We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. — Howard Zinn
Morning routines are all the rage. They set the tone and increase optimal achievement throughout the day.
According to the ultra successful like Oprah and Tony Robbins — ice baths, hot yoga, soul-cleansing meditation, marathon journal sessions and frolics up a mountainside at sun rise are just a few things you’ll need to do before breakfast in order to be more successful, happier.
But what if an elaborate morning routine is simply not realistic?
What if you’re a working parent who, along with getting yourself together, have to wake up the kids and pack lunches and make breakfast and brush teeth and wipe butts and study for the looming tests and break up fist-fights in the hallway?
Proponents may suggest, “How about waking up earlier?”
Um…how about no.
I wake up at 5:15 every weekday, 6:30 on weekends. I get to bed around 10:30–11 during the week. And on the weekends, I often collapse on the couch by 9.
So if waking up earlier is simply not an option how can we — the breakfast-builders, lunch-makers, teeth-brushers, butt-wipers, teachers and referees of the household get our day started right?
Since I have only about an hour each morning before I leave for work, here’s what I do…
Every morning, for the last 45 days I have practiced a three point reflection.
It’s nothing elaborate.
As I’m having coffee I scratch down three things I am grateful for.
Here’s what it a page looks like…
Some mornings the three points come quick and my reflection takes less than a minute. Other days I have to sit longer and reflect deeper until I find 3 things I’m grateful for. But even on mornings of longer reflection, the practice is completed within 3–4 minutes.
It’s a simple habit which requires no special journal or pen. Just a legal tablet or notebook. But in 45 days I’m realizing the positive effects the practice having on my mental health.
Here’s what I learned…
My first thoughts of the day are positive
It’s so easy to wake up on a Monday morning and think negatively about the day ahead and about all the things you have to do before you limp back into bed at night. The 3 point reflection requires you to develop positive thoughts before the chaos of the day begins which helps you embrace and welcome the impending day.
I get to have me time
Parenting gives you little time to yourself. But as a parent you need to find time for yourself. You need to be constructively selfish. By doing so, by taking care of yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes, you will have more patience and energy for others.
I’m more present throughout the day
Identifying good moments each morning has trained me to look for good moments and appreciate good moments as I encounter them throughout the day. The daily chaos often distracts us from finding meaningful moments that we should acknowledge and celebrate. The simple 3 point reflection allows you to celebrate those moments which in turn inspires you to find more of those moments as the day stretches on.
I’m learning humility
It’s so easy to complain. It’s so easy to take your life for granted — to forget that you have electricity and running water and food in the refrigerator. It takes only a few minutes a day to recognize all of the luxuries you take for granted and how humbling it is to have such luxuries.
I just feel happier
Happiness and gratitude are a package deal. You can not be happy and ungrateful at the same time. Learn gratitude and you’ll find real happiness. The 3 point reflection is a daily emotional inventory that allows you to acknowledge things in your life that make you happy. It’s also a daily reminder that you need to give the present day your best effort so tomorrow, when you sit down to reflect, you will have three moments worth writing about.
Daily life is dizzying. Sometimes I feel all I do is run, run, run and sometimes it seems impossible to find a moment’s peace. But finding those quiet moments in the day are crucial for your mental health. It’s those quiet moments that help you to slow down, gain perspective, better yourself and realize that despite the impending chaos of the waiting day there are at least three things to be grateful for.