Living mindfully is a way to honor and care for ourselves.
So says author Ashley Ellington Brown, whose new book, “A Beautiful Morning: How a Morning Ritual Can Feed Your Soul and Transform Your Life,” aims to help readers discover the power that lies in the first moments of the day.
After being inspired by her own morning ritual, which she calls one of the highest forms of self-care, Brown interviewed more than 20 women to find out how they started their days and what kind of impact those morning rituals had. She talked to life coaches and massage therapists, painters and entrepreneurs, photographers and authors, even a horse whisperer — women whom she admired who were following their dreams.
Why did she focus on the morning? “Every morning presents an opportunity for a fresh start,” Brown says in her book, which was published in Feb. 2018. “When we wake up, we can choose our mindset. If the previous day didn’t please us, we can try something new today. It’s like pressing the reset button — and we get that chance every 24 hours.”
A morning ritual can be as simple as taking a few minutes to breathe or repeating a special phrase before getting out of bed. It could be doing some yoga poses, going for a walk or writing in a journal.
Here are some morning rituals from a few of the women featured in Brown’s book, in their words:
Carla Robertson, a master life coach from New Orleans, likes to go outside and just sit:
“Connecting with nature is my favorite thing to do. I like to go out to my yard, sit on the ground, and just be. … I’m not meditating per se — I’m observing nature and sitting in wonder. … The physical act of sitting in the grass helps me get grounded.”
Keri Wilt, the great-great-granddaughter of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of “The Secret Garden,” starts each day with a cup of tea and her journal:
“I don’t watch the news or read the paper in the morning; I don’t want to start my day with negativity or allow myself to worry about things I can’t control. … I like to get up early before my family does because it’s quiet, and I don’t like to take time away from them. … if it’s not completely peaceful in the house, or if I’m somewhere else, I’ll use earphones to help me focus. I might play some soothing music or white noise.”
Tonya Lewis Lee, wife of filmmaker Spike Lee and an author, filmmaker, entrepreneur and health and wellness advocate, likes to start her days early and with exercise, then sit down with coffee and The New York Times’ crossword puzzle:
“It wakes my brain up. On those mornings when I’ve exercised both my body and my brain, I’m really good to go. … Before I leave home, I will spray some essential orange oil in my hands, rub them together and breathe it in for about 30 seconds. It’s like a quick meditation before I head out. … Sometimes, when it’s hectic, all I have is that little bit of time.”
As for Brown, she began her own morning ritual after realizing that hitting the snooze button over and over until she absolutely had to get up was not helping, but leaving her groggy and irritable. So she stopped hitting snooze.
“I stay in bed for a few minutes and I stretch. I hug my knees into my chest and say silently, ‘Peace to my left, peace to my right; peace behind me, peace in front of me; peace below me, peace above me; peace all around me; peace within me; peace to everyone.’ I breathe deeply a few times, then get up.”
She drinks some water, dresses in comfy clothes, raises the blinds in her room and greets the world.
Brown’s 10 guidelines for creating your own morning ritual.
- Listen to yourself — do what feels right for you.
- Remember, taking time for yourself is honoring yourself.
- Your way is the right way for you. There is no wrong way.
- Mindfulness is key. Be aware of the moment you’re in.
- Sleep is vital. If you’re sleep-deprived, a morning ritual isn’t going to help.
- You don’t have to get up at dawn. Find a time that works for you.
- Start small, make it easy and tack on things with time. Or keep it small.
- Silence brings clarity. Don’t try to do your ritual in noisy surroundings.
- Be flexible. Change your ritual if it’s not working for you.
- Be kind to yourself. If you miss a day or week, it’s not the end of the world.