6 Easy, Little Ways To Improve Your Morning Routine

Yesterday, I woke up to day four of having no dishwasher. Or, shall I say, a working dishwasher. Over the weekend, it started to leak water and has since been out of commission — a first-world-problem or plight of domestication that elicited more whining than I’d like to admit. I’ve relied on this machine since I said “I do,” four years ago, to make my forks and knives shine and my dinner plates sparkly and bright like the dancing dinnerware from The Beauty and the Beast. And now it’s broken and there’s four towers of dishes dating back to last Monday’s dinner waiting to be cleaned. On Saturday morning, our apartment manager told us they’d be sending a maintenance worker “right away” to fix it. So we waited with patience. Sunday morning rolled around and still no maintenance. Monday, they say they will send someone again and when I came home from work there was no evidence of follow-through. Not good for my Italian temper. I was ready to flip and go mad — like, Ronnie from Jersey Shore style. And if you watched that show than you know, you don’t want to make Ron mad.

And so yesterday, when my alarm went off, I eventually dragged myself out of bed and scrambled to the kitchen for coffee and cursed at the refrigerator after seeing the same sight I’d seen for three mornings now: dirty dishes, a smelly sink, and a broken dishwasher. Then I made the grave mistake of opening my grumpy little mouth, pre-caffeine, and still half asleep, to my husband and making a snotty and stupid complaint about it. I then proceeded to complain about hand-washing the dishes and about how terrible and idiotic our apartment manager is. I literally spent the first 15 minutes of my day complaining and resenting life because of a broken dishwasher. Then I rushed around scarfed down a bagel in about 2 minutes flat that I can hardly remember chewing and barked at my husband about getting out the door.

That was my morning. And yesterday turned out to be a bad day. My attitude was negative, the littlest frustrations felt like sandbags falling on my head from the sky, and at many moments, I just wanted to leave work and go home and go back to bed. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon I sat in my car with a coffee and gave myself a talking to.

Why am I feeling so not-myself? I need to snap out of it. Why is my attitude this crappy?

I took a pull from my java and realized my bad day was not rooted in anything catastrophic but in the way I spent my first waking hour of the day: complaining and being pissed off.

Anyone with bills to pay, a job (or job search) to maintain, or a relationship to keep healthy, can likely understand how much it stinks to have to plow through a crappy day after a bad morning. This got me thinking: how significant of a role do our morning routines play in determining the tone and flow of our days? For a lot of us, I think it’s huge. So I decided to modify some of my morning habits and improve my start-of-the-day routine to not include cursing and complaining about dirty dishes.

Here’s what I came up with — six ways to improve my morning routine so that it doesn’t mess up my day and leave me mopey and angry at the sky for being blue. If you have ever had that day that just sucked because of a bad morning, I hope these work for you, too.

1. No social media in the first 60 minutes you’re awake.

No Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, period. All too often, I find myself skimming my newsfeed over breakfast or opening seven different tabs with seven different blog posts or news stories from Twitter that play tug-of-war with my attention and ultimately, serve me no good. This is a good goal because reading status updates about the Crossfit class so-and-so did four hours before your alarm went off or scrolling through pictures of babies and engagements won’t mentally prep you for powering through the day. The first images you see and the first words that you read and speak in the morning should be edifying and nourishing on a deeper level.

2. Write, read something inspiring, or pray before you finish breakfast.

It can be for five minutes or 45 — the goal is to focus on something that feeds you and gives you spiritual protein for feeling strong and good and wakes your mind up with encouragement and knowledge.

3. Pay attention.

Spend more time in the quiet, being still and recognizing the sights and sounds around you. Even while waiting for the coffee to brew or for your toast to pop up, you can try to pay more attention to the present — taking in the sound of the coffee dripping and purring from the Keurig, the sound of the tip of your spoon clinking against your coffee mug while you stir in cream and sugar, noticing the light of morning and how it brightens the kitchen and glows through the glass of the sliding back door. (This sort of mindfulness is what I’m striving to practice more every day until it starts to feel automatic and natural to me.)

4. Sing, talk to yourself about something silly or funny, or make farting noises with your mouth.

When I was a kid, I would always sing while I brushed my hair in the morning. It was usually a Disney song or some jingle I’d gotten stuck in my head the day before or a soft-rock ballad I’d heard my mother humming along to in the car and it always made me happy and glad to be brushing my hair, getting ready for the day. It’s really such a simple thing. And on mornings when I didn’t sing, I would sometimes make noises with my mouth that sounded funny to me and made me laugh at myself. Like farting sounds. I can’t believe I’m 26 years old and encouraging you to do this.

5. Make one small goal for yourself for the day.

Examples: no caffeine after lunch. Exercise outside for 30 minutes. Don’t swear when someone cuts you off on the freeway. Call a friend that you haven’t talked to in a while just to say hello. Eat six servings of fruits & veggies. Stay off your iPhone during working hours unless it’s urgent.

6. Eat a big breakfast, slowly.

No shoving pieces of bagel down your throat while checking your e-mail on your phone. No sucking down a bowl of cereal while chastising yourself for hitting the snooze button too many times or not having a good hair day. Try to enjoy and savor the first meal of the day at the dining room table and be thankful for the provision of food, a home, a warm bed with big, fluffy pillows and of course, the gift of another day. (With or without the addition of a working dishwasher. I shall choose to be glad anyway.)

And if I do this, than I’m sure to have a better day than yesterday. And hopefully you can, too. TC mark

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