Mornings are an important time for everyone, and yet they never get as much attention as they should. The morning time is rarely welcomed, and people don't appreciate how truly powerful the beginning of a new day can be. The Earth is waking up, the energy is fresh, our minds have rested and shut down negative thoughts and worries, giving way to dreams and a state of restorative unconsciousness where we often explore deeper levels of our being. Of course, when we wake, we aren't always aware of where we've been in our sleep, and negative thoughts may be quick to creep back into our minds. But this is just one of the reasons why we should allocate more time in the mornings to deal with this transitional phase of the day, and to take our first steps of each new day, slowly and conciously.
In the modern day when time is precious and seemingly scarce, sleep is usually the easy target as something we can cut out of our day in order to get more done. Whilst most of us are quick and willing to push our bedtimes back an hour if it means we can keep working or fit in an overdue catch up with friends, very few people would be wiling to do things the other way around and wake up an hour earlier in order to not only get more done, but get stuff done more effectively. This time in the morning is precious for many reasons. Transitioning from a state of unconsciousness into the physical world is not something that should be rushed. Coming into a new day is something we should cherish; something we should really feel and experience. The way we feel and the things on our minds first thing in the morning effect the way the rest of our day unfolds, and so waking abruptly with a stress-inducing alarm, allowing only 10 minutes to get showered, dressed and made up, leaving something behind when hurrying out of the house, is not a sustainable, or enjoyable, way to go.
As founder of Qnola Breakfast Goods & pioneer of the Wake Up Well movement, one of the most common things I am asked about is my morning routines and rituals, both of which change from time to time (depending on seasons, work commitments, current location etc), as each day is never the same. But I like to have a general outline and structure to the way I start each day. The first step of creating a more positive and wholesome morning routine, to enjoy and achieve optimal things during the first few hours of a new day, is simply to give yourself more time, and to go slowly and gently, avoiding stress and panic. Once you’ve set your alarm earlier, here’s a few things you could fill this extra time with, but of course, as with anything, find what works for you. Decide how much time you need, how much time you can give yourself regarding your day-to-day commitments, and what makes sense to you.
D R I N K
The first thing I do every morning is prepare a drink. Depending on how I feel I might have a cold drink, sometimes just cold water, sometimes cold water with citrus juice, aloe juice, rose water, liquid probiotics, essential oils or herbal tinctures, and sometimes a quick cold tonic herb concoction, usually nut milk blended with a selection of tonic herb powders and ice. I occasionally have a fresh ginger and turmeric shot, if I've been prepared enough to juice some at the beginning of the week (which usually lasts me 3-4 days). I follow my cold drink with a hot beverage, sometimes hot water with lemon and ginger juice, sometimes hot water with tonic herbs, sometimes coffee or chicory root for a caffeine free alternative, sometimes a loose herbal tea (I make my own herb and flower mixes for brewing or use Yogi Tea Bags, Pukka Tea Bags or Tiosk or The London Tea Company Loose Leaf blends), sometimes a warm tonic herb concoction (usually nut milk blended with tonic herb powders then heated in a saucepan, or sometimes just the powdered herbs stirred through hot water). Starting the day with a drink helps to kick start my system and feels cleansing and envigorating. I don't like eating as soon as I wake up as sometimes it's too much for my body to deal with (especially if I'm still full from the night before), so liquid nourishment usually does all the tricks for regulating my natural appetite and getting things moving in the morning. Smoothies are my go-to breakfast option if I don't have time to prepare a full meal, so occasionally I'll make a more fulfilling smoothie after my first drink of the day, as a concentrated source of nourishment that's easy to digest and effective in keeping be full until my first proper meal of the day.
L I G H T
Light plays a big part in our ability and ease in getting up in the mornings. It's always more difficult during the winter when we're usually forced to wake before the sun. Naturally, we are designed to rise in line with the sun rising, and settle in line with the sun setting, however, that's not realisitic in this day in age, and the introduction of artificial light means we can carry out our daily duties any time of day. However, there is nothing quite like the power of pure sunlight. It increases positivity (we're all familiary with S.A.D and the importance of vitamin D) and it also helps turn off your melatonin faucet (which in turn helps you avoid that groggy, I-seriously-don’t-want-to-be-awake-right-now feeling), among other things. In the morning, even if the sun never fully comes out, stand by a window or outside and just take in the brightness of the day, and the energy in the fresh air (which, working in a office, is often hard to come by). And if you do live in a sunnier climate, bask it in before you go about your day, or whilst enjoying your morning drink or breakfast.
S C E N T
Aromatherapy is a powerful tool in healing and holistic living, and certain essential oils and othernatural ingredients have the ability to alter how you think and feel. Burning Sage and Palo Santo is perhaps a little too extreme for some people, and involves a bit more time, focus and ritual than just lighting a candle. For this reason, I always light either a candle or some incense on my way from my bed to my kitchen, in order to fill my room with calming and stress-reducing aromas which help me feel more centred and grounded as I prepare for my day ahead. The heat and light from the flame is also powerful in clearing energy and is something humans are curiously attracted to. Fire is one of the Earths elements and has interesting effects on the mind. It can represent enlightenment, illumination and warmth, but it can also represent destruction, envy and desire. Elemental Imbalances can be responsible for certain people have certain attraction and feeling certain things in the presence of fire. I personally find it calming.
I L O V E
The Wake Up Well candle I designed as part of our Qnola Wake Up Well brand. Liha Wooden Wick Candle. Honest Japanese Yuzu Candle & Incense. Hoodoo candles. P.F. Candle Co No. 19. Meditation Incense. & Other Stories Candles. Skandinavisk Candles. Diptique Candles. Byredo Candles. 1001 Remedies Air Purifier. Jo Malone Candles. Belle Freud Candles.
S O N G S / S O U N D
Music lights up dopamine brain centres, which basically means music has the power to make you feel good. Studies show that when people listen to music they enjoy, it lights up the same region of the brain which has been implicated in the euphoric component of psychostimulants (such as cocaine). When you hear a good song, a song you like or a song that sparks good memories for you, think how good it makes you feel. And on the contrary, when you hear awful music or a song that triggers a horrible memory, think how irritated or low it can make you feel. I put on music in the morning to soundtrack my routines, and it's usually something chilled (especially if I'm doing yoga) or some more upbeat, feel-good classics. Other times, I listen to podcasts or audio books too, which keep me company whilst working from home, stimulate my mind, and help to take my mind off anything I might be worried or stressed about.
M O V E
Every morning, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I move my body. Getting out of bed and stirring a tonic doesn't count. If I'm at home and don't have early meetings, I'll practice one hour of yoga. If I'm away from home with insufficient time and space, I will take ten minutes to stretch (usually a downward dog and some pigeon poses, among other things). If I'm feeling active and if my schedule permits, I'll attend a morning class at my favourite gyms (Blok, Bodyism, BXR and Ethos), or encorporate some sprints into a run around my local park. The key is finding what works for you, each day, instead of overplanning and creating unrealistic and unsustainable schedules - like attending a 6.30am class every morning or forcing yourself to go on a run even if you're too tired to get out of bed. Your energy levels depend on so much more than just sleep (including what you've eaten, your current emotional state, a busy mind, the current season, the current moon phase, and so on), so even if you feel you have had adequate sleep and therefore should get out and get moving, if you're feeling fatigued or drained, don't push it, and don't question it. Just do what feels good.
J O U R N A L I N G
Something else that's great in the mornings, especially if you're going through a particularly challenging time, is to add journaling to your morning routine. If I'm feeling stressed, anxious or negative, I start by listing (most of the time in my head, not in a notebook, but that works better for many people) three positive aspects and three things I am excited for in the day ahead. The positive aspects include listing three things that are good, that I'm grateful for and blessed with, right now. The positive aspects could be something as simple as being awake, being alive, being fit and able to get up and out of bed, having a comfortable house to live in, having food to eat, and so on. It seem's ridiculous, but if you're feeling negative, this really helps. And the things I am excited for could be something like 'I'm excited for the interesting meeting I have later, I'm excited to see my friends at work, I'm excited to make dinner with my partner tonight, I'm excited to do yoga. It could be anything, but focussing on things you're excited to experience helps to make the entire day seem more exhilirating than it would if you woke up dreading the commute to work, or feeling hostile towards your boss. Something else that helps me is setting an intention for the day, and manifesting things, such as how you want to feel or what you want to achieve. I often do this in bed, and set an intention for the day (which is usually I want to avoid getting stressed, I want to make time to exercise today, I want to finish a certain project today). Setting an intention is the first step to achieving things you want, so take a few minutes each morning to tune into how you feel, how you want to feel and what you want to achieve, to direct each day more clearly.
B E A U T Y
Beauty routines are somewhat non-existant for me, especially in the mornings. Right now, I am still in my loungewear, I haven't left the house yet today, and therefore I haven't spent much time on my appearance (unfortunately for my boyfriend). On days like this, I simply splash my fave with cold water, or occasionally cleanse or exfoliate, tone and moisurise. My morning shower routine consists of switching between hot and cold temperatures, as I feel it helps to wake me up, both physically and mentally. This has some kind of link with metabolism and kick-starting internal functions too, but for me it just makes me feel refreshed. I don't tend to dry brush my body in the mornings, but leave this until the evening. I brush my teeth or oil pull with coconut oil or homemade coconut oil, almond oil and spearmint essential oil mouthwash. I use an ayurvedic tongue scraper every morning, and then, if I have a casting or a meeting, I'll begin my make up routine (usually foundation powder, bronzer, highlighter, mascara and eye shadow). I neglect my hair, barely even brushing it as it is naturally wavy and tousled. What's most important for me during the mornings is cleansing, toning and moisturising, finishing off with a scent or some fragrance oils. Essential oils and natural, organic beauty products are game changers, and no matter what your schedule, I would highly recommend making them part of your morning routine. (Not all make up products I use are natural and organic, and naturally, as a model, it is impossible for me to use only ethical products all of the time, but when I can, I do).
A F E W P R O D U C T S I L O V E
Ren, Pai, Liz Earle, Urban Decay, Caudalie, Loreal Botanicals, Dr Hauschka, Kahina, Jo Wood Organics, Escentric Molecule, Sukin, Liha, Embryolisse, Glossier, Nars, Burberry, Mac, Evo, Davines Haircare, Earth Tu Face, Estee Lauder, Ylang Ylang Essential Oil.
(more in-depth beauty rituals post coming soon)