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Ritual vs Routine: The Subtle Shift That Can Make Your Morning

Let’s talk about that all-too-familiar morning hustle – the jarring alarm, the mechanical motions, the relentless rush against time. It’s a rhythm so ingrained in our lives that it often feels inescapable. But what if I told you there’s a different way? A way to transform these early hours from a time of stress into a sanctuary of serenity? This is where the art of a morning ritual can come into play – turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Operating on Autopilot

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried a morning routine in the past – maybe yoga, journaling, or meditation – but you couldn’t stick to it. When I did some soul-searching, I realized I was relying entirely on external sources to tell me what my routine should be. Books, magazines, influencers, Oprah, you name it. If someone had an idea of how to perfect my mornings, I was willing to try it. But I was missing something critical. My morning wasn’t like Oprah’s morning, sadly, so why would her personal morning routine work for me? I had to dig deep and reconnect with myself – with my own unique likes and desires – to create a morning ritual I was happy to show up for every day. Here’s how I did it. 

Routine vs Ritual: Unveiling the Difference

First things first, let’s dissect these two terms. A routine is functional, a series of tasks performed out of habit or necessity. It’s practical, yes, but often void of emotion or significance. A ritual, on the other hand, is a routine that’s been elevated, enshrined with personal meaning and mindfulness. It’s the difference between absentmindedly sipping your coffee while scrolling through emails and deliberately enjoying each sip as you gaze out the window, absorbing the quiet of the morning.

morning ritual morning walk

Rituals give us a sense of control and calm in a world that often feels chaotic. They are our quiet rebellion against the rush, our daily act of self-connection and mindfulness. If you’re ready to start your mornings in a way that fills more than just your coffee cup, read on. 

Step 1: Reflect and Recognize

To craft your morning ritual, start with reflection. What brings you joy? What calms your mind? Is it the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the feel of a book in your hands, the sound of birds chirping? Take a moment to really think about what resonates with you. Think about the things that make you feel more connected to yourself and more human. Remember, this is about you and your joy. 

If you’re struggling here, think about what delights your senses. I love the sound of sharp pencils on crisp paper, so that’s what I use to journal each morning. And I keep a sharpener nearby to keep the scratch as satisfying as possible. 

Step 2: Keep it Simple, Keep it Sacred

When I started out, I got into a lot of trouble creating a morning routine with about 400 steps. By the time I finished it, I’d already be running low on motivation for the rest of my day, and it was only 9 am! A satisfying morning ritual doesn’t need to be elaborate. (More on that here.) It could be as simple as stretching for five minutes, sketching, or writing down three things you’re grateful for. But it does have to be sacred. Even if it’s only 5-minutes long, don’t let anything disturb you during your morning ritual. Turn off your notifications, hide in the closet from your partner or kids…whatever it takes. This is your time, untouched and unburdened by the day’s demands.

Step 3: Create a Ritual Space

morning ritual, ritual space,

To help make this daily practice feel truly special, create a beautiful space for it. Like flowers at a wedding, a little bit of beauty will subconsciously remind you that something special is going on here. Designate a special spot in your home for your morning ritual and make it nice. It could be a cozy corner with a comfortable chair and a beautiful throw, a small table by the window with a vase of fresh flowers, or a space on your balcony with a colorful meditation cushion. This physical space becomes a psychological sanctuary, a signal to your brain that it’s time to engage in doing something you love.

Step 4: Consistency is Key (But Flexibility is Your Friend)

One of the things that makes a ritual a ritual is repetition. In an ideal world, you’d show up to your mat each morning (or chair or forest trail) at the exact same time, and nothing would stand in your way. But that’s not how life works, so show yourself a little grace, especially when you’re starting out. Here are some consistency tricks I use on myself:

  • Try to practice your ritual around the same time each morning. Soon, your internal clock will know when it’s time to practice and help you keep the habit. 
  • Start, even if you can’t finish. Even if you only write down one thing you’re grateful for, or get in half a sun salutation, you’re still showing up for yourself, and that’s awesome. 
  • Skip a day whenever you need to, but try not to skip two in a row. 

If you’re still having trouble with consistency, go back to step one. Maybe you’ll discover something else that really lights you up in the morning. 

Step 5: Engage Fully, Be Present

Okay, so you’ve found your ideal ritual (embroidering abundance mantras, who knew!?), and you’re showing up most days (go, you!) But something just isn’t clicking like you want it to. This is where attention and intention can come together to create magic.  As you perform your ritual, be fully present. Try to keep your brain from its usual busy work, like planning the day ahead or ruminating over yesterday’s troubles. Focus on the here and now. Feel the warmth of your teacup, the smoothness of the pen in your hand, the softness of the morning light. Engage all of your senses in the activity at hand. 

Step 6: Evolve and Adapt

Over time, your needs, circumstances, or interests may change, and so should your rituals. Feel free to adjust, add, or even pause your rituals as your life evolves. Some people may love the idea of meditating every day for the next 20 years, but others may think that’s a drag. Switch up your ritual when the spirit calls you, or find new ways to practice your favorite rituals to keep them fresh. If you meditate at home every day, try a week of walking meditation to mix it up.  The beauty of this practice is its adaptability to your changing self. 

Step 7: Avoid the Perfectionist Trap

Starting your day with a morning ritual can be an awesome experience…until it isn’t. In a world dominated by carefully curated Instagram posts, we can fall into the trap of striving for an unattainable level of perfection. That’s a recipe for morning overwhelm, which nobody wants.

But here’s the good news: your morning ritual is for you and you alone. Nobody is watching or judging you, so try not to judge yourself. Keep it fun and loose, and remember, there’s no way to mess this up. You literally can’t do your own morning ritual wrong.  Even if your inner critic starts to chime in, quiet those negative voices with a few deep breaths and return to your ritual with a sense of calm.

Make Your Own Subtle Shift

So, there you have it, a guide to transforming your chaotic mornings into a source of joy and fulfillment. It’s all about tweaking your morning routine just a tad to make it a ritual, switching from the rush-rush mentality to a more relaxed and enjoyable start.

As you experiment with these morning rituals, pay attention to how they impact your day, your mood, and your overall perspective. Embrace this voyage of self-discovery and let your morning ritual be that magical wellspring of peace and positivity that makes every day a little better. Here’s to happier mornings ahead! 

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Have you created a morning ritual? What does it look like, and how has it changed your approach to the day? Share your experiences in the comments below. Let’s inspire each other to embrace the magic that a morning ritual can bring to our lives.

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  1. I’ve been looking for something like this to encourage some changes in the way I do things in order to make my days more relaxed, but productive. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. It’s so easy to get sucked up in what we feel like “we should do” just because everybody else’s doing it. Thank you for highlighting that’s important to take a step back and truly recognize what works for one (and what doesn’t).

  3. I love this! The idea of a ritual seems so much more inviting than routine. Routine makes me think of all the things on my to-do list. Rituals are special. I’m going to start thinking of the ritual I want to incorporate in my mornings.

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