched.

7. Neck stretch

Stretch your neck for two minutes on each side by reaching one hand over your head and gently pulling your head to the same side as the arm. After 30 seconds, look up a little and down a little to engage different muscles. 

To intensify the stretch, push your head toward the palm and fingers holding it. Release your head and hand, and then stretch your neck again, further this time, if your muscles allow. This is great for releasing tension and freeing up movement in the morning, after sleep.

8. Mindful tea or coffee

However you prefer to make your coffee or tea, brew your first cup of the day with mindfulness. Turn off distractions and choose your cup. You could wipe your pot and mug with a soft cloth to symbolically purify them, if you like. Make it the way you prefer it, performing each act – such as plunging the cafetière or scooping the tea leaves – with care and attention. 

Close your eyes, smell the tea or coffee, and think of the journey the plant has travelled to give you this morning gift. Pour it and appreciate the flavour, warmth and lift it gives you.

Committing to a few rituals is devoting a few moments of precious time to your wellness. A handful of morning rituals is particularly effective, since they set you up mentally and physically, giving a solid foundation for the day ahead. Deciding to live a more mindful, purposeful morning can only yield positives, hopefully leaving you in a better mental place to handle the inevitable challenges of life.

Of course, avoid packing in too many – you don’t want to cram in so many rituals that they become a burden. Instead, make them an uplifting, nourishing part of your day that you look forward to. 

Miranda Moore is the author of Good Morning Rituals

Further reading

7 key reflective questions to ask yourself

Stuart Sandeman: How breathwork changed my life

Surviving the city as a highly sensitive person

The power of doing nothing

4 morning habits for a productive day