The Morning Ritual


Our first morning tasks are usually conducted without much thought. They are often preparatory, secondary to a larger, more significant task in the day ahead: a busy day at work, a date with a significant other, a trip with friends. However, a morning in which you skip your morning routine can leave you bereft and anxious. We take a moment to identify the morning rituals that mean the most to us.

Sunrise over Provincetown, Cape Cod

The transition from sleep to wakefulness can be experienced in different ways. It can be slow and languid, involving a feline stretch and a few moments of dawdling between the sheets before a slow roll out of bed. Or, it can be sprightly and immediate, felt as soon as the covers are thrown aside and the curtains are whisked open. The departure of bleary-eyed languor might require a cup of strong brew, or a moment soaking in the early beams of sunlight. Some prefer silence as they prepare for the day ahead, while others engage in the rhythm and sound generated by another human being.

Regardless of how your morning begins, constancy can be key. For many of us, the repetition of a morning routine allows us to start the day without too much thought and willpower, or functions to set a tempo for the hours ahead. Our morning tasks may be small and essential, like taking care of personal hygiene, or creative, like sketching or writing. Even for the most minimal of morning routines, skipping it can be jarring and leave you disoriented throughout the day. Most of us can probably remember an incident in which we involuntarily woke up too late, scrambling out the door and feeling flustered even after squeezing into that eight A.M. meeting just on time.

There is a case to be made, then, for the importance of the morning ritual. This week, I asked some of my friends how they begin their days, and what morning habits they follow that they can’t live without. Below are their answers.

Harbor in Trieste, Italy
Harbor in Trieste, Italy

WHAT ARE YOUR MORNING RITUALS?

I have a very relaxed morning. I like to make a big bowl of yogurt, fruit, oatmeal, and nuts, and eat very slowly while listening to a short story podcast. My breakfast often takes a whole hour, which feels very luxurious. – PATTY ROHS

I’m not sure if this is what you would consider as a morning ritual, but the most consistent thing that I do in the morning is exercise. I will either run outside or take a class, but whatever it is I like to start my day being active. It’s more difficult waking up earlier, but the benefits are great. – HEATHER LANDRY

Check what time it is and either snooze or get out of bed, maybe check email on my phone depending on if I’ve got time or not, brush retainers and teeth, wash face, get dressed, brush hair, put on moisturizer and maybe sunscreen, sometimes eat breakfast… done… pretty generic stuff! I have really dry skin so I put ointment on my face every morning and also lip balm. – JESSICA JEW

The sun peeking through an open window in a pink apartment building

The first half of my mornings are usually dedicated to two things: coffee and my fiancee. I start my day by making a cup of coffee and talking to my fiancee for half an hour before she goes to work. Then, I usually eat breakfast alone, read or write briefly, and then walk to work. – IAN HILL

I usually wake up and check the weather for the rest of the day. I do morning stretches before changing out of my pajamas. I go on to prepare my daily morning fruit smoothie. I have my bag ready to go in the morning, so I’m out the door within 30 minutes of waking up. I usually drink my breakfast smoothie on the way to work, while listening to something (music, news, or podcasts). – ESTEE O’BRIAN

Sun rise over University of California, San Francisco's Parnassus campus

The first thing I do usually ends up being shutting off my phone alarm and checking my Twitter feed, which helps me reduce my grogginess and get out of bed. I take care of personal hygiene, get dressed, put on my hospital badge and walk to work, nod hi to my labmates, and start on my most important experiments for the day to get them out of the way.

However, the most important thing I do in the morning is to make the following breakfast recipe, which is one of my passions in life:

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup of Quaker instant oatmeal
1 cup of Horizon Organic Whole Milk (whole milk is creamy and tastes good)
2 tsp peanut butter (I like Teddie’s Extra Crunchy)
1/4 cup blueberries
2 tsp honey
1 tsp chia seeds

METHOD

Mix the oats and milk. The measurements above are roughly estimated; I usually just pour by eye, in a ratio I would use for, say, a typical breakfast cereal. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Take out of the oven and mix in the peanut butter. This also serves to cool the milk, which can boil away if not taken care of quickly. Stir in blueberries, chia seeds, and honey.

Try different fruits, like strawberry-banana, blackberries, or raspberries. Try different nut butters, including almond and cashew. You can also add different nuts for crunch.

This meal is about 450 calories and keeps me full for at least 4 hours, just in time for lunch. If I don’t make this breakfast, my day usually ends up being pretty crappy.

I once made this recipe using wild blueberries I picked by hand in my friend’s cabin in Alaska, above the Arctic Circle. That was nice. – PATRICK TOWNES

Sunrise over downtown Chicago
Sunrise over downtown Chicago

HOW DO YOUR MORNING RITUALS INFLUENCE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT THE DAY AHEAD?

I consider myself a morning person and it’s always my most productive time in the day. Very often I will find my decision making and efficiency a little off balance and find that I didn’t start my morning with the right nutrition. Therefore, I consider my morning ritual to be essential for having a good day. – PATRICK TOWNES

I am much happier, less stressed, and more efficient throughout the day if I exercise in the morning. – HEATHER LANDRY

The ritual of making a cup of coffee first thing in the morning focuses me on a task, in the haze of early morning grogginess. The discussions with my fiancee and my thinking during my alone time usually revolve around deciding what I want to accomplish that day. This allows me to generate a plan for the day and makes me more confident and resolved. – IAN HILL

I think my morning ritual sets up the foundation for how the rest of the morning, and subsequent day, will play out. My weather check dictates my outfit for the rest of the day. My smoothie is an incentive to get up early and do work; it’s usually enough of a meal to satisfy my hunger until lunch. If I skip any of them, then I feel rushed for the rest of the day, primarily because if I do skip on any of the above, I am literally rushing out the door. – ESTEE O’BRIAN

Sunrise over the Transamerica building, San Francisco

HOW ARE YOUR MORNING RITUALS ON THE WEEKDAYS DIFFERENT THAN ON THE WEEKENDS?

They more or less stay the same, except that I enjoy my breakfast smoothie at home instead of on the go. – ESTEE O’BRIAN

I find the early mornings on weekends a sort of gem, if I’m lucky enough to get up in time. It’s nice to be out and about when Boston is quiet, and I manage to feel centered because of that. Depending on what’s on my agenda, I use that time for running or reading. – PATRICK TOWNES

On all days, I don’t like to “work” before breakfast; however, breakfast is usually much later on the weekends. But the same basic components usually constitute my weekend mornings: talking to my fiancee, some alone time, coffee! There is usually more of each ritual, and I allow myself to deviate more from my schedule of weekday rituals. – IAN HILL

Most of the time I will sleep in and try to exercise later in the day with something fun like a bike ride or long walk. – HEATHER LANDRY

Sunrise over the hills of San Francisco

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